Part 1, project 1, exercise 1c: Getting to know your brushes – a piece of fruit

Updated on 18 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

February 18, 2016. The day before yesterday I went shopping to find a piece of fruit with character. There was a tray in the supermarket’s fruit section which contained a weird sort of pear with a peculiar long neck, which I thought I had to give a go because of its asymmetrical form and beautiful hues changing from green to red, yellow and light brown, with speckles all over its skin. In order to emphasize its form and colours I put it on two carefully selected linen placemats in such a way that several diagonals appeared in the setup, providing both axes of separation and communication.
Since I expected this painting to be no more than a quick exercise I used the back of an old sketchbook and unfortunately there appeared horizontal indentations in the cardboard, which must have developed over night, because they were not there at the time of painting. They are visible only in the slanting morning light I took the photograph in, but it reminds me to avoid using unsuitable materials even for the most straightward exercise.
I still quite like the light in the finished painting. This I produced in two steps: first by putting on the cardboard a background layer of pure white acrylics, which I let dry over night and which shines through the layers of colour I put on top, and second by adding several transparent washes of pure white, mixes of white and background colours as well as dark brown mixed with blue. This was by no means the first time I used acrylics, but I think that I learned an incredible amount of new things in this exercise. In particular, which is a special topic with me, there is no need to rush and it is immensely valuable to never lose contact with the developing area of newly applied paint. With me there is always a moment of thinking “How this little bit looks beautiful”, while at the same time watching myself PAINT OVER exactly that little bit. I think that I have only now really understood the principle of communicating with the developing work and I feel pure joy at finally being able to do so (Fig. 1, Fig.2, Fig. 3).

Figure 1: “Pear”, acrylics on cardboard

Before starting to paint I had had a quick look over some paintings by other artists made of single pieces of fruit (e.g. Blair (2010), [Anon.] (n.d.)), but my pear practically dictated the setup of the painting, so I did not refer to the information in my exercise.


[Anon.] [n.d.] [n.k.] [n.k.] [n.k.]. Available at / [Accessed 18 February 2016]

Blair, K. (2010) Still Life of Fruit, Peach. [oil on canvas] [online image]. Edmonton AB, Canada. Available at [Accessed 18 February 2016]



Part 1, project 1, exercise 1a: Getting to know your brushes – making marks and shapes

12 February, 2016. What a strange feeling to reset the exercise counter to 1. I start the Painting 1 exercises with the hope to be able to carry over what I learned in Drawing 1.

Asked to decide which type of paints I would choose to use in this course, oil or acrylic, I would have liked to say oil, but although I am privileged enough to call an attic workshop my own, our house is of an open type that supports rather strong currents of warm air up to the attic, followed of course by air from there – enriched with whatever toxic fumes happen to escape from the paint I use – to travel straight down to where we live. So it is not going to be oils yet. If, one day, we manage to put in a door on the stairs leading to the attic, I will start painting in oil, too.

For the first of all exercises, making marks and shapes with the brushes I own, I prepared the carton back of a large old drawing pad with a layer of white acrylic paint, let it dry and then divided it up into 3 squares to hold the marks of flat, round and filbert brushes, respectively. Since the task was to see the marks a brush can produce, I decided that it would be sensible to use one dark colour to contrast sharply with the white background layer.

By the way: In the Painting 1 study guide I read that it is difficult to keep acrylic paint moist once on the palette. What I do, and it has always worked so far: I spread a sheet of clingfilm over the edges of my makeshift palette, taking care to make it airtight, and the paint will keep moist for at least a week or two.

My makeshift palette and the set of paintbrushes I tried in this exercise (relatively unorthodox choice including watercolour pencils, but this mix is what I normally use and am very happy with)

Here come the marks I produced, round brushes top left, filbert bottom left and flat brushes all of the right half of the carton. I think that almost every mark can be produced by whatever brush used, it is just a matter of convenience and habit. All the brushes will leave marks with darker edges and a lighter middle unless reworked, an effect I usually choose to keep for two reasons: I love how the uneven thickness of the brushmarks will make the background colour shine through in an almost magical way, while at the same time the crossing of a new layer on top of a mark just made will let the painted structure itself appear 3-dimensional (see e.g. the spiral shape below).

brush marks, dark brown acrylic on white background