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How to paint a pumpkin in watercolour with Paul Talbot-Greaves

Posted on Wed 26 Sep 2018

In this study I have chosen to paint pumpkins. Although they are clearly orange in colour, the hue shifts towards yellow, red and violet, depending on the effects of light and shadow. To keep my shades luminous, I refrained from using greys and instead chose to use Winsor violet, either mixed with orange or applied as a transparent layer to allow the orange to show through. When painting subjects that involve high colour saturation and strong light such as this, it is often best to mix violet with local colour to make shadows, as this will keep them dark but vibrant.

In the brightest parts I used more yellow, making the colour a yellow-orange by mixing Winsor lemon with a touch of Winsor orange on the paper. This has a much more vivid effect than just adding water to the orange. As the colour becomes shaded underneath the pumpkins and dark in-between, I used cadmium red to push the hue towards a red-orange, eventually mixing with Winsor violet to form the deeper tones. My darkest darks were made by using this mix in a neat paint form.



I drew out the pumpkin shapes on a piece of Arches 140lb (300gsm) Rough paper using a 6B pencil. Next, using a size 6 squirrel mop brush, I applied colours to the strength of the lightest values (see below). I kept the overall colour scheme simple and used Winsor lemon, Winsor orange and cadmium red. Although I worked wet-on-dry, I used lots of fluid to allow the paint to fuse and bleed. I let the wash dry then moved onto the second part.


Keeping the colour saturated I worked in some of the shapes, colour changes and mid-values, leaving the stalk and some highlights as the starting wash. I used Winsor lemon with only a little Winsor orange where the light strikes the pumpkins and in the deeper shade I switched to cadmium red, again allowing the colours to fuse.

After a quick dry with a hairdryer, I began building up the defining shapes, adding Winsor violet for the darker shadows but maintaining bright colour elsewhere. As I worked, the painted shapes remained damp and this helped me to fuse some of the borders of the pumpkins so that they weren’t all hard edged

Using mixtures of Winsor violet and cadmium red I allowed the bottom of the main pumpkin to blend into the cast shadows of the remaining shapes. To add some of the darkest value, I applied some Winsor violet neat from the tube.


Pumpkins, watercolour on Arches 140lb (300gsm) Rough paper (24x33cm).

When the painting had dried and the main shapes modelled in, I refined parts to bring the study to a close. First, I enriched some of the reds and oranges by painting further applications of Winsor orange and cadmium red here and there. I applied the darkest values using neat Winsor violet then finished with some soft highlights scrubbed out using a stiff hog brush and clean water.

Paul Talbot-Greaves teaches watercolour and acrylic painting in workshops and demonstrations to art societies throughout the Midlands and the north of England. He can be contacted by email: or through his website:

This demonstration is taken from the November 2018 issue of The Artist

Click here to purchase your copy.

How to paint a pumpkin in watercolour with Paul Talbot-Greaves


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