Painting a Still Life in Watercolour




I offered my daughter a painting when she made her confirmation last May, and she asked for a still life in watercolour. I didn’t get around to it so I guess I still owe her one, but meanwhile she turned 14 the other day and I thought I’d do her a still life. I fully expected her to say “Hey, you owed this to me last May” when I gave it to her, but she didn’t – she was delighted, and when her friends came over for a party the day after her birthday, she was extremely hyper, but I heard her say “Look what my mum painted for me” – which was so nice to hear as she’s at “that age” when it’s all me, me, me (I’ve yet to come out of that stage).

I decided to do a selection of fruit simply because I thought it would look nice. I was in the mood for painting green or red, and I thought berries would suit my daughter better than limes, which she can’t really tuck into.
So I came up with this selection of plums and berries. I put them on a sweet little chopping board from Northern Spain, and onto a lace cloth, and then the bare table because the wood grain is nice.
I started with a 2B pencil, kept nice and sharp, always. I often sharpen my students’ pencils with a craft knife as I go around as you can’t do anything with a blunt pencil.
I’ve left out the drawing stage for this demo but I would still like to point out that I took considerable time over getting the drawing nice and accurate.
To produce an accurate drawing, you draw with a light line (no gouging with your extra-sharp pencil, or you’ll be left with troughs that your paint will sit in when you need to rub out your mistakes).
You look very carefully, you ask yourself questions the whole time – “where does that particular blueberry sit? Under that raspberry, or to the left of it? Is there an air gap between the two plums in the foreground? Have I drawn the right number of redcurrants? Is the stem of the redcurrants centred above that one?” – etc., etc. Obviously these questions are clumsy when you write them like that but a zillion questions flit soundlessly across your mind as you draw. In one way, the more elements that are in your still life, the harder it is, because you have more to draw, but in another way that makes it easier because you have so many more reference points to use as a guide.

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