A medley of apples that I painted just for fun.

I began this blog in 2010. One of my early posts was #5 AN APPLE A DAY, PART 1 and it was because I had so many assignments illustrating apples.

Ten years after that post, I decided it would be fun to create a Part 2. I’m sharing three assignments that have apple subject matter, as well as a series of new apple illustrations I painted just for fun. For this second part, I will describe my transition to utilizing the digital process for my illustrations.

For more detail about my traditional and digital process combined, here are some other posts:




The very first assignment where I began my current technical process was a wine cooler illustration for Arbor Mist. I rendered all of the elements separately and then combined them with added shadows on the computer. It is very common for my clients to ask that every element to be fully rendered and on a separate layer. This does require additional time and work.

The “assembled” illustration.


I always show many possibilities so clients can pick an element from another layout to revise their choice.

The advantage of working digitally has been fantastic for designing my illustrations. In the past, I would send black and white outline sketches via fax. I had no idea how the color would look and neither did my client. Now I am able to create accurate mock-ups of my preliminary ideas by combining photos with older illustrations. This is definitely an example of “whatever works” for me.

I have illustrated many flavors of yogurt for Tillamook Dairy Company. Apple Rhubarb was definitely an interesting flavor. Below were my layout ideas:

My final artwork demonstrates that there were a lot of changes made after my first round of layouts.

I have a very specific way to create shadows between layers using Photoshop. This has been completely a result of discovery – I am self-taught.

First, I never disturb the main layer. In the past, I used to darken the main layer, but that led to an inability to move elements around or change the design later. So instead, I duplicate the layer and darken the top layer to my desired shadow color. I often increase the contrast by using levels, and then I de-saturate the layer after that to “gray it out.” Sometimes, I use a filter to achieve the color I want.

Once I am satisfied with the shadow color, I select the shadow area and refine the selection edge to soften it. Then I use “inverse” and cut away the rest of the layer, leaving only the shadow. I then lock the two layers together, because if the shadows moves it can cause a problem. If I need to lighten the shadow layer, I sometimes adjust the layer opacity.

The third assignment I want to share, is truly a blend of digital and traditional art. Unlike the other two jobs I’ve discussed, I did not paint anything new for Karen’s Naturals in 2016 because the client did not have a budget for new art.

I began by scouring all of my existing art to find the elements I needed. I created digital clipboards to help me with my layouts.

Whenever a layout was chosen, it actually became the final art. There was still another step, though. I needed to spend time to clean it up. When working on layouts, many times I didn’t finish all the shadows or smooth out cut edges. I also added water droplets later on.


What was truly amazing for this flavor was that on one of the layouts I was able to use an older red apple illustration and convert it to a green one.

Unfortunately, the printing process did not flatter my artwork.

2020 was a big shift for me. I decided to simply paint anything I wanted and put it up on Getty Stock. I did a lot of different apple studies. Apples have wonderful color varieties and their shininess can be unreal (due to added wax in the supermarket). I did obtain some actual apple leaves, which helped to add realism and make my illustrations more interesting.Creating my composition is never as simple as taking one exact photo. My process usually involves combining several.

I was glad I was able to pick a few leaves from a good friend’s apple tree. It was a little tricky positioning a loose leaf near the stem.

A close up.

I’d like to end this post with a few other recent illustrations. Even though they’re not apples, I would love to share them here.

I debated about adding brown areas on the leaves, but it added realism and more interest that way. Almost every single leaf on the tree had brown edges.

I used colored pencil to add blue reflections on the translucent seeds. That water droplet on one of the seeds might just be the tiniest one I’ve ever painted!

My artichoke reference, which I clearly improved by removing the bruises.
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This past summer, I’ve had a renewed interest in painting. It has not only been fun, but also astonishingly productive. Even as I am painting something, I find myself planning for the next one.

I lovingly study all the varieties of fruits and vegetables in my home. Sometimes I look closely at food I’m cooking and consider whether it could be my next painting subject.

I keep looking at flowers outside and have ideas for those, too. Getting excited about painting again has been a huge change in my life.

My pile of new paintings continues to grow. Each subject warms my heart. I have white boards leaning against the wall in my dining room, since I am photographing there so often. Nearby, I have an eyedropper, bottle of corn syrup (for better droplets) and handheld illuminating light. I am amazed at the quality of my reference photos taken simply with an iPhone. In the past, I had a macro camera lens, lights and other assorted photographic equipment. In comparison, using my phone is a cinch! I like sharing my reference photos. Once I edit them, they appear almost identical to my painting.

For my painting, I chose a pit that was more natural, instead of clean and shiny. My photos are always on the darker side, but they give me plenty of information and are easily lightened.

When I first began painting again, I searched for photo reference left over from older jobs. The pumpkin spice and jalapenos are an example of that.

It was a game changer when I started shooting new reference. Not only was it inspiring, it really opened up wonderful possibilities for me.

In addition to my pile of physical paintings, I had another plan. I submitted my images to Getty Stock. I started out with submitting one image for each painting. But then I realized I could digitally reconfigure the elements into multiple compositions and intentionally planned for this. Two paintings of peaches yielded five stock images.

Shadow or no shadow? I never used to add shadows, but have included them on many of my recent paintings.

My devotion to creating new stock images is new. But I would say that things began to shift a year ago. For most of my career, I sold my stock images primarily on Alamy, which was based in England. I picked Alamy for the sole reason that they were non-exclusive and I could still sell my images on my own, which I did quite often. But I also had about 100 images exclusively on Getty; they were ones I wasn’t attached to. Unfortunately, neither site yielded significant income.

One day, I almost fell out of my chair when I received a wonderful sum of money for a single sale on Getty. That had never happened before. Instead of receiving $5, I received $5,000! Six months later, this happened again.

That was all it took for me to become motivated to accept Getty’s exclusivity. I contacted Alamy and removed my library of images. Then I put them all on Getty, while at the same time adding 100 more.

On my last post, I shared about my three-step process creating my paintings.

a. I edit reference photos until they are crisp enough to render from. I create a light version and print it on watercolor paper.

b. I stretch the watercolor paper and then apply frisket to all areas as a mask. After cutting the frisket with an exacto knife, I paint each area. When dry, I add texture with colored pencil. Pen-white is used for highlights.

c. I scan my finished painting. By moving around the elements, I can also create other stock images.

The two steps that involve Photoshop take considerable time – sometimes even more time than the painting. But it makes all the difference for me to  have excellent reference to paint from.

My reference photo for bell peppers.

What is consistently in most of my paintings, are scattered water droplets. They captivate me and I keep discovering new and interesting ways to portray these jewels. Whether they are running down the side of a fruit or pooling on a leaf, those details are precious for me.

Some subject matter, like mushrooms, hold a different challenge. The scuffs and dirt are what makes them interesting. My painting of three mushrooms was a color challenge because they were relatively monochromatic.

My unedited photo of three mushrooms.

So far, I have discussed painting stock images, but not about taking stock of my life. I will speak to that now.

Just like the music that I rediscovered ten years ago, it seems that “taking a leave of absence” from art didn’t diminish my technical abilities. Instead, I have renewed enthusiasm. At the age of 61, I feel like I am at the top of my game. I am confident that I will continue to improve. This belief fuels and uplifts me.

If I need to see proof, I only have to look at my older images. Below are two examples of an orange and avocado that are also sold on Getty stock. If I compare them to my recent paintings of the same subject, I can see that I’ve come a long way in 30 years!

Above, is an apple illustration of mine that is very popular on the site Pinterest. Just writing about my recent paintings motivated me to specifically create some new images of apples. They will become material for a “Part 2” of an early post on this blog that is named “An Apple a Day.” I decided to paint an apple a day in 2020!

 Here are some of my new apples that will be a part of that post. It has been wonderful for me to see my improvement.

Another shift in my life is related to sharing my paintings. In the past, parting with an original painting was very difficult for me. My paintings were like babies that I didn’t want to lose. But now, I’ve noticed that I receive great pleasure when I gift an original to someone I love.

After giving a painting of three mushrooms to a dear friend, I decided that I would simply paint another one for myself.

These were some of my ideas for a new mushroom painting.

With this painting, I created other stock compositions.

With these two stock images, I differentiated them with a slight change of color.

For decades, I’ve kept my paintings in boxes. The knowledge that my art could bring joy by hanging on a loved one’s wall is much more pleasurable than holding onto it.

If I could sum up this entire post, it would be with this sentence below. 


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In 2016, I was busy working for Tillamook Dairy Company. I had a few other small jobs scattered here and there, but my work has been very sparse since then.

There was an exception, though. I had a steady stream of illustrations over the next four years for 1800 Margarita Mixes. Each label illustration had to be consistent and fit in with the bottle design and flavor banner. My client requested that all of the elements be rendered to completion so they could be placed on separate layers. I would scan my painting and reassemble everything with shadows for the final illustration.

Because of a non-disclosure agreement, I am only sharing flavors that are currently in stores. I have illustrated other ones that aren’t yet available.

A closer look.


I recently saw my label at the market while waiting in line. Such a thrill!

On this blog, I have discussed how I combine traditional and digital techniques with this post: #47 LAYERS IN MY LIFE – PART 1

My technique continues to evolve. I would describe it as a three-step process:

1. The first step is where I digitally manipulate my reference into a desired composition. This involves a combination of photographs and sometimes even former illustrations of mine. When working with an art director, I often send many layout choices and subsequent revisions. Once a final layout is chosen/approved, I create two important prints: The first has high detail for reference. Glossy paper usually works best for this. The second print is on Arches watercolor paper. The design is lightened so that it’s very pale in order for me to paint over it. This usually requires a fair amount of digital tweaking. Gone are the days when I used to trace everything and transfer it to my watercolor paper.

2. I stretch the watercolor paper and staple it to a drafting board. Once the paper is taut, I apply frisket over the entire area to maintain clean edges. I deftly cut out every element. I begin painting the darkest areas first. My medium is watercolor dyes. Detail is added with colored pencil afterwards.

3. When my painting is finished, I scan and improve it digitally. The background becomes totally white and all the edges are cleaned up. I adjust the contrast and saturation of different areas. If the objects are painted separately, they are reassembled with shadows added on separate layers.

My materials are as follows:

Epson Stylus Photo R800 Printer

Arches Watercolor Paper 140 lb. hot press (cut into 8 ½ x 11 sheets)

Dr. Ph. Martin’s Concentrated Watercolors

Dr. Ph. Martin’s Pen-white

Prismacolor pencils

Grafix Extra Tack Frisket Film, Matte

Winsor & Newton series 7 100% Kolinsky Sable BrushIllustrating fruit has been a favorite subject of mine. For over two decades, I didn’t paint any new paintings for my own purposes. But 2020 became the year where that changed.

During the pandemic isolation, I slowly began to realize that I missed painting. After having an elective surgery, I felt a burst of creative energy for illustrating again. I began by designing compositions based on older photos of job reference. On my next post, I will show how I progressed to actually photographing fruits and vegetables on my dining room table.

After avoiding venturing into stores for many months, I eventually decided to go to my neighborhood art supply store. It was such a nostalgic experience.

I used to buy art materials from this store when I was a young girl. My mother and father would take me and I would be enchanted by all the assortments of paints, pencils and markers.

When I was studying art in college, I enrolled in a beginning watercolor class. One time I was sick and I asked my father to pick up supplies for me. He inadvertently bought the wrong watercolor paper.

I was expecting textured cold-press paper and he had purchased smooth hot-press, which I’d never worked with before. That error was the beginning of harnessing my technique. Working on hot-press paper allowed me to discover control and detail. Without that experimentation, I might never have fallen in love with watercolors!

On the day that I recently went shopping – I was transported to my childhood. It was an especially touching moment when I chatted with the guy who decades earlier used to repair my airbrushes – he was now the store owner! His name was Chris Hauser. He was incredibly helpful as I went down my list. I paid a large sum for a new sable brush and looked forward to painting with it as soon as I came home.

That store is named Carter Sexton and it has been in its current location for over 70 years. I am grateful they are still in business. I pray Carter Sexton will survive the pandemic and continue to inspire artists like me.


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Link to Part 1 about my Beech-Nut illustrations:


Over twenty years ago, I painted almost 100 illustrations that adorned Beech-Nut Baby Food labels. Since then, the company has redesigned their jars and my illustrations aren’t there anymore.

My client paid extra to own the original art and there wasn’t any time for me to get copies (transparencies) of my artwork. I was an assembly line artist, painting quickly while simultaneously creating layouts for subsequent labels.

When I wrote my Beech-Nut story for this blog in 2011, I lamented the lack of images to share. I only had color copies and a few slides an art director had given me. (I have since updated that post with better images!)A month ago, I was joyfully jarred when I received an email with this heading:

BEECH NUT ARTWORK MASTERS: Judy, I have over 80 of your Beech-Nut Artwork masters. Please contact me! No joke.

It seems that a lovely art director, whom I’ll call “K,” rescued my original art from a dumpster.

I am going to tell this blog story by sharing our correspondence:

Hi Judy, I was the Art Director for the Beech-Nut Prepress house.

After we lost the Beech-Nut account in 2001 (I think) they told us they only wanted their ‘electronic assets’ sent to the new Prepress Vendor. As an artist I was sickened when I saw the pile of 3” binders in the trash. I could not walk away and leave them. I have hoarded them and kept them safe for 18 years.

I have spent a lot of time poring over the detail and craftsmanship of your illustrations and have always admired your work.

I retired last February and yesterday I was looking for something and I ran across the binders. They are not “mine” to sell, but they must be treasured. They are too incredible to not be shared with the world. They had a sticker with an address for “Judy Unger.” I wondered, “Does she even live there anymore or will she think I am insane?”

Today while sitting at my computer, I was suddenly randomly curious over what the “latest” Beech-Nut label looks like (because it could never be as wonderful as it was with Judy’s illustrations [and yes, I called you by your first name in my head]). 

I ended up running down a rabbit trail on the Internet for about an hour, when I found a website that had a familiar feel and a blog from February 6th 2011 (9 years to the day between me running into your illustrations and you posting your blog). My head exploded.

I have your Beech-Nut Artwork Masters. If you want them I will ship them to you.

Let’s get them back where they belong! K

Hi K,

What an amazing message for me to receive. I am blown away!

I always lamented that I sold my originals and didn’t have any copies. Now I’m very excited that I will get to see all of those images I painted years ago.

All thanks to YOU! I can’t believe they were going to be thrown away. YOU SAVED THEM FOR ME! How can I thank you? 

I plan to scan them all and this will definitely become a beautiful story for my blog.

I would like to gift you with a signed original painting once I’ve scanned everything. It could be one of the Beech-Nut paintings or something else. I will send you some ideas. Please use my Fed Ex account, which is xxxxxx. 

I still can’t believe you found me! Thank you! Judy

Hi Judy,

Yahoo!!! I thumb my nose at every person that rolled their eyes when I tried to explain that some things have “value,” not everyone can see. I am thrilled to have brightened your day. It has certainly brightened mine.

I wandered through your sites. You inspire me.

The reason I “retired” last year was due to breast cancer. I needed to focus on myself full-time. In 10 days I have a 1-year follow up mammogram and I am more nervous about it than I would like to admit. Your writings of your ankle injury and recovery sound very familiar.

This is exciting and rejuvenating. Giving you back something you lost is such a great feeling. I will get them packed up and to FedEx this week.

I would LOVE a signed piece! We will discuss.

Glad to have made your acquaintance, your new friend, K

I was just thinking of you today – it has been over 10 days and I was praying you received good news from your mammogram.

I was out of town and came back yesterday and wanted to reach out. Hoping you are well. 

You are so sweet. My news is all good news! One year CLEAR! 

Monday’s news came as a relief. So much about cancer is just WAITING. Waiting for the next test, or waiting for the results of the last one, waiting for a surgery date/appointment, waiting to heal before starting the treatments, and then you have to wait a YEAR for a formal test to see if everything is progressing as expected. It seems like I have been holding my breath for a year.

Whew. As you can imagine, I slept very, very well on Monday night. Now that the waiting is over, I can get back to LIVING.

Thank you so much for your note. I am very pleased that our paths have crossed in this universe. K

This note was attached to my package with the artwork that came back to me.

Hi K, I’m so excited to let you know that I’ve written a story about this and it’s on my blog. Thank you so much again! The kiwi and berry art will be coming to you soon. 🙂

HAHAHAHAHA!!!! Look at all of those Unger Art boards!! No longer hidden in a tote bin in a closet! I hope they bring you some income as ‘recycled’ art!

What no one understands is that your art work was just about 1:1 size for the LARGE jars. You painted those so tiny and they were still too big for the small jars. The art final size was about the size of a penny or smaller! Make sure your blog readers understand the size ratio of your hand-done (back in the day) artwork. The tiniest of paint brushes created that artwork. NO ONE does that anymore. The HAIRS on the kiwi were always amazing to me. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent through the years admiring the detail of the art boards under a printer’s loupe. (More hours than I would like my old employer to know!) I am still in awe.

I love the down scatter shot of the art board with your hands. It’s the closing the chapter on the “tale of the Unger Art boards.” A shot of the artwork with the hands that created them. Now they can happily age and hopefully provide you with some passive income.

It is even fun that your creative child (all grown up) is an active participant in the telling of the Unger Art board tale. So it continues.

Hugs and Friendship, K


I’m so glad I could share such a heartwarming story on this blog. I have a new friend with K, and will be sending her two signed original paintings soon.

Currently, I continue to advertise my illustration work at Workbook.com and sell my stock illustrations exclusively on Getty. Commissioned work is very sparse, although I never give up hope that things might pick up once again.

On the topic of making friends, I contacted Thomas Bond who was the art director I worked with on many of the Beech-Nut illustrations. We have been connected on Facebook for six years. When I shared this story with him, he wrote:

Hey Judy! What a really cool, wonderful thing to happen for you! This makes me so happy. I follow your adventures on FB, as I’m sure you also see what’s going on in my life. I moved to Waikiki a year ago and spend most days just relaxing. Thank you for letting me know, and wishing you all the best! Hugs, Thomas

Scanning my old artwork was such a pleasure. For my first Beech-Nut story, I created two large medleys of my illustrations. They were tiny, but fun to see as a large group.

But I’ve decided for this post, to share larger versions of my images. I’ll let a portion of those illustrations tell the rest of this story.

Life is certainly filled with surprises!

Beechnut 27         

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