Sunday, June 24, 2012

WATERCOLOR WORKSHOP: Painting Apples on a Window Sill

In this watercolor project, we'll be painting a few Granny Smith apples, sitting on a windowsill in the kitchen, with patterned tiles beneath the sill.  We'll be using various techniques, including transparent layering, mingling, glazes, and a little salt at the end for texture.

I used 7 different pigments for this project -- aureolin yellow, quinacridone gold, quinacridone rose, quinacridone magenta (can you tell I have a thing for quinacridone colors?), cerulean blue, cobalt blue, and sap green.

Prep 3 colors on your palette, to be used for the wet-in-wet underpainting:  aureolin yellow, quinacridone rose, and cerulean blue. . . 

Wet your paper with clear water.  Then paint these three colors, in "stripes".  Since we're painting wet-in-wet, there should be no hard edges to these stripes . . . 

Let this dry on a flat surface.  When it is completely dry, do a pencil drawing.  Start by drawing a straight horizon line, about a third of the way down from the top.  Measure and use a ruler for this line.  If it's not level, it will look like the apples are going to roll off.  Now, draw a few apples, sitting on this line.  Add a few more horizontal lines to indicate a window sill, and then draw a simple pattern underneath the sill. . . 

Clean off your palette, and mix up a simple yellow wash.  Paint each apple with this yellow wash, wetting each first with clear water.  Then, paint some of the pattern shapes yellow. . . 

To the yellow wash on your palette, add some cerulean blue, to make a green.  Also prep some sap green, mixed with a little cerulean blue.  Wet each apple separately with water, and drop in these colors.    
Then, mix a cerulean blue wash, and paint some of the pattern shapes with the blue.  Paint over some of the yellow shapes, to make a green. . . 

Clean off your palette, and mix a wash of the quinacridone rose.  Paint the windowsill with this rose wash.  When that is dry, paint another layer of that same wash on the middle shape of the sill.  Then, use this rose to paint a few more of the pattern shapes.  If you paint the rose over some of the blue shapes, it will make a violet.  When you paint the rose over some of the yellow shapes, it will make an orange. . . 

After this is dry, paint a wash of quinacridone gold over the windowsill, to warm it up.  Then use the same wash to paint a few more pattern shapes and the lines between the squares. . . 

When this is completely dry, paint a few darks in the apples -- right at the bottom of each (sap green plus cobalt blue), and the stems (magenta plus blue plus quin gold).  Use the dark magenta to paint a dark under the windowsill, to give it some dimension.  Now, paint some magenta pattern shapes.  Paint some shapes within the shapes.  No need to draw first, unless you want to.

To finish your painting, paint a glaze (wash) of cobalt blue over the pattern area.  When there is just a sheen on the paper, sprinkle some salt on the wash and let it dry.  

When this is completely dry, brush off the salt . . . 

This final blue glaze subdues the pattern a little, and the salt gives it a subtle, "weathered" look.  Your focal point should be the apples and not the pattern.  If they compete with each other, you need to tone down one of them.  (There can't be two stars of the show.)


  1. This tutorial is beautifully put together. It is hard to believe how complex the finished painting is with so very few steps.

    1. Thanks, Sunil -- (sorry that I am just now seeing your comment). That is the beauty of watercolor -- how you can easily create interesting textures and patterns -- just by layering glazes. I appreciate your taking the time to comment on this tutorial -- and I'm glad that it was helpful!

  2. Great post! There is some really great stuff here. Your blog has helped me out so much, thanks for sharing here!

    1. Thanks and you're welcome, Jane! So glad you have found my blog helpful, and I appreciate your comment.