My daughter Kavya and I sometimes sketch together. Most often that means we sit next to each other and draw. But this weekend I thought I’d do a little ‘lesson’ with her and talk her through how I look at things when I draw.
I simplified what I look for and think of as I paint, but essentially this is how I work . I wanted her to work from observation, not just copy what I painted. So we made a simple setup. I made notes of what I told her as we drew and painted. Here is what I recorded of her painting (all the images except the last one are her work) and what I remember telling her. I thought I’d share it: a beginner’s lesson in drawing and painting from direct observation.
Here is our setup. Simple enough. 2 pears in contrasting colors. ( Don’t have pears? Use anything simple-shaped without too much surface decoration.)
The trickiest part of drawing is learning to see. (And unlearning to draw all the symbols we use as stand-ins for real observation) No pear is truly ‘pear-shaped’. Nor is it truly symmetrical. Stems are attached to fruit in really interesting ways that are fascinating to draw.
Below is her contour drawing with highlight and shadow lightly marked in. The other bit I had her notice and draw in is the relative heights of the 2 pears on the paper, and how they overlapped.
Now for color. The trick with watercolor is to fuss with it as little as possible. To let the medium do the mixing instead of ‘forcing’ a mix. And to enjoy the accidents. (You’ll see Kavya had a few blooms and mixes that she may not have planned for.)
Plain water wets the surface . 2 shades are mixed: one for the lighter side of the pear, one for the darker side. Paint in the lighter side of the fruit (Notice it has a shape, it’s not straight down the middle of the fruit in a line.), leaving out the highlight . The slightly wet paper will diffuse the edges of your highlight. Now start from the opposite side of the fruit and paint in the dark side. Let the light and dark shades mix themselves on the wet page. Don’t go back over your strokes, or rub the paint in. Load your brush generously and glide the paint on. The brush should barely touch the surface of the paper.
For the really dark contour on the dark edge of the fruit and along the bottom, mix in a dark color: mix your dark green with a little red or blue, depending on what color the deep color looks like to you. Before the color dries, just dab on a dark outline or a spot wherever you see it. Remember: dab lightly, don’t mix, don’t fuss.
Look at the shadows for color: they’re not ‘just grey’, they might be a purplish grey, a reddish grey, a yellowish grey (Kavya saw hers as a bluish grey): mix up a color, draw in a shadow shape. Then clean out your brush, wet it, and come in from the outside of your shadow and melt away the edge of the shape. Just a bit, don’t scrub. Paint in the stems.
It’s all details from here. Spray on some dots with a brush and then switch to colored pencil for that last bit of detail and definition: (I find switching away from watercolors after a single wet-in-wet wash is the best way for a beginner to avoid overworking a piece: who says you have to strictly stick to one medium?) Some more dots, a little more definition on the stem and the shadows.
All done! I think she was pretty happy with her piece, and we had fun.
Here’s my piece. I painted along as I talked her through seeing and painting, and I tried making notes as I went along.
Hope this is helpful: drop me a line , ask me a question about anything isn’t quite clearly explained ,I’d love to hear from you.