Apple Season


I started this painting back in August when the season’s first apples appeared at the farmers market. There are 7,500 varieties of apples worldwide and I thought it would be fun to capture some of the ones grown here in New York State. I enthusiastically laid out the painting and started building up the forms of the fruit…and then a crisis of confidence swept in. What was I thinking? I’d only painted two apples successfully before. All of my other attempts ended up looking like round red balls with stems. How was I going to get eight apples to take shape? Just one miss and the whole painting would fall apart.

So I did what any self-respecting artist would do: I set it aside. I put the painting under a stack of other artwork. I left the apples in a bowl on my desk. Three weeks later, I realized it was time to have at it again or make applesauce.

It dawned on me that painting apples might not be much different than painting bird eggs, tomatoes, or other round objects that I had had success with. The key is to build up a good range of light to dark areas. Too little variation in values and the object looks flat. You’ve also got to know when to stop. Work it too long and the transparent layers of watercolor get muddy and lifeless.

I picked up the brush with renewed confidence. Leaving light areas light and adding darker shades, the fruit began to look dimensional. Once I had a good range of values, my final challenge was capturing the beautiful subtlety in the skin of each variety— streaks of color, tiny dots, and blemishes. I added final details using a pretty dry brush— and stopped. Last, I penned the text and the classic quote from English poet William Cowper (1731-1800).

Mmm…I’m satisfied. It’s apple season and I have something good to show for it.

(Watercolor on Arches 140lb cold press watercolor paper, 9×12”)

17 Comments on “Apple Season

  1. Jean: so disappointed I didn’t win the egg/nest print! Is it possible to purchase the print of these apples? Also, you said you were painting nine but they’re only eight?? Thanks ~Martha

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Martha: I was sorry you didn’t get the nest print– but you did a good thing by driving up the bidding and making the final contribution larger! You can purchase a print of the nest & eggs (5×7 or 8×10) or the apples (8×10). I’ll be in touch.

      • Hi Jean (and hello Martha!), your work is so refreshing and delicate, but not fussy or overworked. I love it. The apples make me homesick for your lovely corner of the world. The piece I purchased years ago wound up in Sweden. I’m craving more . . . I will be in touch. P.S. where did you learn to letter like that?

      • Bri- Happy the text meets the high standards of a font lover such as yourself! Many years of practice, beginning in about 2nd grade making birthday and holiday cards, pays off! Glad to hear from you!

  2. That’s a fantastic piece. Absolutely wonderful! Will you be doing any workshops next year? Would love to save up and join you if you are!

    • Hi Sharon- Love to have you join me for Arts and Birding next July in Maine (see workshops). There are often scholarships available that can help with the cost. Registration will open in January.

  3. I’ve heard that Cezanne painted apples so that he could keep his skills sharp, but that he painted them in positions that they wouldn’t normally rest, to keep it interesting. He propped his apples up, often making them appear like they were tipping over. It made for interesting still lifes – as you have done here. These aren’t any ordinary resting apples! Thanks for sharing – they’re gorgeous.

    • Thanks Camille! Good to know about Cezanne! I held most of these in hand for the initial sketch on paper, which enabled me to get some different angles.

  4. I keep coming back to look that these beautiful bobbles of color! I think I understand the value you are speaking about, and when to stop. Just beautiful Jean. Thanks.

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