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Tag Archives: monochromatic study

pmpknmonochrome monochromatic

I spent some time working with the simple color combinations we talk about and use all the time.  I try to cover these in every beginning class I teach and then keep tossing out reminders in the advanced classes.  Sometimes, our paintings just aren’t what they could be.  We confuse our viewers with too much color or don’t provide enough contrast with our colors. We know we can paint anything! any color we choose! We can create a pink horse, a green person, and change the grass to black and the sky to purple if we want! But we do need to be mindful of our viewer if we want our work to have contrast and read well for a viewer.

I sat down with 6 x 9 inch pieces of 140 lb Arches watercolor paper and practiced painting this pumpkin in the five color combinations I talk about in classes.

The first combination is monochromatic. That means taking one color and rendering your entire painting in that color or variations of that color. I chose paynes grey for this one. There could be many versions of a monochromatic. It all depends on how much of the painting you decide to leave white and how much you make your darkest darks and how much midtone values you include. I will save that exercise for another day.

pmpknanalagous analagous

The above example is an analagous color scheme of orange and yellow. Analagous paintings are those that have colors next to each other on the color wheel and one of the colors is usually dominant. I believe the orange is the dominant in this and could have stretched my color range to include red, but opted for a neutral of burnt umber instead. This one stretched my value skills because I chose to paint more of the pumpkin than in the monochromatic example. I had to use varying amounts of water to get the value transitions in yellow and orange.

pmpkncompliment complimentary

Complimentary colors are those found opposite each other on the color wheel. Mixed together, they can cancel each other out to appear black. Next to each other and they enhance contrast. I used no other colors than one orange and one blue to create the pumpkin above. Had I chosen to paint an apple, I’d choose red and green. Had I chosen to paint a lemon, I’d choose yellow and purple.

pmpknsecondary  secondary triad

This is where it gets fun! I could use three colors!  The secondary triad is composed of the secondary colors orange, green and violet on the color wheel. I liked this one, because it looks the most believable for the subject of a pumpkin. I liked how these three colors produced varying shades for all the shadows in this. I found this painting  more soft and relaxing, in appearance, when compared to the next one I tried.

pmpknprimary primary triad

The last color combination I tried was the primary color triad of red, yellow and blue. Wow! This one became so vibrant because I could use bright yellow and red to create my oranges and even the blue came through as vibrant on this one. I would call this my festive pumpkin. There seems to be more energy in a primary color painting.

Try this one with a simple reference and see what you come up with. These are the only color combinations I teach. It does not mean I stick with only those colors. I add other colors to my paintings. BUT, if I squint at them and there is not a distinct look of one of the above color combinations in them, I go back in develop the painting more until there is.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

Thank you to wet canvas for the image of the pumpkin I used for my reference.

This week I started a new beginning watercolor class.  We talked about our supplies and how to use them. When we started to paint, we practiced wet-in wet applications of pigment:

  We learned that our colors would look different if we mixed them on the palette than if we applied them to the wet surface of the paper. Palette mixing rendered a flat color and mixing colors on the paper allowed for the pigments to mix with the help of the water and often appeared vibrant. We learned how to encourage the creation of cauliflowers by dropping in extra water as the wash began to dry.

We practiced drybrushing by using very little water and more of a creamy consistency of pigment :

  We angled our brushes and dragged them across the paper. We commented how this would be a nice technique to use for barn siding, fencing and any area where we may need to add texture.

We practiced painting wet on dry:

    We decided this would be best used to create detail areas in our paintings.

In order to be able to concentrate on these skills, for a week, they were asked to paint a monochromatic painting using one color, only, and build their watercolor from light to dark.


Monochromatic Studies

Several years ago I was asked to paint a portrait of a friend’s two pets. One of them was a black poodle and I struggled both with finding a way to make the eyes appear from the black face and the fact that I had not used black watercolor before. I read about the use of blacks in books and found that much of what was said was to use black in conjunction with another color.  That is what I did, here.

Later, I learned about using primary colors to create black. That is what I did to create the above image of a holstein cow.  I allowed the three colors to mingle on the paper as well as mixed it in my palette to create the effects above.

Then I read a blog post about an artist who only worked in black and white watercolor. Try as I might, I have not been able to locate that post or artist through googling but he rendered incredible scenes using black and white watercolor. They were mostly night scenes, many of which were of highways and cities.  I forgot about this artist until Eva posted a watercolor in black, here. Thank-you, Eva. You sent me on a journey that has been very rewarding and informative for me.

I chose a the above blacks made by Winsor Newton, ivory, lamp, mars and neutral tint to create my black paintings. For white, I chose American Journey titanium white.

The first painting I chose to do was from a photo of clouds that I had taken. I learned that black watercolor worked very well to create a monochromatic painting. I was able to create depth and manipulate the different blacks to achieve just what I had in color, before. It did not look flat if handled like any watercolor.  I will say that had I only used ONE of the above blacks, I would not have been able to build up the values as well and this may have appeared much flatter. I also was intrigued with the difference of mood a black watercolor brought across. Very somber.

The next image I chose was a photo taken by Bigsurkate. Thank-you, Kate, for allowing me to work from your photo!  I had noticed that when I added the titanium white to the black, I came up with a foggy and opaque gray. I worked the background behind the crow in wet and wet with ivory and mars black (very diluted) and allowed it to dry. I then went back in with the titanium white, wet-in-wet, and created the foggy appearance.  I really like the contrast of that opaque white with the rail the bird is perched on as well as the whites I left on him.

For my last study I chose a photo reference that Carol and her husband sent  after I inquired about what a big snow looked like in New York City.  Kaiya, their dog, was not in the photo. I added that from another photo. Thank-you, Carol and husband, for the references!  What prompted my wanting to try this was a little original watercolor card that my sister had sent me a year ago. That artist had painted a snow scene in black of skyscrapers in the background and park bench in foreground. On the park bench was a Christmas gift and it was the only thing in color. I really was impressed with the contrast. Thus, the inclusion of Kaiya, in color, to see if I could achieve the same effect. I used no white in the city scene. The white is the white of the paper.

What this involved study showed me was that we are not limited, at all, by what to use to create.  Even though I like the richness of the blacks that other colors make, I also am intrigued with the somber scenes created in black and white.

To all my students out there that I have warned about black and white!  Have fun! See what you can do with it!

And Henn! That goes for Paynes gray, TOO!!!!!