Watercolours: Orange Slice Still Life (demonstration)

After seeing a gorgeous coloured pencil drawing of some oranges in one of my art books, I decided I wanted to have a go at something similar. At the time I decided I didn’t have the patience to do such a detailed colour pencil drawing so I went with watercolours instead. This painting was based on a photo uploaded to the WetCanvas Reference Image Library by Fagan, though it had a light background. I’ve listed the materials I’ve used but you should be able to achieve the same results with your favourite watercolours.

Blick Artists’ Watercolours:
-Lemon Yellow
-Cerulean Blue

Da Vinci Watercolours:

Grumbacher Academy Watercolours:
-Payne’s Grey

Lukas Gouache:
-Chinese White

Watercolour Pencils
Prismacolor Premier Watersoluble Pencils:
-WC21003 Spanish Orange
-WC2918 Orange
-WC21063 Cool Grey 50%

Silver Black Velvet 3/4 inch flat
-Silver Black Velvet size 10 round
-Creative Mark Rhapsody Kolinsky Sable size 4 round
Creative Mark Ebony Splendor size 2 round
Creative Mark Beste Script size 2

300gsm rough press watercolour paper (I used Arches Rough Press). You can do it in whatever size you like but I did it on a 7″ X 10″ block.

Other Equipment
Masking tape
Kneadable eraser
Greylead pencil (HB or 2B) (optional)
Masking fluid (optional)

Step 1
Before you begin, mask off the border of your paper with masking tape. For the first step, you can either trace the outline of the orange from your image and then transfer it to your paper, or do as I did and draw a faint grid over the original image, faintly draw a matching grid to the watercolour paper and then draw the shapes using the grid as a guide (make sure you keep the grid lines soft and light so you can easily lift them with the kneadable eraser). I chose the grid option as it allowed me to draw the actual lines with watercolour pencils in colours that would be used for those areas, eg. orange for the rind (skin), green for the pith (the whitish area between the rind and the flesh). This way, once I started painting, the lines would blend into the colours without any muddy greylead residue. At this point, you may want to reserve the highlights on the orange rind with some masking fluid, but I didn’t bother, figuring I’d just use white gouache instead.

Step 2
Mix Magenta and Viridian so you have a dark purple or greyish purple. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t get it exactly the right colour at this stage as you will be building up multiple layers over the top. All you want is the foundation for a deep, cool violet to contrast with the warm oranges and yellows in the fruit. At this point I was going to have a dark background but a lighter surface, which is why I only applied the purple to the top half.  However I realised that even if the surface was light, it would reflect the dark background anyway along with the orange slice.

For the orange slice, put in a wash of pure Lemon Yellow for the flesh, then mix some Magenta with Lemon Yellow to make a pale orange for the orange’s rind. Ensure you keep the colour and intensity consistent between the actual orange and its reflection beneath it. For the pith, mix a little Cerulean Blue into the yellow for a pale green. Depending on how you’re going to light the orange (from behind or from the front), you may want to leave this white and add subtle colours later, but as I mentioned before, I changed my mind about the lighting when I was part way through, which probably worked against me.

Step 3
Make a denser mix of dark purple from Magenta and Viridian and use it to fill in the whole background. Add another layer of your orange mix to the rind. Add a thin layer over some of the pith, leaving a sliver of green along the outer edge on the left side. For the flesh, mix a slightly stronger orange by adding a bit more Magenta to your orange mix and wash this in along the bottom of the flesh (it’s darker here because it’s thicker). Start to bring this way up towards the top, gradually lightening it until you reach the top edge, by which point it should be almost pure yellow (leave a tiny, uneven white edge at the top as a highlight). While this is still wet, drop in a tiny bit of green in the top parts of the orange flesh in some patches to show the natural variation in the fruit.

Step 4
Add yet another layer of your dark purple to the background. It might be good to mix a little Payne’s Grey into it as well to make it really dark. For the shadows on the underside of the orange (make sure you mirror it in the reflection), add a thin layer of your background purple colour; violet is a complementary colour to orange so it will end up looking like a dark dusky grey. Put another light wash of green over the purple area of the pith. Similar to Step 3, lay in another graduated wash of darker orange in the flesh, working from dark at the bottom to a very pale wash at the top.

Step 5
Mix the strongest wash of dark purple you can and add some Payne’s Grey, then wash this over the background. The background should end up looking almost black but with a violet tint. Add another layer of purple to the shadowed underside of the orange slice and its reflection and wait for this to dry, then go over it with a stronger mix of orange, keeping it lighter in the top left corner of the rind and in the lower left corner of the reflection. Using a size 2 round, pick up some diluted white gouache and dab it in the light areas of the orange rind, making the dots more concentrated at the outer edges. Dabbing in little dots rather than painting in with typical strokes will help you achieve the pitted look of the orange’s skin.

Mix up a puddle of dark reddish orange and a puddle of orange similar to what you’ve used for the rind, as well as a third puddle of yellowish green. Using your script or liner brush (also called a rigger), draw in the veins in the flesh. Make sure they converge towards the centre of the fruit. Where the flesh is dark orange, use your deeper reddish orange, blending the veins into a lighter orange towards the centre. The veins in the upper yellow part of the flesh should be pale orange or light green (vary them a bit for interest). Let some of the veins join up with others, while some should just trail off on their own.

To sign the painting, I mixed a little white gouache with the dark background purple and put my initials in the corner with the number 2 round. Once this dries, it’s time to carefully remove the masking tape from the border.

That’s it for another painting demonstration. I hope you enjoyed painting this refreshing orange slice, and as always, if you have any questions, let me know in the comments.

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