Decorate Your Home Year after Year with a Thanks giving Painting

Decorate Your Home Year after Year with a Thanks giving Painting

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.

Painting Tutorial

Step 1:

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.

Step 2:

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.

Step 3:

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.

Thanksgiving illustration step4

Step 4:

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.

Thanksgiving illustration step5

Step 5:

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!