Nov 25, 2010

3 MACINTOSH APPLES watercolor painting demonstration

3 MacIntosh Apples
watercolor 11 x 11"

This demonstration uses lots of richly colored layers.

Paints I used:
Dioxazine Violet
Permanent Rose
Napthol Red (Cadmium Red medium is comparable)
Cadmium Orange
Alizarin Crimson
Sap Green
Hookers Green
Prussian Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Cobalt Blue
Burnt Umer
Burnt Sienna
Raw Sienna
These paints are either Winsor Newton or M. Graham brand paints

Paper I use is Jack Richeson 300 # cold press watercolor paper

Here is the photograph I worked from. I generally do a simple outline drawing, then blow it up to the size I want to paint.

Here is the drawing.

Step 1. Base Layer
My first layer of wash I call the “Base Layer”. This is generally a wet on wet wash using the actual colors of the subject, in this case, red and green for the apples (Permanent Rose*, Napthol Red, and Sap Green). The apples were first wet with pure water, then the colors were applied by just touching the brush to the paper. The paint is carried by the water, and the 2 colors mix beautifully, with just a few nudges of the brush. Too much brushwork at this point would muddy the colors. Remember, there are lots of layers of color to come, so there is plenty of time to tweak the image. Also, leave white areas for the very light areas and highlights on the apple.

A close up of one apple, Step 1:

The apples were first wet with pure water

Then the colors were applied by just touching the brush to the paper.
Leave white areas for the very light areas and highlights on the apple.

The paint is carried by the water, and the 2 colors mix beautifully, with just a few nudges of the brush.

An extra bit of Permanent Rose on the lower left side, and blotting the hard edge around the stem.

The wash under the lace material is Burnt Sienna, Dioxazine Violet, and Permanent Rose, all flooded into a wet wash. Again, notice how well they mix when added to the wet paper.
The background wash is Burnt Umber, Dioxazine Violet, and Ultramarine Blue.

Step 2. Shadows (photo above)
I use Dioxazine Violet to paint the shadows on the apples, leaving the highlighted areas.
I begin painting the shadows and the detail on the lace using Dioxazine Violet, Cobalt Blue, and Raw Sienna. I don’t mix them, but just dip my brush into a different color from time to time, and let them mix themselves. It can look a little garish at this point, but I know I will be painting over them again , and the shadows will eventually be darkened which will unify the colors.

The lace detail and shadow is coming along. Although painting the lace is tedious, I know that rendering it carefully will make a better painting.

Step 3. Second Layer (photos above and below)
I painted a layer of Ultramarine Blue in the background, and a layer of Burnt Umber below the lace. You can see where I have a few more holes to fill in the lace. I painted another layer of green (Sap Green) and red (this time Alizarin Crimson) on the apples.
For Layer #2 on the apples, I wet the entire apple with water, then flood in the colors**. Remember to leave the highlights.

I painted a very light layer of Raw Sienna over the entire lace area. This helps unify the colors that I used for the shadows, and keeps the material from being too glaringly white, and attention grabbing.

Step 4. Value adjusting (photo above)
The painting needs deeper shadows, and I would like the apples to have richer colors. I paint over the apple’s shadows using Dioxazine Purple in the red areas, and Prussian Blue in the green areas. I paint a little Cobalt Blue on the highlight on the middle apple, and a wee bit of Cadmium Orange on the top right of the first apple.
I deepen some parts if the folds in the lace, and work on the lace detail a little more.

Step 5. Details (photo above)
Another layer of Alizarin Crimson and Sap Green on the apple, this time with a little Hookers Green for the cooler green areas.
I use Dioxazine Violet and Sepia on the stems of the apple.
I deepen the shadows between the apples using Dioxazine Violet and Ultramarine Blue, with a little Alizarin Crimson.
More detail work on the lace, and another layer of Dioxazine Violet under the lace AND in the background.***
The final step is making really dark areas darker (the stems, and shadows right under the apples), and lightening some highlights. I scrub out some lighter areas around the stems, and the highlights and reflected lights with a small, stiff brush and plenty of water.

* when painting a red subject, I usually start with Permanent Rose. It is a rich and warm pink, and looks better then a lighter wash of Alizarin Crimson. I use Alizarin Crimson for dark, intense reds, but a washy version looks dull to me.

** Doesn’t the water wash out the color underneath? No, not as long as you aren’t brushing it too much. The dry paint will stay put for the most part, unless it is disturbed with a lot of brushing. Water, good, Brush, bad.

*** Why so much Dioxazine Violet??? Not quite sure why, but I love it. It is a lovely purple, but also the perfect neutral. It seems to work great as a shadow color on any other color, and seems to cool when a color needs to be cooled, or warm when a color needs to be warmed. Take note, that I almost never mix it with another color, but use it as a wash over another color.


  1. This is awesome, Barbara. I've always admired the way some artists like yourself paint lacy fabrics and would love to master this. I will definitely give this one a try. Thanks so much for sharing your process. This is how I learn and really appreciate your blog. Wishing you a beautiful weekend.

  2. thank you for taking the time to write such detailed explanation! Beautiful apples :)

  3. So Beautiful, Barbara! Love the "action shots" at the beginning...a really detailed demo...thank you!

  4. This demo is wonderful, Barbara...thanks so much. The painting is just gorgeous!

  5. Outstanding!
    and thank you so much for the demonstration and explanation of the stages. Very informative!

  6. Fantastic demo of your process Barbara. I really appreciate the detail and all the different 'screen shots.' Much to be learned from this even though I am painting watercolours digitally. Thanks so much!

  7. Thank you so much Barbara for using your valuable time to share your techniques whith others. As a frustrated artist -in my youth- trying to go back to pain in my older years, I really appreciate your mentorship. God bless you for your generosity and for bringing joy to so many. Thanks again. Your work is wonderful!


  8. Thank you for the feedback. I sincerely hope that my demonstrations help everyone who reads them. I'll post another demo in the next month or two.

  9. These demonstrations are so valuable, Barbara, thank you for taking the time to post them - that's a lot of work. I'm still working to achieve the luminosity that watercolors allow and that you have so adeptly mastered. Your work is an inspiration to me and generosity in sharing your techniques, very appreciated. Thanks again! :)

  10. Barbara I just love your step by step post. It's great to see your process and color decisions.

  11. Thank you for this great step by step,Barbara.
    I'm going to mention your blog in an article I'm writing for the Society of Floral Painters (UK)newsletter about blogs. Not only is your work fantastic, but you also share your knowledge, even though that means a lot of work for you and I love that generosity of spirit.

  12. Thanks everyone. I am glad the demos are helpful.

  13. Спасибо большое за урок! Обязательно попробую!

  14. love the soul you put on this painting, they look so real. I am starting to paint but hope will master it as you do. Thanks

  15. Beautiful painting! Thanks for sharing your demo!

  16. Thank you for sharing, really beautiful, the lesson is great, and I will give it my best.

  17. Thank you for sharing it is a beautiful painting. I am going to try to follow your lesson, you did it so well.

  18. You make it look easy. I do water color but my passion is oil. Wondering, do you do oil as well?

  19. I have had very limited instruction and found this so helpful. I know I have to layer for intensity, but was not sure how to go about the first layer-by letting the water spread the paint-I have overworked all my art-this will help. Thanks so much

  20. Amazing affect, thanks so much for your detail, I haven't tried water colour as yet I really love pastels

  21. Wonderful, clearly written demo. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.

  22. This is so wonderful! I can't tell you how much your sharing means to me. There is illness in my family so I'm not able to travel and take lessons. Art is my escape. Thank you so much, Barbara, for sharing your lesson. Your work is beautiful!

  23. Thank you for the kind comments. I'm happy you enjoy the demonstration.