If you want to follow along with us, gather a green apple, an orange, and a lemon. The fruit should be real, but if you use fake fruit, be sure that it looks realistic. Funny-looking fruit makes a funny-looking painting! Arrange the pieces of fruit on a cloth similar to the one you see in the example. Set up your arrangement and your lighting as closely as you can to the photograph of our setup.

You may be tempted to work rather than your own setup, but we can’t stress enough the importance of working from observation. Painting from observation is like learning a new language, and like language, practice is important.

If you want to work with different objects, look for objects that are only one color. The citrus fruit and the green apple are good because they’re the same color top to bottom. Objects that are medium or light in color are best for this exercise, so avoid eggplants, dark red apples, and other dark fruits and vegetables. We walk you through working from these types of items later in this chapter. You can also use boxes covered in plain, vividly colored paper.

For the table and background, select bright fabrics. Felt is good choice, but any non-shiny fabric will do. (Avoid using satin. It’s pretty, but it will make you crazy if you haven’t painted before.)

For this exercise, limit your setup to three items and light it with a strong spot from a low angle

Use a viewfinder to frame your scene — if you’ve already done the black and white painting in Chapter 6, you’ve had some practice at framing your scene. Next, you begin sketching in paint with a light color. Cadmium yellow is a good choice. Make a wash of the color with your solvent, and use the wash to draw the objects out — again, just like in the black and white painting.