Fruits are a wonderful way to capture life's journey and bring a creative element to your journaling. In this fruity workshop, Becky Cao will show you how to use watercolour journaling to document the process of eating a banana.
Read on and learn to capture the beauty of everyday life!
Step 1: Straight to Ink
To start, you'll need: an A4 cold press watercolour sketchbook, a banana, watercolour paints, a palette, a size 6 water brush (or paintbrush), 2 containers of water (if you're not using a water brush), paper towels, an HB pencil, a 0.1 black waterproof fineliner, and a small felt tip pen (a.k.a. Fude brush pen) with waterproof ink.
For paint colours, you'll need: lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, magenta, dioxazine purple, ultramarine blue, lime green, and burnt sienna. Becky uses Etchr's 24 watercolour set, but if you don't have it, you can use your own paints instead.
Bonus tip: As Becky is an artist who likes to capture everyday life, feel free to tweak this workshop as you please, such as using different colours or even switching to a different fruit. The point is to have fun!
The first thing to do is to draw a light rectangle in pencil that will fit the first stage of your banana – the "untouched" stage. It should take up no more than a quarter of your page. Next, use the Fude brush pen to outline the banana.
Tip: If you're nervous about going straight to ink, you can try tracing the outline of the banana with your finger and visualise its size and the curves you need to capture its shape. You can also do a quick study sketch on a piece of scrap paper and break it down into a more basic shape, which is a curved cylinder with another smaller cylinder attached to the stem.
Once you're done with the outlines, add in the "ridges" of the banana with a light thin line, then the feathering along the end of the banana's stem. Finally, dot in any black spots you see, and fill in the black end of the banana.
Step 2: Painting Quick Layers
Once you're happy with your linework, you can add in your first layer of paint. With a round brush, wet the banana with clean water; this will help you get a more even wash and forms the basis of the wet-in-wet technique.
Mix cadmium and lemon yellow, and paint the base layer of the banana. You can vary the yellow slightly by diluting the mixture for the upper part of the banana, as that surface is in the light. Then, while the paint is still wet, drop in areas of lime green, if there are any on your banana.
Use yellow ochre for the very end of the stem, then mix a touch of ultramarine blue for a slightly darker yellow. Use this for the shadowed side of the banana.
Note: If your resulting mixture looks too green, mix in a touch of purple instead. Yellow is a much lighter colour than purple, so only mix a tiny bit at a time! These two colours are also complementary, so they should make a more neutral brown colour.
For an even darker brown, add purple as well, and use less water to dilute the paint. Use this to paint in any brown spots on your banana and on the ends of the banana.
Lastly, for the cast shadow, mix yellow, magenta, blue, and purple for a dull blue/purple, and dilute this a lot for a very light shadow under the banana. Then, use the same mixture but less diluted to darken the shadow just underneath the banana.
- While painting, keep a close eye on how wet or dry your painting is, and in which areas.
- For the base layers, drop paint in when it's still wet so the colour can blend well but not so wet that it spreads everywhere or starts pooling on the paper.
- For details like brown spots, wait for the paint to be almost completely dry before dotting them in.
Understanding water control comes with experience, though, so keep practising!
Step 3: First Stage
The next stage of the banana is the "partially-eaten" stage! So peel your banana, and take a bite or two so there are about two-thirds left.
While holding the banana in your other hand, draw it with the Fude brush pen again. For the details such as the texture of the inside of the banana peel, use a very light hand, so they don't eclipse the main form of the banana.
Again, if you're not sure how to draw the way the peel peels back, try doing a quick sketch on scrap paper first. Then, break down each peel into a simpler triangle shape, and carefully observe the banana while you're drawing.
Start at the eaten side of the banana, then work your way down, leaving room for your hand. When drawing, keep breaking what you see into easy shapes. It will make the process much less intimidating!
Once you're done with the general outlines, add the smaller details to the banana (such as the inside peel's texture) and your hand.
Step 4: Painting Again
Wet your latest drawing with water again, and drop in the same mixture of yellow for the outside of the peel. Dilute this yellow to paint the insides of the banana, including its flesh. And again, drop lime green paint into the green areas of the peel.
For the hand, mix yellow with a touch of magenta, and dilute it a lot until it resembles your skin tone. Of course, if you have a darker skin tone, you can add a touch of ultramarine blue and/or brown!
Next, paint the second layer of the banana by adding shadows. To do this, use yellow ochre in the mid-tone areas, such as the banana's flesh and in some areas of the peel. Next, mix a darker brown by adding blue or purple to your yellow, and paint in the shadowed areas of the banana peel on the outside.
For your hand, use a more saturated version of your first layer of skin tone, and paint in the mid-tones. Try to paint while the paper is still slightly wet, but not too wet.
Then, for the darkest shadows on the hand, add in some burnt sienna or even a little purple or blue to paint these areas. For your nails, mix in a little more magenta to your skin tone mixture, and drop it in while the paint is still wet.
This way, you're slowly building up the contrast in your painting. It's also a good idea to keep observing what your banana and hand look like in real life! This will help you better understand value, colour, and tones.
Step 5: Second Stage
For the next painting, we're still at the "half-eaten" stage, though take a few more bites of your banana before drawing it as before with the Fude pen.
This time, you can try holding your banana slightly differently, so you can study how to draw hands from a different angle. But the general principle is the same: go slow, keep observing, and break things down into manageable shapes.
Once you're done, you can add more minor details with the 0.1 fineliner. This is so they won't accidentally eclipse your main outlines!
Don't forget to add the "bite" texture to the top part of the banana's flesh. Then, add the folds and wrinkles in your hand and lines to indicate the nails.
You can also fill in some areas for the oxidising parts of your banana, as the peel may gain some extra spots as it's exposed to the air.
I also recommend following through with where the banana peel is going, as some may be going in front of your hand while others are behind. For example, Becky forgets to draw a part of the peel on the right, but thankfully can add it later! But make sure you have everything before you move on to the painting part.
Step 6: And Another One
Repaint this banana like you did the last one, using the same colours and process. You may have to adjust some of your colours as the banana may have oxidised even further, but otherwise, it should be the same.
Note: Your banana may be a slightly different shape or peeled or angled differently. Same with your hand. This means your paintings won't be the same as Becky's ones since you're working from real life and not a reference photo. And that's totally fine! Try your best to draw and paint what you see, and apply Becky's techniques rather than copying exactly what she's drawing and painting.
Step 7: Third Stage
The final stage is, of course, the "all done" stage, where just the peel is left. Again, draw it like before, though you can lay your peel on the table in whatever angle you wish.
Becky does hers with one fold of the peel sticking out, while I went for a haphazard splay, but whatever angle you choose, follow the same process as before.
One extra thing to note, though, is that you're just drawing the peel, so it should look a lot floppier than the first painting! This means your lines should be wigglier for a softer feeling. The edges and stem of the peel should also be more oxidised than the rest of the banana so that you can add thicker and darker lines there.
Again, once your outlines are finished, add in the textured details with the 0.1 fineliner.
Step 8: Finishing and Documenting
It's time to paint your final painting! This should go exactly as before; only you don't have to paint your hand this time. You may also need to use the darker brown mixture to add more of the oxidised areas (and even brown spots that have appeared), so don't forget to do those.
Keep observing and stepping back from your painting to see what it needs, where you need to add more contrast and shadow, and where you still need to preserve some highlights. Once you're done, add the cast shadow under the banana like you did in the first stage.
When you're happy with everything, it's time to do the final documentation! Add a title to your painting, date it, and add any other observations you had while eating this banana. This is the "journalling" part that you can do alongside your painting, and it helps turn something mundane into something more fun.
Of course, you can apply this to other artworks, such as urban sketches, Plein air paintings, or any time you just want to sit down and draw what you see. Every day is different, so you'll always have things to paint. The key is to keep studying and observing, and of course, to have fun!
If you'd like to watch the video version, you can head to our website and watch Becky Cao's 90-minute class. There's also a bonus Q&A session at the end!
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