Monthly Archives: November 2012

Project – Drawing fruit and vegetables in colour

Exercise – Using hatching to create tone

Individual drawings of fruit and vegetables, paying attention to the shapes or planes that make up the outline.

I chose coloured pencils to complete this exercise, another medium I hadn’t used before. This was partly because of the student work example in the notes which I presume was done in coloured pencils, and I liked the composition of the fruit against the background of the paper bag. It may be a bit of a cop out to pick the same type of composition for myself, but as it meant that I was actually quite inspired to draw fruit, not something which I thought I ever would happen, I decided it was a good option!

I don’t eat fruit (don’t worry about my health with that statement as I eat a lot of vegetables!), so I went fruit shopping with art in mind rather than eating! Not that I found any exciting fruit in the local shop, although I dithered over a pineapple for a while, but I picked out some apples based on their nice colouring, a ripe banana with blotches on it’s skin and an orange.

Doing individual sketches on the items of fruit, I tried the apples on a few different types of paper. The initial sketch on white paper made the apple look a bit squat. The colours were quite vibrant on black paper, but I decided it would be too difficult to show shadows and it would have required adding a lot of white/colours to most of the background. I thought the grey paper would be a good intermediate option, but it seemed to make the colours a bit bland, so I decided to stick with good old white paper for the drawing.

It was difficult to capture the texture of the orange skin in this drawing. The ‘Textura’ rough cartridge paper helped, but not enough.

This seemed to be going well, but I didn’t carry on to complete the whole drawing here as I knew I would get sick of drawing the blotches on the skin and wouldn’t want to repeat this on the main drawing!

I tried the fruit on it’s own in a number of compositions (only one sketched), but they were a bit boring without a background, so I returned to the paper bag layout which inspired me from the course notes. The next sketch (bottom right) was a bit cluttered, but the third sketch (bottom left) was better. However the initial bag used was very creased and I thought would be hard to draw properly, so I kept the composition, but found a new paper bag which was less creased and gave a ‘cleaner’ composition.

I was quite pleased with the final image. I think the composition works well and the fruit is captured in reasonable detail.

I did have some issues working in coloured pencils. Maybe it was the quality of the pencils I used (unknown make which have been hanging around the house probably since school days), or that they had been bashed around for years, but I struggled to get a sharp point on some of them without it breaking off, and any point I did achieved went within seconds of starting to draw. Because of this some of the lines became more shading than defined lines. I also didn’t find it very easy to layer the colours or get any very dark tones.

I enjoyed this exercise though, much more than when I first read about having to draw fruit which didn’t inspire me at the time.

Exercise – Using markers or dip pens

For my first attempt at this, I sketched the fruit in pencil first, which then shows through the ink. The colour was added using dip pens The image is very flat because I have not applied any shading or shadow detail.

At this point I paused on the course for around 3 months before coming back to it.

Deciding to abandon fruit as there is never any in the house (and several bowls of fruit bought for the purposes of drawing had rotted before I got back to it), I changed to vegetables.

I opted to use dip pens again. Despite the course notes saying that dip pens were unpredictable and prone to mistakes, the only smudges I seem to get is from putting my hand in the wet ink whilst drawing.

I think this image works much better than the last attempt. Where I went wrong was when I started to add in the corrugated cardboard the vegetables were arranged on. I started this under the spring onions before deciding that it wouldn’t work and leaving the rest of the background white.

I wanted to try to get some of the rough / random effects I was failing to achieve with the dip pens so I went out and got some fibre pens in the hope I would have more success with these.

The pens I got gave me a limited palette to play with, so I have had to compromise with some of the colours. They didn’t work too well in trying to cover the background and I probably should have gone for an ink wash to do this. My composition also left a big space in the top left of the page which is not ideal.

Exercise – Drawing using oil pastel

The brief for this exercise contradicted itself in starting out saying to use a textured coloured paper and then later saying to leave some of the white of the paper to show through! I decided to go for textured white paper.

I had a limited palette of oil pastels as well, having just bought a set of 12 different colours. With the vegetables I chose the draw this did not cause a major problem though except in depicting the shadows, the biggest problem I found was trying to draw any detail or achieve any hatching on the textured paper.

I’m not sure I have got the hang of oil pastels in this drawing. The composition is ok, except for the different colour paper I placed the plate on going straight down the middle of the image. Where the image really suffers is in showing the tome and shadows, partly due to the limited palette of colours I had at my disposal, partly because I was struggling with the textured paper and in overlaying colours.

Research Point

Find out about Ben Nicholson. Why does he simplify still life forms and negative space and superimpose them on the Cornish landscape?

Ben Nicholson


Ben Nicholson was born in Denham, Buckinghamshire and both of his parents, William Nicholson and Mabel Pryde, were artists. He studied at the Slade School of Art and started off painting still lifes before moving on to abstract works. After travelling abroad, he settled in London for seven years where his abstract works were considered to be the centre of the London-based British avant-garde. In 1939 he moved to Cornwall where his return to landscape painting was necessitated by his need to earn a living and his dealers recommended this approach as they considered them as being easier to sell.

This is when he painted still life forms with the Cornish landscape. These started off as still life objects on a windowsill in front of the view:

Ben Nicholson 1

and then moved on to be superimposed on top of the landscape:

Ben Nicholson 3

Ben Nicholson 4

Coming from an abstract background would explain the simplification of the still lifes, and the addition of these to the landscapes may have been from a reluctance to completely abandon the abstract work in favour of landscapes.

The British Council website references Chris Stephens, who termed it Nicholson’s ‘domestication’ of the English landscape, ‘to show that the making of art was ordinary and domestic, as essential as housework’. I have not been able to view this source directly, but it suggests a direct quote from Nicholson, so that was presumably his aim.

Why does any artist produce the work they do? It must be because it has meaning for them, and they enjoy the results. I guess he also found a niche in this work as (in my limited knowledge of the art world) I’m not aware of anyone else who produced work like this.



British Council:

Check and Log

Your composition should occupy most of the paper’s surface. How much negative space do you have left?

  • Too much in my fibre pen drawing, but I think the others cover the page well. I need to work on my backgrounds though to make them more interesting and fit with the subjects better.

What have you learned from drawing the details of fruit and vegetables?

  • That anything you are drawing merits closer examination, as well as learning more about working with colour in different media.

What did you find most challenging about this part of the course?

  • I did get a bit fed up of drawing fruit and stall part way through this project. There were other reasons why I didn’t have the time for a while, but I could have fitted in little bits. I need to keep pushing myself to continue as, once I got back down to it, I enjoyed it, so I need to make sure I keep moving on even if the subject matter doesn’t immediately inspire me.
  • Apart from that, using the range of coloured media required was a challenge as they all required different methods of working.
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