A simple fruit. Painted millions of times over thousands of years. Perhaps it seems ordinary then to choose pears for my recent workshop to illustrate ways to improve layouts and add different types of lettering to sketchbooks. But once the workshop ended, the fruit’s lovely form and subtle colors continued to captivate me. So, I had to have one more go at it in my sketchbook. I’m sure it won’t be the last.
Tips & Techniques– During the workshop, we created a variety of thumbnail sketches of pears to play with different layouts. This is an excellent exercise for considering possible layouts, as well as for thinking through color combinations and values before committing to a painting. Pick a simple subject and see if you can create four to six different ways to approach it. This practice will expand your thinking and may lead you to fresh ideas or new techniques for working in your sketchbook and beyond.
My go-to artist materials are watercolor and ink, so I enjoyed switching it up this week by using colored pencils. I started with pears during an artist’s “Sip & Draw” with master botanical illustrator Wendy Hollender. Wendy often starts with a single colored pencil to develop the basic form and values and then applies layers of watercolor and colored pencil to further develop her subjects. You can see some of this process below, where I left some leaves and pears unfinished (click to view larger).
In this second piece, I used a single burnt sienna colored pencil for the entire nest. I started with the inner part of the nest to develop the darkest values and worked my way outward to build the form. I like the ghostly quality that came from blowing out some of the lightest tones.
Tips and Techniques– If you are feeling stuck or looking to expand your repertoire of techniques, try a new artist medium. It may broaden your thinking and your skill set or give you new ideas to incorporate into your artwork.
The allure of supermarket pears is real: perfectly shaped, beautifully colored, promisingly sweet. Pears grown wild are not like that. They come warped and blemished; who knows what’s inside. Life and pears…not the way they’re supposed to be, but how they are. Sometimes sweet, sometimes rotten. “It’s how we cope that makes the difference.”
watercolor and ink, Stillman & Birn “Beta” journal
Beautiful form, beautiful color. Is it any wonder that pears have been artistic subjects for ages? From Roman mosaics to Renaissance religious paintings, from woodcuts and engravings of the 17th and 18th centuries to Impressionist paintings in the 19th century– the pear proves a worthy subject.
When I see pears at the market or a farm stand, I can’t resist buying them. I don’t care that much about eating them. Not that a good pear isn’t heavenly. I just feel compelled to paint them. But pears, like apples, are tricky. Seemingly simple, I find it hard to get the form to take shape on paper without overworking it. Like the real thing, one minute the fruit is fresh and the next it’s rotten. Stopping when you’ve got a good thing is key. This painting of seckel pears is right on the edge. And though this is no masterpiece, I’m happy to add my attempt to the fruit’s artistic legacy.