This simple tutorial for painting a lemon is from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 More Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. Get your paints and brushes and follow along as we learn to paint.
You will also find How to Paint a Daisy here.
This tutorial from Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 More Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson is used with permission from Quarto Books who also provided a review copy.
How to Paint a Lemon With Acrylic Paints
Complementary colors are colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel.
These color pairs seem more intense than other color combinations and can make for a very dynamic painting.
One thing to be aware of is that if the complementaries are the same saturation and are placed right next to each other, they seem to vibrate: the adjoining edges appear to blur together and almost seem to be oscillating.
Overly saturated colors can also look rather artificial.
To get around this, a useful tip is to desaturate, or tone down, one or both of the colors by adding a gray or Unbleached Titanium.
The cast shadows are also an important part of this composition. Note that the edge of the shadow is sharper the closer it is to the object.
Watch the Video
A quick overview of the painting process (no sound):
- White paper, canvas, or gessoed panel
- #1 round brush
- #4 bright brush
- #6 flat brush
1Thin Paint With Glazing Medium
Using a #1 round brush and Yellow Ocher thinned with glazing medium, draw the outline of the lemon and the leaves.
2Block In Lemon and Leaves
Block in the color of the lemon, using a #4 filbert brush and Cadmium Yellow Medium.
Add Mars Black to the yellow to create a dark olive green, and fill in the leaves.
On the left side of the lemon, apply Yellow Ocher with the #1 round brush, gradually adding Cadmium Yellow Medium as you move toward the more brightly lit part.
Add more Cadmium Yellow Medium and a tiny bit of Unbleached Titanium to the green mix from step 2 and paint the parts of the leaves that twist up toward the light.
Yellow and violet are complementary colors, so here we’re using violet for the background.
Mix Unbleached Titanium, Napthol Red, Ultramarine Blue, and a tiny bit of Titanium White; the Unbleached Titanium desaturates the violet color, while the Titanium White lightens it.
Using a #6 flat brush, paint the background, cutting out the shape of the lemon and leaves as you do so. Let dry.
5Add Shadows and Highlights
Switch to the #4 filbert brush. Add more Mars Black to the green mix from step 2 and use this to darken parts of the leaves and paint the stem.
Paint the cast shadows in a mix of Napthol Red, Ultramarine Blue, and a little Unbleached Titanium.
Start each shadow close to the object; as you get farther away, wipe your brush, dip it in glazing medium, and pull the color outward so that the edge of the shadow becomes softer.
Add the highlights on the lemon in Titanium White mixed with a tiny amount of Cadmium Yellow Medium.
The muted violet background enhances the bright yellow of the lemon without detracting from it.
To practice desaturating colors, why not paint a series of fruit using complementary colors—a lime on a red background, an orange on blue, a plum on yellow?
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Pick Up the Skills, Put on the Paint, Hang Up your Art
by Mark Daniel Nelson
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛