Starting from scratch…..

There are many ways to SEE an apple….


Yesterday I received this message from a new follower: –

“I would like to learn to paint from you.   Where to start?     I am scared even to pick up a paint brush.”

The person who wrote this is not alone, and so I am prompted to write a post on the subject of starting from scratch and releasing fear.

I came up with the ‘apple exercise’ many years ago because in principle it is simple and effective.

Any materials can be used – most of them can be found in your home or local pound shop.  (you don’t need to go out and purchase expensive paints, brushes and paper)   


I believe that the reason so many people feel a sense of fear and trepidation when they begin to make marks on paper is because we are taught from an early age that what we draw or paint should be perfect and look exactly like our subject.       Striving for perfection can cripple….. 

The first lesson is to WARM UP and PLAY.      PLAYING  and Doodling on inexpensive paper can help us move from a place of fear to a more relaxed and receptive state of mind.       For more seasoned artists it’s an excellent way to move into the day’s work. 

I will demonstrate using this image.      After I sketched the apples,  I ate them:)


Learning  the many different techniques of painting takes years of practise and dedication.       I can’t teach this, but what I can do is encourage and share tools and techniques.   

Getting started is always the hardest part.     It’s like jumping off a cliff.   Once you have done it there is a sense of personal satisfaction and freedom.    The key is to jump off that cliff every day.          

Here are three warm up exercises…..

  1.       Pretty much anyone can find an apple and piece of newspaper.

20200428_112954After roughly sketching out the apple and its shadow,  I apply some juicy watercolour.    Remember this is simply to warm up and its only newspaper.   20200428_113127

 2.     Using white paper….I sketch out the shapes. with a felt tip pen.    I then add a little of the same colour to each segment.   I am thinking in shapes rather than apples and shadows – this is very important.    20200428_113911When we paint shadows they always reflect the colour of the object making the shadow.        I have allowed the paint to bleed (run from one colour into another)


3.   I  drew this apple on an orange background which I painted earlier.        I often draw or paint over old sketches to warm up.   20200428_114750I then applied some juicy red paint to the apple and shadow…leaving some of the dry orange background as a highlight on the apple and in the NEGATIVE SPACE –  (the area surrounding the apple and shadow).     Note the thin slither of orange between the apple and the shadow is key in separating the two areas.20200428_115052Using a wet brush I then added Permanent White Gouache  into the background allowing it to merge with the red….This is an exercise of ‘LETTING GO’ – not trying to control the paint but seeing where it takes you.       Watercolour is transparent – Gouache is opaque20200428_115558


  1. If you can write your signature – you can learn to draw.   You didn’t emerge from the womb knowing how to write…..
  2. IGNORE the Chattering Monkeys that clutter your mind with negative nonsense.
  4. Use photographs as a JUMPING OFF POINT – don’t become a slave to them.
  5. NEGATIVE SPACE – the space surrounding the subject
  6. Move colour around the picture to achieve balance and harmony.
  7. Everything reflects on everything else.    All of life is interconnected. 
  8. Fifteen minutes a day practise can do wonders.
  10. Painting with children helps us to free up.
  12. Stay away from negativity….

Observe everything in many different ways.

Go to  (Janet Weight Reed) where you will find some short videos including one of me painting an apple on newspaper.

Most importantly ENJOY the process….and don’t compare what you do to anyone else’s work.    Only compare yourself with your own progress.

Old paperback books are an excellent source of paper……..Think out of the box and be curious.



35 thoughts on “Starting from scratch…..

  1. moirapwalker

    Fabulous Janet – thank you! And I just adore that picture of the child! That’s the grandchild I’m hoping for!!! 😉

    Love you.

    Moira xxx

  2. Writing to Freedom

    These are great tips Janet. I was fortunate to have a gentle teacher who used a similar approach years ago when I tried my hand at painting. i got over the fear and it helped me tackle other challenges. Thanks for the laugh with the photo at the bottom. To childlike play and wonder! Happy New Year!


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