How to PAINT PRODUCE!

In celebration of the release of my latest Skillshare course Paint Produce! Intro to Drawing Fruits and Vegetables with Watercolor and my highly “giftable” “The New Victory Garden 2022” Calendar (see a theme?), I’ve synthesized a few hots tips on how to accurately render fruits and vegetables using watercolor.

Drawing fruit and vegetables is the perfect way to get well acquainted with watercolor paint. Not only should you have fruit and veg on hand (AKA no excuses), painting produce is the ultimate study in observation, volume and color.

“Draw from life!” There’s a reason that annoying drawing teacher of yours was also merging together random objects to create a still life. Drawing abides by the 10,000 hour rule. You’ve got to start somewhere and commit before you can move onto painting whatever it is that’s in your head. Drawing from life retrains your scrolling brain to reconnect with the present and forces you to draw what something is instead of what you “think” something looks like.

“Look Look Look!” Before committing with watercolor, give yourself a few 1-minute drawing exercises. Draw with your opposite hand. Draw the composition without taking your pencil off the paper. Draw your still life without looking down at the paper. It’s easy to get frustrated with technique especially if you haven’t picked up drawing since a discouraging art teacher killed your creative joy. But before getting lost in “what” to draw, commit to drawing what is in front of you. All the information is there, so just draw it. 

“Light Source”. Drawing veg is the ultimate exercise in understanding volume. And rest assured, it’s as easy as identifying where the light source is. This will cue you in on where you need to save the white space (what not to paint) and where to put the shadows. And of course, reflecting light can say a lot about what a fruit or vegetable can be. Think of how light reflects off of a red rubber ball versus an orange. A red rubber ball reflects it in one defined area because it has a completely smooth finish. The orange reflects light on each of the pores on its zest (note: how to create texture).

“Mix Mix Mix!” Who doesn’t love paint by number? But alas, this is the wild west of watercolor. The beauty and dynamic nature of the medium is when colors are mixed. It’s a truer representation of what you see and it’ll jump-start your understanding of watercolor, too.

“Be Bold!” Common knowledge in watercolor is to dose out the color from the lightest to darkest. This is good advice in a finicky medium that sadly still doesn’t have an undo button. However, since produce is already brightly saturated (AKA colourful), be bold and add the color as you see it instead of torturing yourself with layer after layer which can easily turn into a watermarked mess. 

Let loose, save the white space and don’t drink the watercolor water! More here.

The Unspoken Ways of French Eating

French culture isn’t a fluke. It’s ingrained as early as daycare when babies are serving 4-course meals (i.g. tomato and avocado salad, sautéed turkey, brie and fruit AKA my baby’s lunch menu). These customs are withheld for life. But all these micro details make France, France. And the French, French. And foreigners, well, foreign. Even if grab-and-go options and poké bowls have swept the capital by storm, these small table manners remain set in stone…

9-10 October Portes Ouvertes / Studio Open House

Thrilled to welcome you to my Studio Open House in tandem with the Portes Ouvertes des Ateliers d’Artistes. I’ll be presenting the original watercolors from “The New Victory Garden 2022” and copies of the calendar will be available for sale, too. Original watercolors from my archive will also be on sale for a fraction of the price.

A l’occasion des Portes Ouvertes des Ateliers de Montreuil, je serais ravie de vous accueillir pour vous présenter mon travail et mon parution “The New Victory Garden Calendar”. Je vendrai les aquarelles originales pour un prix “vide-atelier” aussi.

October 9-10, 13h-18h

Usine Chapal, 2 rue marcelin berthelot 93100 Montreui, Porte D / 2eme étage

Julia Child’s Paris: Following in Her Footsteps & An Illustrated Map of Her Favorite Places

An illustrated watercolor map guide to Julia Child's favorite boutiques, restaurants and other haunts in Paris.
Julia Child's favorite restaurant in Paris, Le Grand Vefour, frequented by Colette. Julia Child's favorite places in Paris. Julia Child guide to Paris
Julia Child's favorite places in Paris. Julia Child guide to Paris. Best French onion soup, Au Pied de Cochon. Best late-night eats in Paris
Julia Child's favorite places in Paris. Julia Child guide to Paris. E.Dehillerin copper pots. Best kitchenware stores in Paris. French copper pots
Julia Child's favorite places in Paris. Julia Child guide to Paris. Where did Julia Child live in Paris? Where to live in Paris?
Coffee at Les Deux Magots and dessert at Brasserie Lipp. Julia Child's favorite places in Paris. Julia Child guide to Paris. My Life in France.
Julia Child's favorite places in Paris. Julia Child guide to Paris. Le Cordon Bleu alumni. Best culinary schools paris.

Whenever I get asked about must-go places in my hometown of Chicago, I have to preface my list stating that all my recommendations are at least a century old. No poké bowl recommendations here! I like directing friends to the haunts that my family has been flocking to for generations so they can enjoy (occasionally) musty old school charm that I think of when I think of “home”. When I was researching Julia Child’s favorite Parisian haunts for the most recent Julia Child issue of Cherry Bombe Magazine, I was reassured that there were still many similarly eternal institutions in my adopted city. These are equally as loved by true Parisians and tourists alike. Enjoy.

Originally published in The Julia Child Issue of Cherry Bombe Magazine, which celebrates women in food.

How do you get better at drawing a still life?

Before you can tell a story with objects, you have to learn how to paint them first. In my latest Skillshare course Watercolor for Breakfast: A 7-Day Editorial Food Illustration Daily Practice, I challenge students to use their own breakfast to jump-start a week of editorial food illustrations.

But what if you’re not there yet? Drawing from primary references (AKA the real object itself) is the best way to train your eye to be in synch with your brushstrokes. 

Here are a few tips on getting better at painting a still life:


Take 1-2 minutes where you stare at the still life. This will seem loooooong at the beginning, but it’s the best way to gather information before you begin. Ask yourself a few questions.  How do all the objects connect?  What are the lightest and darkest spots? Do you think it’s important to include the background?

-Do a gestural sketch. If you’re new to drawing or still can’t seem to get started, give yourself a few drawing challenges à la art school. Draw the still life in 5 seconds. Then 10, then 15. Draw with your opposite hand. Draw it with a continuous line. Draw it with two complimentary colors. The more you loosen up, the easier it will be to synch your hand with your eye.

Study the light source. Is your light coming from the right side? Then all the objects will reflect light on the right side and have shadows on the left. It’s as simple as that, but it’s the best way to capture and communicate volume and give sense to your overall composition. 


-Style your still life. As a former food stylist, I recommend lots of micro tips in Watercolor for Breakfast about how to take a brute ingredient and turn it into something very special. Your final drawing is only as interesting as the still life that inspires it. Cut a fruit and vegetable in half or in slices. Add a cooking utensil or a step from the process of cooking a recipe. Add a branch from outside. Make sure everything isn’t all the same height. And always add something transparent (Alas, I’m now the art teacher I used to hate). 

-Feeling courageous? Add a touch of whimsy. Once you get the hang of drawing a still life, flip it on it’s head. Quickly draw the firsts 3 ideas off the top of your head. Imagine throwing it all in the air and draw how you think it will land. Create a fashion illustration using all the elements. How would this look in movement?

-Inspiration. Study the Dutch still life masters. Follow and participate in @stillherestilllife on Instagram, a weekly drawing challenge. That’s what generated all the still life illustrations above.

Take care! Happy drawing. And don’t drink the watercolor water.
-jkw