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Written by John Fisher

I was recently struck by the way early morning sunlight streamed across our dining room table and lit up some tangerines in a small wicker basket. I was actually about to peel, and eat, a standard sized orange for breakfast, and I wondered if a still-life was brewing and delayed breakfast long enough to experiment. Image size is for a framed painting 14" X 10", using 300 lb Arches cold pressed, using W&N Artists quality paints.


After making a careful drawing I had to find a colour match for the tangerine oranges. Here I am with an actual orange. I settled on Cadmium Red and Cadmium Yellow deep as my basic colour. Yes - I ate it soon after, Delicious!


Here is my basic drawing with the eventual dark frame background pencilled in. This technique is did not originate with me and is often used in commercial art techniques to make an image more stylized. I've modified it to suit a series of still life paintings I'm working on with a common theme of slanting early morning sunlight. After using liquid misket for the later high-lights I've put in my basic wash.


Here I've completed my tangerines, but I'm not happy with them as they look like tomatoes. I modify them quite a bit later on. With this small image the pebbled effect hardly shows up.


Here I've masked off the centre cut orange and used liquid misket to leave a glitter as an end result.


Here's how it looked before I began the big oranges. Still no modification on the tangerines. I decided to wait until more areas were covered.


I decided my big oranges had a distinctly yellowish cast owing to the brilliant sunshine slanting cross the area, so I gave then a basic wash of Cadmium Yellow Deep with a touch of Cadmium Red. I masked out the eventual highlights with liquid misket first.


I modified my tangerines a little before moving on to put in the outer edge of the centre cut orange. By now I realized this painting was going to be more difficult than I anticipated. There was so much going on within this image, such as reflected light, shadows, sharp contrasts and reflected light into shadow patterns. It was shaping up to be quite a challenge.


Here I've jumped ahead a bit and worked on the bigger oranges, removing the liquid misket to reveal pebbled highlights. You can see the sharp light falling across the cut orange now.


I completely forgot about you all as I worked on the wicker basket - I was having so much fun trying to capture the incredibly subtle shadows and reflected lights.


Now it was time to put the first wash on the cutting board. I masked off the oranges and relevant parts of the wicker basket as I wanted the eventual grain to flow right through. This way I could carry the brush in straight lines and not have to stop carefully.


Next I added the grain, after re-penciling in the cast and reflected shadows. I completely wrecked my first attempt at this demo right at the end, by putting in a dominant slanting shadow where it should have been bright sunlight. This is my second attempt at this painting.


Now comes the hard part. I put in the dominant shadows, modifying them to try to capture the reflected light from the oranges.


Next came the shadows within shadows and more reflected light from the oranges. I was very nervous at this point as this type of work is almost impossible to save if you make a mistake.


Now for the background. I decided to use a ruling pen to get an accurate straight edge to my technique. I put in three layers of a dark mixture of Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna, a touch of Windsor Blue and Sepia.



Here's the finished result again. On this demo I couldn't take as many step-by-step photographs as there was simply too much going on between steps, and I couldn't risk losing some of my wet-in-wet blending.

Hope this was useful.