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Oil Painting Lessons - Easy Apple

Updated on July 28, 2011

Paint The Shapes, Not The Apple

This is how your apple should be lit - with highlights, shadows and mid-tones.
This is how your apple should be lit - with highlights, shadows and mid-tones.
This is the same apple broken up into shapes.  These shapes are what make up a painting.
This is the same apple broken up into shapes. These shapes are what make up a painting.

An apple is a basic still life that I have all of my students paint. It is a simple still life that yields remarkable understanding in for learning basic painting techniques.

Let's paint an apple!

Start by lighting an apple with one bright clamp light. It should appear like the apple in the photograph to the right. You'll see a highlight, mid-tones and shadows.

Stare at the apple for a few minutes and watch it break into smaller shapes. Consider each highlight a different shape. Each mid-tone is a different shape. And, each shadow is a different shape.

Your apple is no longer an apple, but just a group of shapes all shoved next to one another.

Take a look at the second photograph, the one with the red lines on it. I outlined the shapes on Photoshop so you can see how it is broken up. My lines are quite jagged because I wasn't sure how to find a fluid line on my computer program. If the apple was painted in this jagged manner, it may resemble more of a "Cubist" feeling. The more shapes you paint, the more photo-realistic the apple will become.

Start Painting

Check out my hub on the Value Scale. Here you will find out how to break color down into values. You will need to learn your values to paint each of these shapes.

Choose the darker values (dark gray and black) for the shadows;
the mid-tone values (mid-grays) for the lighter areas;
and the lightest grays and whites for the highlights.

Apply the color you have chosen to represent each shape onto your canvas or paper in the order as you see them. There is no right or wrong with the process of application. Many artists work with the darkest areas first, leaving the white areas blank until they get to them. However, i've seen plenty of successful paintings begin with light areas as well.

If you are using oil or acrylic paint, you can slightly blend the edges of the shapes together to create blended, more realistic look to the apple. However, some people really like the angular look or the "chunky" shapes look. Whichever appeals to you the most is what you should strive for.

Remind yourself to step away from your painting frequently. When you move away from your work in-progress, the shapes will form together into a more unified shape and it will appear more like an apple to you. Another way to do this, is periodically look through a digital camera. It will fuse the shapes you have painted on the lens and you'll have a great idea of what your apple is looking like.

Remember - you are not painting the subject. You are only painting the SHAPES of the subject. Guaranteed Success!


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