The “Fruits” of my Labor

When it comes to painting still life, the choice of muse is endless. If you want to extend your horizon beyond  flowers, one good choice would be fruits. Fruits have always been one of the classic subjects for still life.  They come in a variety of colors and shapes that are perfect for replicating onto your canvas. Some are best portrayed whole, but when cut, they can provide you with some interesting shapes to customize your work of art. All you need is some fresh produce, or just an image of these juicy wonders, paint, brushes and a canvas to unleash your creativity!

So that’s exactly what I did! Not only did fruits become the subject of my next experiment with art, they also ended up being one among my favorite muses!! Since I was attempting this subject for the first time, I decided to use as reference, an image that displayed a vast variety of fruits. This gave me the opportunity to understand their various forms and colors, as well as the play of light on each one of them.

I also learnt how to paint different textures, as each fruit possesses its own distinctive tactile quality that contributes to its individualistic character. So from the rough skin of a lemon to the smooth and shiny surface of a grape, I did it all! 

The image I chose also proved to be quite challenging for me as it comprised of some complex berries which were a conglomeration of tiny units, thus giving shape to the fruit in totality. I learnt how to paint each and every one of these miniscule yet elaborate building blocks, which are an important feature of the fruit in question when it comes to its detailing. These are what give their subjects a distinctive identity and will enhance the quality of your painting.

Without further adieu, I will share with you some pointers that I picked up while I was learning to paint this fruity composition. So let’s get started!!

  1. Go for interesting shapes – You can use whatever fruits you like, but those with interesting shapes usually offer the maximum options.  Apples, pears, bananas, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, lemons, and limes are some good choices. As you can see, the image I chose as my muse covers just about every shape and type of fruit. Visit your local grocery store or farmer’s market and see which ones appeal to you the most…after all its all about the inspiration!
  2. Pick up a variety of colors – Choose a wide range of fruits that provide you with a larger color palette to work with. This is also visible in my painting. It will add vibrancy to your composition, unless you are looking at monotones or intend to paint only one type of fruit.
  3. Wash and dry all the produce – If you are using fresh fruits, wash them thoroughly with water and pat them dry. If any of the fruits are particularly dirty, use a brush to scrub them clean.  However, if you want to retain the dirt as an extra element of interest or detailing, then don’t wash your fruits.
  4. Cut and slice the produce for more interesting shapes – Cut  the fruit into halves or slices  to add more interesting effects to your artwork. Cut apples, pears, and strawberries in half lengthwise, oranges, lemons and limes in half crosswise. Bananas may be cut lengthwise or crosswise. Raspberries, blueberries and grapes can be used as whole fruits. If you don’t like cutting the fruits,  you can use them whole.
  5. Select a focal point – Once you have arranged your produce on your table or platter, select a strong focal point that you can use as your reference. This is usually the fruit on the top of the pile and helps you start your drawing.
  6. Add props to the composition – The surface on which you place your fruits can serve as an interesting element in your composition. So, ensure that you put them on a table or a saucer that adds on to your artwork. They can provide some very impressive highlights and shadows to your painting, thereby adding to the drama.
  7. Texture – A textural effect arouses the curiosity of the viewer to  learn how it was achieved, hence he moves in closer to see how it was done.  One way to achieve this is to add impasto here and there, especially around your focal object, and very much so in the highlights of that object. As mentioned earlier,  a lemon will possess a totally different texture from a grape.
  8. Pay attention to the shadows and reflections – Deeper areas or shadows add interest to your work and will attract your viewer. Therefore, give special emphasis to the shadows formed by each fruit. It will also give them a 3D effect and make them look more natural. Similarly, look out for those lovely sunlight reflections. They too will make your fruits look more realistic.
  9. Work on a size you are comfortable with – Decide the scale of your artwork based on your comfort level. If you are not confident about painting details in smaller sizes, increase the dimensions of your work, hence your canvas.
  10. Use an image if not the real thing – The problem with painting fruits is that, like flowers,  they are perishable, hence start losing their freshness and luster with time. This will alter your artwork as you progress, so you have to be real quick in finishing it, before the subjects in question start decomposing. I personally prefer using a still photo as my reference for this very reason. Not only are my subjects preserved in posterity but I also have time on my side. So, if you are a slow painter, go for the digital option so that you have total control.

Did you know?

Here’s some interesting trivia for you!  Giuseppe Arcimboldo  was an Italian painter best known for creating imaginative portrait heads made entirely of objects such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, and books. Arcimboldo’s conventional work, on traditional religious subjects, faded into oblivion, but his portraits of human heads made of vegetables, plants, fruits, sea creatures and tree roots, were greatly admired by his contemporaries and fascinate present day artists as well. At a distance, his portraits looked like normal human portraits. On close observation, one realizes that individual objects were actually overlapped to make the anatomical shape of a human head. They were carefully constructed by his imagination, hence the assembly of the objects was not random. So, if you feel you have mastered the skill of painting conventional pictures of fruits, shake things up a bit with this “bizarre” yet “unique” approach. You never know what innovations take shape!

I hope by now the artist in you is as excited and inspired by these succulent and juicy delicacies of nature as are your drooling taste buds!

Sources and Photo Credits –

One thought on “The “Fruits” of my Labor

  1. If art teachers were like you, all students would not only be good artists, they would learn how to express themselves through words as well.
    The painting is beautiful and would adorn a dining room wall really well, with its beautiful colours making the fruit look delicious.
    Looking forward to more paintings on nature in all its forms.


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