The Thanksgiving season is almost upon us! Would you like to surprise your friends and family with a unique piece of decoration or give them a beautiful greeting card, made by your hands with love?
We can think of plenty of Thanksgiving art ideas — turkeys, pumpkins, fallen leaves, pilgrim hats, hearty pies and hot beverages all come to mind around this holiday. I chose to paint a cornucopia — an ancient symbol of prosperity and abundance. It represents a good variety of shape and color and makes a great subject for illustration. Follow along this tutorial to paint your own.
Before Getting Started
What we’re going to paint is essentially a horn-shaped basket overflowing with fruit and veggies. It’s OK if you don’t have a basket at hand for reference — you can use imagination for that. Gather some seasonal produce and set up a still life for reference and inspiration.
We will use a glazing technique, which means that every next wash should be added after the previous one has dried completely. (Use a blow dryer if you don’t want to wait!)
Also, you should use transparent watercolors for your painting to remain luminous. I gave a brief overview of transparent and opaque paints in my post “An Introduction to Negative Watercolor Painting.”
What You’ll Need:
1. Two soft fine-tipped round brushes, bigger and smaller in size. I mostly used a Chinese calligraphy brush, and then switched to the small synthetic brush for detailed work.
2. A sheet of your favorite watercolor paper. If you want to make a greeting card, I recommend using store-bought watercolor cards.
- Yellow ochre
- Quinacridone gold
- Raw umber
- Light red
- Perylene maroon
- Winsor violet
- French ultramarine.
Feel free to substitute with other colors that match your reference still life.
Do a preliminary contour drawing of a cornucopia. Add some leaves and wheat stalks to enrich the composition. Try to combine objects of complementary colors. For example, blue-violet grapes will make a perfect match for yellow and orange vegetables.
Apply the first layer of color throughout the whole illustration. Use these mixtures for various parts of the painting:
- Raw umber with a drop of violet for the basket
- Quinacridone gold with light red for the pumpkin
- Light red with perylene maroon for the tomato
- Yellow ochre and quinacridone gold for the corn ears
- Ultramarine with quinacridone gold for the greens.
Notice that I didn’t use any manufactured green or orange colors.
Once the first layer is dry, apply the second glazes, adding some shadows and creating depth. Put some light brushstrokes on the basket, suggesting a woven texture.
Continue adding glazes and details. Notice the juicy orange-red color that I used on the pumpkin — it’s a mixture of quinacridone gold and perylene maroon. Also, don’t forget to paint some green stripes on the distant pumpkin.
Now that the painting is almost finished, take a small brush and have some fun working on fine details.
And there you have it, ready to display at a holiday celebration!