Red Onions Aren’t Really Red

When I go to doodlewash something each day, the first step is choosing my colors. Staring closely at red onions, which one likely never does on a regular basis unless painting or thoroughly bored, I chose four colors. But, none of them, where actually red. Calling these red onions is a bit like saying someone has red hair when it’s clearly closer to orange in color. But as it turns out the words for secondary colors are rather new to the dictionary, so most things that might be either purple or orange were simply described as red and those names sort of stuck. Even with the new words to describe them, history had already made the decision. Red cabbage is another one that’s perfectly misnamed by today’s lexicon, but tradition often wins, which is a rather nice thing. It would be sad to think that everything must be continually updated to comply with the changing times. Traditions, after all, are what help ground us and keep us from going crazy as times continue to shift and change.

As we get closer to Thanksgiving here and have begun seeing signs of Christmas, I’m getting really excited for the season. Most of what thrills me about this time of year are the little things. Those bits of routine that have happened so many years in a row now, they’ve qualified as a true tradition. In this case, something to look forward to that only happens once a year. For those of you who were reading this blog last year, you may or may not remember me going on and on about Christmas Cake, for example. That may very well be one of my favorite bits of the season. But before we get to that, they’ll be a Thanksgiving giving that Philippe will prepare that is always amazing. We don’t have family here, so it’s often just us and the dog, but this year a couple friends are joining. Since we do it as a dinner instead of a late lunch, the anticipation is a bit overwhelming on the big day. But, oh so worth the wait!

I’ve often wondered if my daily painting habit isn’t a bit like a tradition as this point as I’m now on day 856. Not a round number that would constitute a milestone, but a rather fulfilling achievement nonetheless. I guess when I reach 1,000 that would probably be a better reason to celebrate, but I think we should always celebrate our interim achievements as well. And whether it’s a habit, routine, or a tradition can be argued by the experts. In the end, it’s just a wonderful hobby that brings me a lot of joy. And I’m thrilled that people actually show up to enjoy it with me each day. My art isn’t anything earth-shattering. It’s just a few humble bits of paint and some writing each day. I’m often so busy doing it, that I’ve never stopped to wonder what it is I’m even doing. But some things don’t need an accurate description, just a lovely tradition that makes them maybe matter somehow in the end. After all, red onions aren’t really red.

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Da Vinci Paint Co.: Yellow Ochre, Opus (Vivid Pink), Cobalt Turquoise and Cobalt Blue. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book.
#WorldWatercolorGroup - Day 5 - Red Onions Aren't Red - Doodlewash

Recommended9 recommendationsPublished in By Charlie
  1. Jodi 5 years ago

    lovely “red” onions and a great tradition you have created!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      Thanks so much, Jodi! 😃💕 Yeah, traditions are really the best thing in the world!

  2. Jacob 5 years ago

    They’re gorgeous, whatever their colour! And congratulations on 856 – not long now until the big one thousand!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      Thanks, Jacob! 😃💕 Yeah, the big 1,000 should hit some time in February I think if I can keep this up! hehe

  3. Mary Roff 5 years ago

    Wonderful onions, red or otherwise. And, celebrate, celebrate whether it’s 1 painting or 1000…the fact that you’re putting paint to paper and creating is worth a celebration! Congratulations on 856 and looking forward to seeing many, many more!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      Aww thanks so much, Mary! 😃💕 I appreciate that! It’s really not always easy to show up each day, but in the end, I’d miss it if I didn’t try!

  4. June 5 years ago

    My goodness. These onions look just like ones I would hope to see for sale at my.local grocery store…and that shine again…something I really do need to work on. Love the colors you chose. You definitely need to celebrate.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      Thanks so much, June! 😃💕 Yeah, I love trying to give things shine! hehe… it’s my favorite part about watercolor!

  5. Lois Westerfield 5 years ago

    Love the onions. Love your insight on ‘tradition’ – no matter why we do it, I agree that it grounds us. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Phillipe.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      Thanks so much, Lois! 😃💕 It does ground us in such a wonderful way!

  6. Susan Cuss 5 years ago

    Celebrate every doodle, because the journey to 1,000 is one at a time, right? Nice red onion.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      Beautifully said! I want that on a t-shirt! hehe Thanks so much, Susan! 😃💕

  7. Sandra Strait 5 years ago

    856! I think that’s the perfect number for a new tradition of celebration! Isn’t it funny how much importance we assign to zeros? I mean I can get 10 – yay, I know how many that is because I have the same number of fingers and toes. But when you get to 1000 or 10,000 that distinction gets a bit lost. But for 856, you should get an extra bit of dessert as a reward. Or maybe you’d rather some extra salad or onion soup to go with your fabulous painting? No? That’s what I thought – enjoy some extra dessert then. I may have some myself – after all it isn’t everyday that you get to celebrate day 856.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      Thanks so much, Sandra! 😃💕 Actually, it’s not made with red onions, but a French onion soup sounds like a perfect reward. Must make a note to ask Philippe… hehe

  8. Jill Kuhn 5 years ago

    Congrats on 856 days of doodlewashing, Charlie!! 😄 I painted red onions once – love how you make yours look so real! ❤️ I will send you some snow to help you prepare for Christmas! Hehe! ❄️⛄️🎄

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      Thanks so much, Jill! 😃💕 hehe… YAY!! Send it! I love snow this time of year as it adds a bit of light to what feels like constant nighttime.

  9. Bill Jackson 5 years ago

    Lovely sketch Charlie! And I admire your perseverance. Congrats

  10. Pamela Smith 5 years ago

    Beautiful,they look real…

  11. Sharon Nolfi 5 years ago

    Every painting you make is a reason to celebrate! I’m in awe of your 856 days – quite an achievement. The onions look suitably shiny and reddish-purple. Excellent work!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      Thanks so much, Sharon!! 😃💕 hehe… yeah, I can only hope to make it to 1,000… it’s super tough lately to do these, but I keep on trying!

  12. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 5 years ago

    If you ask my husband, he might insist these are green – he has partial color blindness. Doesn’t matter what the color is named, matters what you think of it and how well you capture its essence. These red onions are beautifully rendered. And your story about traditions is wonderful to read.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      Thanks so much, Sharon! 😃💕 Wow… yeah… I have a friend with color blindness, and we’ve had a few artists here on Doodlewash as well. I love the idea of capturing what you see, no matter what you see. It’s so fun seeing how others few the world.

  13. Gina 5 years ago


  14. Lisa 5 years ago

    Thanksgiving is my favorite! And I love to cook it for friends. Is is such an act of love and gratefulness. Congrats on the 856!! When you hit 1000 we should all have cake in your honor!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      Haha!! YES!! That’s a fabulous idea! I will simply insist that every stops what they’re doing to have some cake when that day arrives! lol 😃💕

  15. Jennifer McLean 5 years ago

    first, it’s stunning that you’ve done one piece of art for that many days! Does that mean you haven’t been ill in that many days too? GOOD FOR YOU!! *Clapping*
    Your onions are gorgeous, One of my faves in a long time, they’re always good but THIS one is really, really great. You held back and got the perspective of color, paint etc so correct it looks fantastic. You make me wanna paint some red onions.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      Thanks so much, Jennifer! 😃💕 Yeah, I don’t get colds or the flu very often, but I have had them during this journey. I should have made a note of what came out on those days. hehe… and glad you liked this one! I actually had a bit more time on Sunday as some plans we had fell through. Not a lot more, but a solid hour for the first time in a long time.

  16. prior.. 5 years ago

    thanks for the history!!!!
    “so most things that might be either purple or orange were simply described as red and those names sort of stuck.”

  17. Amit Paul 5 years ago

    What is the secret, how you create this shine, it’s completely looks real, Beautiful. 😊

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      Aww thanks, Amit! 😃💕Just lots of glazing and letting the paper white do the work!

  18. M. L. Kappa 5 years ago

    I was really curious to see what colors you’d chosen for this. I love it that you decide on a palette before starting – I never do. I just pick what seems appropriate while painting, and also use the ‘dirty’ bits on my mixing area a lot. I think your method makes for clear colors. Do you clean the palette after each use?

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      Actually, I have tubes of paint that I haven’t yet but into a palette, so that’s part of the reason why I have to choose them each day. hehe… I dab just a bit onto my little 12 well palette, and yep, clean that and my brush at the end of the day just after doing dishes! 😃💕

  19. You captured the freshness of red onions, Charlie. They’re excellent!

  20. corinnebekker 5 years ago

    Wonderful piece. Great work and great tradition. So inspiring that you’ve kept it up for so long and with such delicious results. I’m really curious as to what colors you chose to paint this… .

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      Thanks so much, Corinne! 😃💕 I list my colors at the bottom of each post. Sometimes so I can go back and see what I’ve done! hehe

  21. david g vogel 5 years ago

    Amazing image, Charlie, a new level of skill! And brought forth by tradition 😉

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      Aww thanks so such a wonderful compliment! Thanks, David! 😃💕 I had a full hour for this one, which is a rare thing indeed these days!

  22. Sharon Mann 5 years ago

    I really like how you acheived the transparency of the outter skin of the red onion…a masterpiece.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      Wow… what a fabulous compliment! Thanks so much, Sharon! 😃💕

  23. Amber 5 years ago

    I recently did a whole mess of onion paintings and discovered the same thing. Red onions are purple and brown and Yellow onions are orange and pink and the flesh is green.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      hehe… yeah, it’s kind of fun to really look closely and realize all the colors that are actually there! One of my favorite things about painting! 😃💕

  24. gorgeous 😀 and good choise of colours, that’s a good tip

  25. SnehLata Maheshwari 5 years ago

    I liked the way you said that red onion is not red in side but here we saw purple and white Also and in through out the Europe i find white onion.
    But u r art is so pretty.

  26. Thomas Blanchard 5 years ago

    You captured the paper skin sheen amazingly. I think I said great shine and shadow on another doodlewash but it fits here as well!

  27. smzang 5 years ago

    Those onions look so real they bring tears to the eyes.


  28. Delores Azary 5 years ago

    Amazing onions! So very realistic! Impressive number of daily doodlewashes! I am impressed!

  29. Sandra Gilbert 5 years ago

    I declare it a tradition. After all those days and you have done quite a few it is definitely a daily tradition. I think mine is at the daily ritual part. I put my daughter to bed, make a cup of tea and paint away the stresses of the day. A perfectly lovely end to my day.

  30. debiriley 5 years ago

    love these Charlie, they are so soft and lovely. beautifully done 🙂

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