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Satsumas and Clementines

Friday, 2nd January 2004
Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

satsumas and clementinesAfter a black and white drawing of a lemon yesterday I decided I needed to go into colour for these satsumas and clementines. This is pure watercolour painting: there was no preliminary pencil sketch.

With Vangelis on the CD and probes circling Mars at the moment I somehow felt that I was trying to paint these citrus fruits as carefully as if I'd been recording a newly discovered set of moons of Jupiter: each fruit is different, each has its own character.

I'd like to do more of this kind of subject; I like the lusciousness of pure painting compared to the spare minimalism of pen and ink line (though that has it's attractions when I'm in the mood for it).

sable brushStudio Set-up

There's a phrase that's used in oil painting of 'painting from lean to fat'. It's true in this watercolour too: it came together only in the last five minutes, when I put in the darkest shadows - 'the plums' as artists supposedly call them - and it was only then that the tonal arrangment really came into focus. Until then it looked rather thin and wishy-washy.

Actually, the very last things I put in were the details of the scars where stalks or the flowers that produced the fruit had been attached. But I didn't want to go for too much detail. I didn't want to include every pimple on the skin of the fruit.

spotlightSatsumas under the Spotlight

still life set-upI have a desklamp and a spotlight by the desk where I do my painting. The daylight had already faded so I pointed the spotlight, which is clamped to a bookshelf, onto the fruit and set up a cardboard screen to stop too much light from the desklamp shining on the subject and cancelling out, or complicating, the effect of light and shade from the single light-source.

I thought about putting blue tissue paper behind the oranges as a complementary colour - to make the orange look even brighter - but I was much more interested in observing the reflected colour so I put white A4 paper behind the fruit.

I was surpised how much reflected orange light from the fruit found its way into the shadows and onto the surrounding paper. The tungsten lamp in the spotlight, which gives a yellow cast, increased this effect.

Eyedropper Tool

eyedropper toolA couple of weeks ago my friend Wendy gave me a few tips about Dreamweaver MX, the program I use when I'm compiling this online diary. Thanks to her I've discovered this eyedropper tool.

I decided that, as I've been painting satsumas, I'd like orange headings instead of the normal red. With Dreamweaver (and I'm sure this applies to a number of similar programs too) you can highlight your heading then take an eyedropper tool from the colour palette and select any colour on the page. You can then adjust the intensity of the colour using a slider control.

For instance, I could pick up colour from:

the paintbrush handle, the brush itself or the green edge of this sketchbook page.

I could have a lot of fun with the eyedropper tool; thanks Wendy! next page

Richard Bell

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