Lessons from an Onion

Sometimes simple things teach us a lot. In this case, the lowly onion had much to say. I used it as a subject for my online class, The Artist’s Sketchbook, which I started teaching last week.

Lessons from an Onion
1. Pay attention to basic ingredients: lines, shapes, and values.
2. Don’t overlook commonplace subjects. The most beautiful is not always the most interesting.
3. Add layers. Layering transparent color adds depth.

Here’s the progression from start to finish. You can see how adding layers of watercolor and values from light to dark makes all the difference in bringing the loose lines and shapes of the initial drawing to life.

Note: The Artist Sketchbook, which runs through August 3, is currently full. Watch for future course announcements here or contact the Winslow Art Center.

22 Comments on “Lessons from an Onion

  1. Thank you for sharing this process. I realise I’m always too impatient to wait for layers to dry completely.

  2. Thank you for sharing. Have followed you for years and so love your work. Sad I was not quick enough to sign up for your online workshop. Hope you will do another soon.

    • Hi Pat- Thanks for writing! I was stunned by how fast the workshop filled, but I wanted to hold the class size to 12 so that there would be good individual attention. I will likely do another session in late-August/September.

  3. Can I get on a waiting list to sign up for the next class? I absolutely love your style of painting and the way you like to observe things.

  4. Since cooking is my passion, or art, I can’t imagine life without alliums. How I love this paintng, Jean. The progression is wonderful to see and I always appreciate it when you show us that.
    Hint; you could do a whole page of alliums from ornamental to vegetable.
    Thanks for another wonderful post.

    • I’m going to have to go look up alliums to find out more. I bought a bunch of fresh onions with the greens still attached at the local farm store for this– I loved having the greens on for this piece. Thanks Dawn!

  5. Thank you, Jean for sharing. Again. It really helps to see all the steps and get the reminders.. Love the onion.

  6. Thank you for sharing your works and coloring process. I love the way you match watercoloring and handwriting. Simply elegant and beautiful.

  7. Is your paper varigated from top to bottom, or is that editing you do afterwards?

    • Hi Janet- The paper is white, but I took the photos in progress with an iPhone, so they came out a bit toned. I actually tried to edit this out, but could only correct so much.

  8. Ah! Simple pleasures! Odd as it may seem, I love sketching and painting fresh produce. But yellow onions. I don’t do well. Thank you for this process lesson. I’m going to try it ….again. I’m glad they taste better than what they look on my paper. I really like this.

    • Fresh produce makes for a great subject, but maybe it’s yellow that gives you more trouble than the onion itself. I struggle with reds. Try a cool yellow (and notice where it starts to trend green). Burnt Siena is nice for the skins. Good luck.

  9. Jean, your onion has so much life in it, it looks as though it’s going to dance away! I’m glad you’re doing an online course and I hope it goes very well. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: