Second in my still life watercolor paintings series I am doing as part of a short art challenge is this unimaginatively titled work, Bananas and Oranges. As previously mentioned, the challenge was to do three new artworks in three days, all focused on the theme of banana(s). Since I had considered doing some bananas as still life subjects, I jumped on it with my watercolor paints at the ready.
Using my artistic license to make the still life more traditional
While I was able to find a reference photo to work from, I was much less impressed with the color choices the original photographer made. While I loved the dark background and shadowed surface, I detest the red bowl. It is jarring to my eye, especially next to the oranges in the bowl. So, I needed to pick a different color for that bowl. Should I make it white (very traditional) or a complementary color like purple or blue? Since I was not feeling a white bowl, I decided to make the bowl one complementary color with the background being the other.
This piece didn’t flow as easily as the first one did, but after I blocked out the sketch, transferred it to watercolor paper, and got the background painted a lovely deep Prussian blue – and got scans of those two steps – I slipped into “the art zone” and didn’t stop until suddenly it was finished. I really did mean to get more scans of the stages! It’s just that once I am in the zone, I don’t think of anything else but the work in front of me.
Painting the bananas and oranges
Contrary to most watercolorists, I like to start off with the darkest shadows. I know the conventional wisdom says to work from light to dark, and I have certainly tried that the first couple years. This series of paintings, I decided to try doing it “backwards.” Long story short – I prefer it. It even helps me get my shadows deep enough. Since this was basically a repeat of the subject matter, I just used the same colors as the day before. Once again, I was pleased with the color.
Links to purchase the original painting and art prints
How can you purchase this artwork? If you have the right space for the 9 by 12 inch original watercolor (on paper) painting, get that through my gallery at Daily PaintWorks. If you want larger (or even smaller) sized prints, you can order from 8 by 6 inch all the way up to 45 by 60 inches from Pixels here. For my mother and sister, who prefer to wear my art, there are several apparel options along with home accessories with this image printed on them in my RedBubble shop.
Apparently, October 12th is National Farmers Day, as well as still being Columbus Day. Up until this morning, I had never heard of this, but y’all can be assured it is now officially on my calendar! Ever since I was a small girl, I wanted to be a farmer. In addition to my attempts at gardening and mad tree-planting sprees, I also raise (working) dairy goats, rabbits, and chickens. What better way to celebrate my new favorite holiday than with farm-themed art?
So far, I’ve done two paintings featuring hayfields: my Sunset Over the Hayfield in oil pastel, and the watercolor sketch Make Hay While the Sun Shines. Since I live at the dead end of a dirt road in a very rural corner of a rural county, hayfields are a common sight whenever we drive anywhere. There is just something about a field full of hay bales that gives me a warm and happy feeling in the depths of my soul. Round or square, though round are definitely the locally preferred format, I love to see hay bales sitting in a sunny field.
Produce artwork (fruits and vegetables)
While our property came with two mature Asian pear trees, we’ve added to that list a LOT in the decade since moving in: lemons, limes, oranges, sweet kumquat, dwarf pomegranate, an olive tree, and this year added two grapefruit and two fig trees. I still want to plant a couple of Barbados cherry trees, some true date palms, Indian/silver date palms, and pindo (jelly) palm trees. My husband also started growing moringa trees from seed this summer. Even more interesting, we discovered someone at some point in time planted a pink dwarf banana tree in the back of our property – I looked it up and those are native to Asia. The wildlife got our bright pink bananas this year, but now we know it’s back there, so perhaps next year we’ll get to eat some.
All that preamble to explain why fruits and vegetables are high on my list of favorite things to draw and paint when I want to do up a traditional still life piece of art. I’ve even gone to the grocery for the sole purpose of getting picturesque produce to do a photo shoot the other year. (For the record, only half of those photos were in focus, which is why I am not a photographer.)
I intended to post all of the produce-themed still life drawings and paintings here … but that is quite a lot of artwork! Instead, I’ll direct you to the category page – click here for the fruit and veggie still life. Even if I can’t grow it this far south, I can still buy and paint it.
This category I do more than I draw or paint. Y’all have been treated to photos and stories about my goats, but I’ve only shared one drawing of one goat so far. It’s on my list of subjects to feature more, along with the chickens and rabbits. I’ll be doing more of that over the dark season, because we browsed the selection of farm animal T-shirts on Amazon and I was NOT impressed with what is out there. The obvious solution to my creative mind is to make my own! I do have my produce-themed art on apparel over at my RedBubble shop. Stay tuned, because I’ll probably do a rabbit first.
Celebrating National Farmers Day with art
I’ll need to wrap this up, because the charcoal pencils are calling to me to get to today’s drawing session. If I had known prior to this morning, I could have had something to paint, but right now I am quite content with just posting here to the art blog for this year’s short-notice celebration.
Next year, though, I will be pulling out the stops! Happy National Farmers Day to everyone, and have an art-full day.
I could not resist jumping in on a quick three-day art challenge over on Fine Art America’s artist discussion board. Like most of the art challenges over there, this one has a theme: banana(s). I have thought about doing a series of banana-themed fruit still life like my Apples and Oranges series for a while, so I figured this was my cue to just do it. Just to be cute, I am calling this short series “Going bananas!” and intend to execute it in classic still life format as I see it.
(I should note that I have not abandoned the 100 faces challenge. I am only taking a quick side-quest, as the DnDers would say. I’ll also say that I successfully completed the challenge, and just need to get caught up on blogging it.)
Finding paintable reference photos
I’ve probably mentioned before that what makes for a good painting reference is not always what makes a good photograph. Hunting up some reference photos to use proved that – most have softer lighting so the subject can be seen as well as a two-dimensional image can allow. A good painting, on the other hand, works best with dramatic lighting, with a single light source ideally. Dramatic lighting produces dramatic shadows, which a lot of photographers seem to avoid. I did manage to find three photos with a more or less classic still life arrangement … and one that is more of a wild card that I may do as a bonus.
Setting some clear objectives
I wanted to do this short (and fun) art challenge with some pre-defined objectives, which is military for goals. (The cranky old Army sergeant in me still rises to the surface from time to time.) I knew I wanted to do somewhat traditional fruit still life paintings, so that cried out for a mostly-traditional medium. Since I hadn’t used my watercolor paints in quite a while, this seemed the perfect excuse to work in watercolor. I did choose to use more modern pigments, and am happy with the results.
Since only one of my reference photos had anywhere near the level of drama in its lighting, another objective was to see if I could adjust for that on my paper.
My final objective was to utilize complementary colors: the obvious yellow/purple, but also some red/green where I could.
Painting the bananas in my still life
With my objectives in mind, I went to work. This first painting simply FLOWED from first my pencil, then my paintbrush. It was one of those days when every step went smooth as silk. In fact, I started the sketch at approximately 1030 and was waiting for the paint to dry so I could scan it before 1530! Only five hours from start to finish, including drying time, is a quick and easy watercolor painting for me.
Hubby says he loves how the green looks on the bananas, with the comment that this small bunch looks exactly like what I search for in the grocery store – still a touch green. To contrast with the green, I chose to paint the plate as a reddish wood, instead of the really light color in the photo.
Overall, I am VERY pleased with how this one turned out. I feel I nailed both the color and the lighting, though I should probably at some point practice painting wood grain, as that is the only part that I think needs improvement. It scanned even better than it looks in person (to my eye; hubby disagrees) which is unusual for my work. Personally, I think my painting is better than the photo I used for reference.
All in all, a good start to this new art challenge.
How to purchase!
If you have the right space for the 9 by 12 inch original painting, then click over to the listing at Daily Paintworks to handle the transaction. It’s likely quicker than trying to hunt me down when I am in a mood to be unplugged.
Need a bigger and bolder version? I have art prints available through my Pixels shop ranging from as small as 8 by 6 inches to as large as 60 by 45 inches, so that should cover most walls quite nicely. You can also get jigsaw puzzles through this link.
Want to wear my art, like my mother and sister prefer? Click through to see the options at my RedBubble shop. There are also some home accessories – and yes, my favorite is still the analog clock.
I made a video of this post
Check it out on YouTube, give it a like and share!
As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been playing with digital art in the form of text-to-image software. I must say that trying to coax nice flower bouquet images from the program has had its ups and downs. While not quite as grotesque as some images, there are a few head-scratchers until you realize both flowers and fruit are spherical shapes. Yes, I’ll get to that image soon enough, while also showcasing a trio of digital floral images I actually like.
Bouquet of pretty tulips done digitally
An early win (and it does feel like playing a word game) for me is this lovely square-format piece I simply call Vase of Tulips. Anyone who has read more than one blog post from me knows I am rather unimaginative when it comes to naming my artwork. As always, if you buy a piece you are free to name it whatever you like. I had not specified much for this text prompt, so getting a large bouquet as opposed to a small one, and getting two complementary (and realistic!) colors for the blooms was a pleasant surprise. Add in the single flower lying on the table top partially obscured by the pretty white vase, and I was so pleased. The lighting is both realistic and dramatic.
After a couple dozen failures from the software, I started playing around with different modifiers. I finally scored a lucky “roll of the dice” with this pretty pink bouquet of tulips done in the Romantic style that I personally adore but have not yet tried my hand at achieving. (I’ll need to fix that sometime this year.) The only part of this piece of floral digital art that gave me pause was the single pink petal floating in the air along the left side. Other than that, the software managed to get the right combination of dramatic sunlight coming in through the window. It’s mostly (but not completely!) correct with the highlights on the flowers, and the overall effect is quite pretty.
Buy a print of Pretty Pink Tulips
No “original” exists since this is digital art, but you can buy an art print from small to impressive from my Pixels shop. If you are inclined to wear my art instead of framing it, my RedBubble shop has a wide range of apparel (and swag for the home) with it printed on it. Right now, I am on the fence as to whether or not I’d like to try my hand at recreating this on canvas or paper.
Slightly surrealistic Pink Peonies
I did try several species of flowers for a wider variety of floral bouquets, but the results were – at best – mixed. While the software generated a nice bouquet of white daisies in a nice ceramic pitcher, it set that pitcher on a gloomy flat rock instead of a table. Attempts to coax images of mums and chrysanthemums resulted in either unrealistic colored flowers, or a very drab composition. I tried red poppies in November, but did not like how those looked either. The one success (that is not roses or tulips) is a bouquet of pink peonies.
While it has most of the elements correct – the size of the peonies is “larger than life.” We had two pink peony bushes at the house where I grew up, and while they are not small flowers they are not quite this big either. I’m not sure of the physics of putting flowers this big into such a small vase without it tipping over. This one is the best of the bunch the software generated.
Links to buy prints of Pink Peonies
Once again, no “original” exists off of my hard drive and the site’s server. You can buy an art print for your wall from my Pixels shop in whichever size you desire. Over at my RedBubble shop you can find it printed on apparel and accessories for the home if you prefer your art to also be practical.
One very traditional still life composition going back centuries is to do a floral bouquet with some fruit around it. There is usually some symbolism involved, which I need to research for its own post. Even if the software developers only used art in the public domain, this ought to be an easy subject for the program to generate. It isn’t. Trust me. I tried!
Apparently, so-called AI software cannot distinguish between fruit and a flower. They are both usually spherical, so it jumbles them together any which way. A big element in the program is a randomizing factor akin to rolling dice or drawing a number out of a hat, and this is the element that completely messes up my attempts to get a floral with fruit on a table composition. This is why we human artists are still relevant. We know early on in life that fruit doesn’t go at the end of a flower stem!
While I will likely still play around with the text-to-image software from time to time, I just cannot see it replacing the more traditional version of art. This is particularly true for my rather traditional style of art. I still would like to do up a classical still life involving both a bouquet of flowers and some fruit (on a table and not some gloomy flat rock). I do see it as a way to get ideas for layout and composition, like my yellow roses examples. The results from this program still need to be sorted by and filtered through a living human artist.
After the first still life art in watercolor, I decided day two simply needed to be in soft pastel. Not only because I haven’t recently played with my “dusties,” as I call them, but I also bought a sample pad of Clairefontaine’s Pastelmat, an expensive but highly recommended paper for soft pastels and pastel pencils. I figure an art challenge is a good excuse to try something new, so the apples, oranges, and bowl still life composition needed to be worked up in dusty pastel.
Selecting my reference photo
Once again, I looked through the set of photos I took back in October of 2021 for the right one to use as a reference. I almost didn’t pick this one, as I wasn’t sure at first how well the composition would work with the fruit mostly in a line like this. In the end I figured, “Why not?” This is for an art challenge and that is permission to try things that seem uncertain. So here is the cropped version of my reference photo, featuring the apples, oranges, and bowl mostly in a line.
Once again, I consider focus to be a bonus feature, and not a requirement. I am most interested in the shapes and shadows for a reference photo of familiar objects. (We got very familiar with these subjects when we ate them!)
Working the still life in soft pastels
I did my basic sketch directly onto the sheet of Pastelmat, as I know I am able to cover up the light graphite lines with the dusties. Soft pastel in particular tends to be quite opaque, so I felt confident as I sketched in the main shapes after lightly gridding the sheet. I had decided before starting that I would “edit” out the background of the photo in favor of more stylized colors behind the apples and oranges. In fact, I also planned to omit the towel and pepper grinder as well, choosing to focus only on the fruit.
First the oranges
I worked on both oranges first, mostly because I knew I would need to turn the mat this way and that to keep from accidently smudging the soft pastel. Actually, I started with a reddish tone they call sienna, not wanting to deal with trying to completely cover a stark white sheet. I used my Mungyo Gallery soft pastels for the blocking in, and even for the shading. My intention had been to use my Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencils to add in details at the end, which turned out to be barely needed as the Mungyo set worked wonderfully with the Pastelmat.
The three apples in the bowl
Since I had made the previous day’s apples straight red instead of the variegated red and green they actually were, I decided to keep that for this version of the still life series so they look like a cohesive set of pictures. As I worked the color into first shapes then forms, I found myself enjoying the process of laying down dry pigment onto the expensive heavy paper. By the time I had the apples in the bowl looking like red apples in a white bowl, I made the decision that I will only be buying Pastelmat for my soft pastel paintings and drawings going forward.
Coloring the table for the fruit and the background to complement the colors
I had no intention of leaving these apples and oranges to float in a colorful ether, so after I was satisfied with the fruit it was time to color in a table for it all the set on top. A couple broad strokes in brown accomplished the illusion of a table with shadows. I then turned my attention to the background. Getting the background color right was actually a critical component of how successful this composition would be! I needed just the right combination of blue and green, blended just enough to be harmonious but still dynamic enough to stay interesting. It is a fine line, but I think I am getting more familiar with where that line is on each piece.
Links to purchase original artwork and prints
Now for the part y’all have been waiting for: links to buy. The original is on paper made in Europe, which means they measure in centimeters, so if you purchase the 24 by 30 cm pastel piece you will need to have it custom matted to fit standard US frames. The long side is 11 -7/8 inches, while the short side is 9-7/16 inches, so neither measurement will work for a 9×12 inch frame or mat. It’s worth it though! The Pastelmat holds the dry pigment surprisingly well. Seriously, I’ve been playing with pastels off and on since I was seven, and this stuff is the best I’ve ever worked on in over forty years of making dusty, colorful messes.
For art prints, I recommend my Pixels shop. There is a good variety of surface to choose from, and you can get it matted and framed as well if you like. Shipping might seem a bit steep, but the quality of product is high.
If you prefer to wear your art like my mother and sister love to do, then I recommend my shop at RedBubble for the wide variety of apparel styles. I’m also partial to the analog face clocks, even though I definitely do NOT have enough wall space to hang even half of the ones I like. The struggle is real.
And this concludes the second in my short series of fruit in a bowl for the three work art challenge. If anyone thinks my method of naming to be boringly bland, you have permission to rename it if you purchase the original. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to refer to this still life in soft pastel as simply Apples and Oranges 2.
And with that, I wish everyone a happy new year, and I’ll be back in 2023!