Deconstructing Technicolour Apples!

4 Feb

I have been staring at my Apple almost every day for past week.  Just in case you might be wondering – I am not referring to a new tech-y toy or using a code word for something naughty (even if the Apple is symbolically evil in biblical interpretations).

I have just literally been staring at THE forbidden fruit itself – in all its crimson glory! (Well, I’m also staring at flowers but that’s another story.)

The reason for my “f-apple-cination” is primarily because I have been working on amendments for my piece – Apples and an Earthy pot – in preparation for the Feb 20 show (yikes!!).  As such, I began to ruminate – HOW DO I PAINT AN APPLE?

After some research and experimenting, I somehow managed to turn this…


… into this!


TADAH!!!!! Not too bad yeah? 😀

(The photos weren’t taken in the same lighting condition so there is a variation in colour temperature but I think you can still see the difference in the two red apples. I have not touched the green apples yet).

I am so happy with the result!! Hee hee!  Here’s how I deconstructed the apple in my mind and reconstructed in painting…

1) Simplify – breaking it down to simple shapes

Pencil Sketch of an apple

 A circle is less intimidating a subject to draw than a fruit. The apple can be simplified as a spherical object. Other details like the stem can come later.

In still life painting, you usually have to sketch more than just an individual fruit.  But the idea is the same, just break everything down to it’s basic shape first.  I also found the instructions by artist Joyce Washor in her book “Big Art, Small Canvas” very comprehensive and enlightening.  Her book has some step-by-step demos which were really useful reference for beginners like me.

Once you have the shape, you can start adding details.

2) Shadows – making Apples go 2D to 3D! But not HD….yet.

Before even thinking about colour, we have to understand tones first.  Like how the world got black-and-white TV before colour TV.

 Shading gives an illusion of depth and dimension to the subject.  This website gives a very useful detailed theoretical explanation of how light/shadows work and all the different technical terms (boggles my mind!!) .   Lots to learn eh!  I found this great picture from that illustrates it nicely.

Picture  from

After determining the light source and the respective shadow areas, you could roughly know where to put in the highlights, darker shades, shadows etc etc.

3) Going technicolour!

Now it gets messy (and fun)!

Apple in watercolour

This step is still a HUGE challenge for me.  Creating tonal variations using different colours is tricky (but fun)! In our earlier lessons, 洪老师 made us paint the colour wheel and also tonal graduations of the primary (red, blue, yellow) and secondary (orange, purple, green) colours as practise. What I learnt then was that it’s not just about adding white or black.

Look at the watercolour above.  You can see that purple/blue were also used to create the darker shades, and yellow/orange in the lighter areas.  It’s not about keeping it red and mixing it with white/black to make various shades like I naively thought!

It’s the same for oils. While you could use white to lighten and black to darken colours, it doesn’t always work well. Using white is generally ok but it can also make something appear chalky.  Similarly, using black can make something look dull.

Look at the two versions of my oil painting of the red apple at the beginning of the post.  In the first version, I only used red, bits of orange thrown in for fun and white to create the apple.  In the later version, I added purple/blue (to darken) and yellow/green (reflected colours) into the mix.   Doesn’t it look more interesting now?  Well.. I like it. 🙂

Which Apple would you want to eat?

For beginners like me, it’s always scary and challenging to mix colours.  I do not yet master control over my colour palette and sometimes, I can’t even get back the same mix the second time round.  Fortunately, the oil medium is forgiving.  The key is to just keep experimenting and PRACTISE!  加油*!

So that was how I tackle(d) my apple!

Tune in next time as I continue my petal-work as I flounder with the flower ….

*literally translated as “add oil”, usually used as an expression to encourage someone.  The allusion to oil as in oil painting is merely coincidental.

2 Responses to “Deconstructing Technicolour Apples!”


  1. 4 weeks, 3 paintings & a whole lot of paint stains later… | Still.Life. by 宇晗 - February 15, 2011

    […] about how I deconstructed Apples here and the re-constitution of everything […]

  2. Frustrations of an Art Noob (Noobstration?) « Still.Life. - May 26, 2011

    […] I am happy to say that I can draw round-ish fruits quite satisfactorily, there is still much room for improvement (or other similar euphemisms for […]

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