Arranging and Painting a Still-Life in Watercolor
In the process of setting up, I had already spent time thinking through the concept, the mood, the space (including the negative space), and how the colors would work together. In the drawing step, I did a final evaluation of the setting until I was completely satisfied with the arrangement. After I spent the time arranging my still-life, I started a drawing to define the overall space and larger shapes of each object.
Start from the Main Objects
I started the painting by blocking in the main objects, which are the bananas, the mandarin oranges, and the persimmons. I first put yellow into the area for the bananas, then I mixed yellows and reds to define the areas for the mandarin oranges and the two persimmons. As you may have already noticed, I left paper-white areas which will be used for the highlights and leaves on the fruits.
Balance the Dark and the Light Areas
Next, I worked on the lightest and darkest areas of the painting (the fabrics used in the background and the foreground), and worked to develop the color and value relationship between the major areas. This was the time to orchestrate the overall harmony of the watercolor painting.
I used a large, 1-inch flat brush to paint the background and the dark shadows in the fabric with a mixture of blue, red, and burnt sienna. In the light-colored fabric area, I mixed burnt umber and yellow with good amount of water to paint the lighter shadows.
I squinted my eyes when I looked at the still-life setting to avoid getting caught up in the details. Instead, I kept my focus on the balance of the major areas of color. Each wash and stroke on the painting needed to work together to bring out the concept and impression that I had developed in my mind during the composition stage. I next worked on introducing more colors and heightened value and color balance in the painting.
Bring the Subjects to Life
When I had accomplished the overall dark and light value and color balance, I started to work on the form of the main subjects. I started from the bananas, then proceeded to the mandarin oranges on the right, the ones on the left, and finally the persimmons at the front. I enriched the colors of the subjects by defining the light and shadow areas. During this step, I paid close attention to the reflective colors cast from other subjects in the setting. As I developed a richer relationship among the subjects, I moved the color and value balance to the next level. I avoided staring at an object for too long because I didn't want to lead my attention away from the relationship and balance.
Proceed to Details
I continued adding colors to the different areas of the composition one layer at a time. As I change one element, another would strike me as needing refinement. This became a continual process as I matched up the watercolor painting to the one in my mind. I worked to make the painting more detailed, interesting, and also worked to achieve a certain level of perfection. This was the time to push the painting to its fullness. I worked on defining the darkest area, the brightest area, and other areas in between to complete the balance.
This painting was completed in about an hour and a half.