Painting Apples with Gouache after Pissarro
How to paint apples
I am mainly self-taught, as you know if you are familiar with this blog. I would have loved to train academically, in the traditional way, but it did not happen – which is totally fine. Life happens! And it is never too late. Anyway, I am happy with learning by myself at the moment.
Somewhere in my head, I imagine traditional training with its many old clichés, and one of them is the study of apples. You know what I mean – students in a studio all trying to paint or draw the same apple.
May I add a twist to this well-known exercise? I would like to paint apples after an artist who gave us his own interpretation of the famous apple.
Enter Pissarro. Camille Pissarro was a major member of the Impressionist group: suffice it to say that he was the only one of the group who participated in all eight Impressionist exhibitions. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica,
‘His continuing belief in the value of independent group exhibitions and his commitment to representing landscapes under specific weather and light conditions made him, in some ways, the quintessential Impressionist.’
Pissarro is famous mostly for his paintings of landscapes, and he did not paint many still-lifes. This painting, dated 1872, is therefore an oddity in his work, as explained by the Metropolitan Museum: ‘Unlike Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, and other artists in his circle, Pissarro painted few still lifes, most late in his career. This work of 1872 is, therefore, exceptional for its subject, as well as for its clearly expressed forms and subtle manipulation of light.’
Once again, as often happens, I did not have a lot of time to complete this project, so I decided to sketch a very quick study of Pissarro’s apples with gouache. I was very interested in the way he seems to use very few brush strokes, which are nonetheless more than enough to paint sunlight.
Camille Pissarro (1830, St. Thomas, Danish West Indies — 1903, Paris, France) was a French painter and printmaker who played a major role in the Impressionist group.
For today's project, I used:
black and white pencil (I would usually use a graphite pencil, but I noticed that graphite pencil on grey paper was not easy to shoot with the camera above me, because the light was too bright on it, so I decided to use a black coloured pencil so that you can see it better)
yellow, red, green, and white gouache
flat bristle brushes.
Step 1 – Drawing apples with black and white pencil
If you are familiar with this blog, you will probably have noticed that it is something I often do! I should confess that sometimes there are details of masterpieces that I love even more than the painting as a whole!
I sketched these four apples with black and white pencil on grey paper, without trying to draw something too perfect.
In the short video above, this runs from 00:00 to 01:23. It actually took me 7 minutes.
Step 2 – Paint the apples with gouache
This is where I had the most fun: with a flat bristle brush, I painted large, spontaneous strokes of orange, red, and yellow gouache! See how they pop against the grey background!
I started with the darkest colour and added the lighter strokes afterwards as highlights on the apples.
I enjoyed it very much. I definitely should do this kind of study more often! It only took me 10 minutes – which was the whole point of this quick and easy study.
In the short video above, this runs from 01:23 to 03:05. It actually took me 10 minutes.
Step 3 – Add green touches!
The final touch, the most unexpected one, came from close observation of Pissarro’s original painting: green and brown touches give more volume to the red apples.
So green it was! I added a few green strokes – in 3 minutes at the most.
In the short video above, this runs from 03:05 to 04:06. It actually took me 3 minutes.
Here are our apples painted with gouache! Not any apples but Pissarro’s apples. I realised afterwards that this still life is an oil painting on canvas that Pissarro did in his forties. Perfect for me then!
What I also learned from this study is that very few brush strokes are all it takes to paint sunlight.
I hope you have enjoyed this post. As always, I do not pretend to be a teacher, a seasoned artist or an expert in anything, just a very motivated learner who finds a deep joy in a regular art practice.
If you liked this post, you will almost certainly like some of these other still lifes. Enjoy!