A Pair of Pears

This week I successfully remembered to not eat all of my pears* before I could get around to painting them! Anyways, I thought it might be interesting for people to see what the progress of one of these paintings looks like and how I work. This was one of the quicker ones, so took me approximately 30 minutes or a little less than one episode of a TV drama.

This is right after I’ve started and you’re looking at my first pass at just blocking in a wash for the background. I got it a bit too dark on the upper right side of the painting, and if you look closely at the next few progress shots you can see how I keep lifting the paint back off that section. Note that you can still see the watercolor pencil outlines. Oh, and if anyone’s wondering I have a set of brightly colored cutting boards that almost all of these fruit/veggie paintings have been set up on that provide the background color.

Here’s the first wash of color on the pears themselves. The one on the right has a tiny bit of orange on one side that I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose sight of–I could paint generic pears out of my head easily enough, but I was painting these pears and that means paying careful attention to anything that differentiated them from one another.

I’ve gotten most of the lighting on the pear on the left worked out and just started blocking in the shadows on the pear on the right. I spent a lot of time working on the relationship between the sides of the pears that were touching each other, because while they were both in shadow the cast shadow on the left pear was darker and if I didn’t get that right the pears would appear to merge together into a mutant pear thing.

Now I’ve added a lot of color to the pear on the right and some more detail to both of their shadows so that they don’t look like they’re floating in a blue void.

I beefed up the shadows a bit on the pear on the right to make the structure of the pear more apparent, and I’m finished!

I’ve since eaten both these pears and they were indeed delicious. It’s nice when you only take a single sitting to complete a piece of art involving food and the food is still edible when you’re done! When I was a freshman in art school I drew and painted what felt like endless still lifes. I drew everything, and I mean everything I owned that year, which resulted in such masterpieces as “Still life with laundry detergent and shampoo bottle”. One time I thought I’d be creative–or maybe there was a specific assignment, I don’t remember–anyways, I decided to draw a head of cabbage and some radishes. I arranged the vegetables on my desk, and then left them there for a week as that was how long it took me to finish the drawing. As I was working on it I remember getting frustrated because I kept having to shift the edges of the veggies. I thought that I’d just drawn the proportions wrong to start with, but the longer I worked on the drawing the more I kept having to shift things around so that they matched what I was looking at. After a couple of days I finally realized this was because I was watching the vegetables that should’ve been refrigerated shrivel and wilt. That cabbage was SO gross when I finally moved it, and look, I really have no idea what else I thought would happen. Past Celia wasn’t exactly the brightest crayon in the box about certain things.

The lesson from this is that this is sort of situation where it’s best to just take a bunch of reference photos and use those instead of being so dedicated to painting from life. Now just think about all those Old Master still lifes of food, and how long they likely took (months, years) and what the actual setup looked like by the time the painting was finished.

*Spellcheck wants this word to be “peers”. This has made me double check how “pear” is spelled about five times now because I’m the world’s least confident speller, and also makes that sentence many times more horrifying.

Celia Yost

Celia Yost is a graphic artist and painter by both training and trade. She's also prone to ill-advised craft projects and yelling about politics.

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