Oil Painting Painting Still Life

What color is a lemon?

Lemon on green glass plate (P1010468)

Oil on panel, 6×8″
Click here to see larger

Despite today being my last day of vacation, my cat barfing in response to fireworks, and my 3-year-old refrigerator dying yesterday, my muse has finally returned and I got started on some new painting projects. The first one is this small oil painting to try to understand what color the inside of a lemon is. It’s easy to say yellow, but as my friend Susie said, it’s transparent and reflective, like glass–and therefore not really any one particular color. I set it up on green glass so on the thin slice, the green shows through. The inside of the lemon is paler and less yellow in the original painting but I couldn’t get it quite right on the screen. Anyway, it’s not a masterpiece, but I’m pleased with getting the hang of the alla prima process (doing a whole painting at one time) with oils, and just love the feel of working with them.

Dry Ice: Interesting Stuff
Tuesday after lunch I realized my refrigerator wasn’t working and learned that the repairman couldn’t come until Thursday so I went off to buy dry ice. The guys in the shop were sympathetic and gave me 80 pounds of the stuff for free. I carefully carried in the steaming, icy bags, using potholders, 1 block at a time, loading it into the freezer and fridge. Later when I talked to my mom, she reminded me that I had another refrigerator in my studio kitchen (my house is a duplex, and the back unit is my studio). Duh!!! I rarely turn that fridge on since it’s a power hog, just using it to store extra beverages.

I turned it on and waited for it to get cold enough. Then I loaded all groceries I’d bought the day before into my laundry basket and carted them to the other kitchen. I was stunned to see that in that short time, all my wonderful lettuces and herbs and vegetables had frozen solid and were ruined. Then I left a few bottles of beer and some cans of soda in the broken fridge with the dry ice, thinking they’d be fine. I bet you can guess what happened next: The soda cans froze, expanded and exploded, covering the inside of the fridge with a layer of ice and icicles. In the freezer, frozen berries had turned to soup and they made their own lovely purple puddles of ice. But I just ignored the whole mess and spent the day in the studio.

11 replies on “What color is a lemon?”

My gracious — what a time! And yet, Jana, you dedicated the time to art! I applaud you on both fronts — the ability to let that stuff go and do what you’d like … AND creating a luscious, beautiful piece! Those yellows and sparkly white make my mouth water! SUPERB! Good luck with the fridge …!


Oh, Jana! What a disaster! I am glad that you opted to paint instead of cry though…All that frustration poured out beautifully in this lemon! You guys are making me look again at oils…haven’t used them in years but now that I have more time, maybe….


Good for you! Sometimes you just have to walk away. Sorry to hear about your mess, but if those GORGEOUS lemons came out of it was certainly worth it. Hey, you made lemonaide…


Three year old refrigerators which dare to die should be given a long lingering death!

I’ve always thought pale purple and violet have an important part to play in the painting of lemons.


I too say good for you! Sorry to hear about your problems, I hope they are a thing of the past. But I think I would have done the same, no point crying over spilt milk, as they say! Beautiful painting!


Lovely composition and colours – how satisfying to do it in one session. Sorry about your fridge – they are usually so reliable. Did you decide on a scanner/printer – ours (all of 6 months) has detected that we were refilling the ink ourselves and is now refusing to print. We are wondering what to do next. Do you refill yourself or buy refills or buy the new company cartridges at great expense? Naomi chugs happily along – due on my birthday 10 Oct.


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