Drawing Skills Pt II : Drawing fruit and vegetables in colour : tone / markers / oil pastel / research

Exercise : Using hatching to create tone (OCA p59)

Fig 1 Individual fruits and vegetables (sketch #

Fig 1 Individual fruits and vegetables (sketch #63)

(1) Drawing individual pieces

I have used different media for each item (fig 1).  The carrot and mushroom are drawn with a graphite stick.  The softness and slightly blurry nature of this medium is possibly better used with something like a peach or kiwi which don’t have the hard, sharp edges of a carrot but it’s an interesting experiment.  It is very useful for tones, shadows and shading though.

I hatched with graphite, firmly outlined the edges of the carrot with an oil pastel – making is look as if it’s been nuked but I was looking for a ‘glow’ and then lightly coloured the skin.  Not my best effort. but it does have the tonal values produced in the current light conditions.

Below the carrot sketch are mushrooms drawn with a dipping pen.  My hatching could be more even and the shadows deeper in places.  I like the circles-within-circles that form from the outer edges; through the valley; into the soft skin around the stalk; the stalk itself and then the little dent in the centre.  Interesting.  The 3D effect is improved by hatching with the pen and the shadows and shading are created the same way.

The onion (top right) was fun to draw.  I used water-colour pencil, wetted it to give a firm edge and filled in the hatching and markings on the skin, dry.  The peeling, delicate skin is lovely and I wish I had captured it better.  This sketch is coloured in chalk pastels to show the smooth planes of the skin and the dent caused by a bruise.

Lastly, the grapes (above bottom left).  I tried using oil pastel for these with a little touch of drawing pen for contrast and detail.  I find oil pastel difficult to use as it is to thick but it is good for colouring in.

Fig 2: Compositions. Sketch #64

Fig 2: Compositions. Sketch #64

(2)  My next task was to sketch some compositional ideas (fig 2).   Top left I have placed some vegetables on a board.  I like the way the carrot crosses drapes itself across the celery but feel there is too much white space, especially on the left edge.  The board is too parallel to the frame as well.

Top right I have used a similar composition but have cropped it.  This improves the composition and leaves less negative space.  It also leaves something to the imagination and creates a good flow around the sketch.

At the bottom of the age is a new composition which I quite like as well.  I’ve given it a little tonal value to create more depth and perspective.

I have not used a viewfinder previously and found it a wonderful tool.

Apologies for the greyness of the picture.  I cannot seem to photograph pencil sketches adequately with my camera in this poor winter light and flash obliterates some of the pencil marks.

Fig 3 : Fruit and vegetables in colour.  Sketch # 65

Fig 3 : Fruit and vegetables in colour. Sketch # 65

OCA page 59 (3) : Fruit and vegetables in colour.  I used an A3 lightly-toothed paper and chalk pastels for this piece.  I built up the colours gradually, leaving some white background showing to create the light areas.  I enjoyed using different techniques for colouring in the vegetables.  Lots of round strokes and blending in on the tomatoes; long lines of various thicknesses for the celery, spidery firm strokes for the tomato tops, blending and hatching for the carrots.

Again, I used the viewfinder to enable the picture to bleed over the edges.  Looking at it in retrospect, perhaps I should have re-arranged the items to fill a little more of the top edge though I rarely like things to be that uniform.

Pastels are very smudgy so the frame I had created was damaged in transit but I liked the idea of this and will use the technique again another time.

Exercise:  Using markers or dip pens (OCA p 60)

Fig 3: markers and dip pens  - alternative compositions. (sketch #66)

Fig 3: markers and dip pens – alternative compositions. (sketch #66)

(1) Three alternative compositions:  Top left I’ve tried out ideas with black drayon and felt tip pen.  I like the browning skin of the banana but not keen on the composition as it sits in the middle with lots of white space around it.

The second sketch (right) is worked in charcoal.  I do like the effect of blending this medium for shading and tone but I haven’t yet got the hang of any delicacy of touch with it.

Bottom left I’ve used dipping pens to create the rough outlines of the fruit and a brush tip felt pen for the colour.

Of the three compositions I prefer the charcoal sketch because it has a better flow from top left to bottom right.

Page 60 (continued) final drawing; fig 4 (below)  For this piece I used dipping pen for the outlines and some of the hatching.  I built up the piece with various coats of coloured inks and felt tip pens, for instance the shadows are diluted acrylic ink, the markings on the fruits are both acrylic ink and felt tip.

Fig 4 : pen and felt tip still life.  Sketch # 67

Fig 4 : pen and felt tip still life. Sketch # 67

I like the fact that the apple has escaped from the group and the banana is pointing right at it like an admonition.

I seem to be leaving background information out in my work in general and that’s simply because I’m afraid of cluttering up my pictures.  I need to work on that.

Exercise : Drawing using oil pastel (OCA p 61)

Fig 5 : Drawing using oil pastel. Sketch  # 68

Fig 5 : Drawing using oil pastel. Sketch # 68

We were asked to use a toothed coloured paper.  I had white A3 acrylic paper so my first job was to give my paper a wash of peach paint.  I sketched the outlines in a pale peach oil pastel and then began building up layers of colour with various techniques and overlaying one colour with another to give depth.

I’m not too pleased with the pepper – it doesn’t have the detail I would like.  ~Ditto with the french beans.  I wasn’t any good at achieving any detail with this medium as it’s so soft and thick.  The lemon was built up with pale lemon through darker and darker shades, then overlaid with green and purple for depth.

I enjoyed drawing the broccoli and layering from yellow through light brown to various shades of green and eventually purple.  I used squiggly lines and left dots of light colour to give some sense of the small florets within the whole.

My choice in future would be to use oil pastel for colouring in but not for the whole drawing.  I need more practice and perhaps some training in using this medium.


We were asked why Ben Nicholson simplified forms and superimposed them on the Cornish landscape:

Nicholson was born into an artistic family, his Mother, Father and Uncle were all great influences in his early life.  Starting out as a landscape artist, he only spent a short time in formal training at the Slade School of Art in London but seems to have gained most of his training and inspiration from his family, friends and artistic colleagues, travelling extensively through Europe and the USA.

In the 1920s he moved from painting the landscapes his Father had encouraged, to more abstract work based on cubism and Post Impressionism.  In 1932 he met the sculptor, Barbara Hepworth.  They lived in London for several years and Nicholson traveled often to Paris to the studios of Picasso, Braque, Arp, Brancusi and Mondrian who was a friend and also a huge influence on him..  During this time Nicholson and Hepworth were major players in the Modernist London art scene.

He did not want to move from London but in 1939 at the outbreak of war he decided Cornwall would be a safer place for his 3 Product1328021children and Hepworth, who he had recently wed.

At first he continued to create his famous white reliefs (right) but the Cornish Landscape called him back to his artistic roots – this time with a twist.

Nicholson, using all the techniques he had gathered along the way, began drawing simple abstract still life images against the Cornish landscape he saw through his window.

Ben Nicholson : 1946 St Ives

Ben Nicholson : 1946 St Ives







Ben Nicholson : 1943-45 St Ives

Ben Nicholson : 1943-45 St Ives





The St Ives picture to the right has a Union Jack flag in the front.  This quirky little symbol is purported to be his artistic celebration of VE day.

This change of style may have been a necessity rather than a choice initially since he had to earn money during the war.  They are certainly more commercially viable, especially in the area in which he lived.  Even if that was the case, we are richer for it.





Check and log

  • My composition should fill most of the space on the paper’s surface.  It does fill much of it with less than 1/4 negative space.
  • I’ve learned several things from drawing fruits and vegetables.  1.  I need to use specific types of lines and media to show the softness or hardness of the surface of the food.  Some has really hard, sharp edges and others are squidgy, ridged, hairy, etc.  2.  The insides of fruit and vegetables is really interesting.  When we cut through a cabbage or cut open a pepper, tomato, lemon or other food, there is a whole new world of pattern and colour.  3.  The colours are often vibrant and the shadows and shading look a different colour eg; the shadow side of a lemon might make the skin look green; on a pepper that might be purple or brown.  4.  Nobbles, bruises and blemishes add interest and are a great contrast to a smooth skinned variety.
  • The part of the project I found most challenging was trying to draw with soft, fat media like charcoal, oil pastel and chalk pastel.  I enjoy colouring with them, but am baffled as to how to create fine lines.


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