Painting a still life with fruit in a bowl is a classic study that most serious artists have done during their training. Fruits come in many colors and simple shapes, making them perfect for studying color, composition, shading and light without the need for imitating complex textures, like hair, leaves or grass. This is a project that is suitable for someone who is a beginner to oil paint to practice using the medium, but is equally valuable for an artist with experience to do as a finished piece.
Arrange the fruit. Choose fruits of many colors and put contrasting colors next to one another. For instance, a banana, a plum and a red apple would make an interesting arrangement because they are very different colors, shapes and sizes. In addition, odd numbers of objects tend to be more aesthetically pleasing than even numbers.
Arrange your materials so that you can work comfortably, putting your brushes within easy reach and pouring some turpentine into a jar. Oil paint dries slowly, so you will be working at the same location for some time, especially if you want to paint a very detailed piece rather than a sketch. Use the turpentine and paper towels to clean paint from your brushes. Many artists don't clean their brushes often, which lends a natural feel to the painting, or use a different brush for each color so that they do not need to clean their brushes so often. However, if you go too long without cleaning, your picture will become muddy.
Squeeze a dark brown paint onto your palette, like a burnt umber. With a thin brush, sketch the general shape of the bowl and fruits. It does not need to be perfect, but you need an accurate general layout.
Thin the brown paint with a very small amount of linseed oil or turpentine. Too much will make the paint too thin to work with. Use this paint to generally shade the objects on the painting. You may need to wait for the paint to dry a little before continuing.
Add color to the painting. Refine the shapes as you go and look at the colors carefully. The purpose of painting a bowl of fruit is often to understand color. For instance, on an orange, you may see highlights that are not white, as you might think, but yellow. On an apple, you may see purple shadows. While black and white are both useful paints, pure blacks and whites are not commonly found in reality. In a bowl of fruit, most shadows will not be black at all, but more likely purple, blue, green or brown. In addition, the fruits may reflect their colors onto each other. For instance, a shiny green apple may have a tinge of red from where it touches a red apple.
Add details, such as stems, spots and bright highlights, if there are any present.
Tips & Warnings
- Choose a location with plenty of good light that is unlikely to be disturbed.
- If possible, buy fruit that is a little under-ripe. This gives you more time to work before the fruit goes bad.
- Oil paints dry slowly. You will most likely work on the same painting for several sessions, as the oil paint will become very wet and difficult to work with over the course of a session.
- Wash your brushes with soap and water after use, but do not use oil paint on a brush that is not completely dry, as this will damage the bristles.
- Turpentine and some oil paints are dangerous and flammable. Work in a room with good ventilation and away from sources of strong heat or flame.
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images