Friday, 1 September 2017

Do Compare Apples and Oranges

Spring Bouquet With Gerbera and Lilac,
Oil, 14” x 11"
Blog 36

With the start of the new school year, the subject of lunch and snacks comes to my mind once the school supplies are bought and the school bag packed. With the increasing consciousness about healthier eating, fruits and vegetables are a big staple in our house.

Fruits and vegetables are, however, not only great for eating, they also make beautiful objects for still life painting. Still lifes are artworks that depict objects that are not alive, often vegetables, fruits, flowers, shells, and even dead animals, or man-made everyday objects to name just a few.

I love painting still lifes in class or as an impromptu project on a rainy day. While I have no problem with artists using photos as reference materials, I feel it is essential that one also practices drawing and painting from nature. When I teach a class at night, it is not possible to go outside to paint. Setting up a still life gives students and myself the challenge to create an illusion of a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional surface while actually looking at a three-dimensional object not an image of the object that is already two-dimensional.

I usually take photos of the things I paint. Sometimes, when I look back at the photos, I am surprised that the scene does not look the way I remember it. Often the colour is not the way I saw it in real life, especially considering blue and violet objects. In the photograph, the depth is compromised, the highlights and shadows are usually too sharp and would look not convincing in a painting.

Fruits especially also help to demonstrate that you should start the composition with simple shapes. This is one reason why I like to paint apples. They are nicely round. You can also demonstrate while looking at an apple that they consist not only of one colour but mixtures of colours with different values. These different values create the illusion of perspective. Observing different fruits also makes you realize how an apple differs from an orange, peach or apricot, even though they look similar in shape. When you look at a still life you learn how to observe characteristics you might overlook otherwise or see what some characteristics that you have taken for granted are in reality. We have all been programmed to assume that things look a certain way, while they actually change appearance according to the light source and the surroundings.

Here is just an easy exercise: Just look at a tree trunk at different times of the day. It is not simply brown as the first response might be, if you were asked about the colour. The trunk has different colours according to the type of tree, which change when it is in the sun, shade or wet from rain. This will show you how light influences the appearance of objects.

Here are some of my favourite apple painting:

paintings of my "An Apple a Day" series

Thank you for reading my blog. I wish you a wonderful long Labour Day weekend. If you are going back to school or work after the holiday, I wish you a good start. After the long summer break here in Canada, not only school starts again, but also all the fall courses at recreation centres. This fall, I will teach one adult landscape course at Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Complex in Orleans from Mon, Oct 16-Nov 6 from 6pm-7:30pm ($67.00, code 1114789). You can register online at or at any of the City of Ottawa recreation centre. I am also available for private or semi-private classes. Please contact me at, if you would like more information. I also offer kids cartooning and comics classes at both MacQuarrie Recreation Complex ( and François Dupuis Recreation Centre (

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