Many artists like to work with a limited palette; some of Monet’s sketches explored but three oil colours. With just one chief colour at the artist’s disposal, rendering the subject matter in front presents fresh challenges.
Variations in Blue Paint
There is a multitude of different blues in oil pigments to choose from: ultramarine, cobalt, Prussian, pthalo, cerulean or Winsor.
Learners have a choice of blue’s adjoining colours to use which might be (if green) viridian, sap green or olive green. (If violet) might be permanent rose, crimson lake or midnight blue.
For this exercise students are to use an opaque paint which might be oils, alkyds or acrylics. Pastel pencils can also be used for this exercise.
Art Materials Required for the Monochrome Study
- Two to three object for still life which offer contrast in tones, sheen and texture. Fruit, candlesticks, crockery spectacles, vegetables, artifacts or ornaments may be used.
- A choice of blue paint, white, a dark earth colour (such as burnt umber) and the aforementioned harmonious colour (violet or green).
- Art brushes.
- Prior to the art lesson, apply a thin underglaze over the art surface, which might be diluted blue acrylic paint. This underglaze should be dry prior to the painting exercise.
- Work the paint thinly initially so that if the colour is unsatisfactory, the layer can be worked over or adjusted to suit.
- Work progressively thicker as the painting progresses.
- Highlights can be applied with thick white.
- Half-close the eyes to simplify the scene into areas of light and shadow. This will also stop the interference of bright colours from hindering tonal judgments.
- Stand back from the still life to get an overall impression of how each tonal value relates to one another. Adjust as necessary.
- Make a rudimentary sketch of the still life with a soft pencil
- Observe the arrangement as a mass of light, shadow and mi-tones.
- Apply the mid-toned colour first, which might be a mid-blue, blue-neutral or blue tinted with its harmonious colour.
- Work lighter adding small increments of white for paler areas of the still life. Neat white can be used for highlights.
- Clean the brush (or use a fresh brush) to work a little darker, introducing the dark earth colour to the necessary tones. Equal amounts of blue and brown can achieve deep, rich darks, preferable to using just black
- Apply some detail onto the painting with a fine sable. Thinned white can be used to illustrate little touches of detail; a little earth colour to suggest shadows.
Less able students need not use blue’s harmonious colour (violet or green) in the exercise if this proves too much. Three colours will suffice: blue, white and brown. One object may be used for the exercise instead of several, an apple, a bowl or a spoon.
More able students may try applying the harmonious colour only onto selected areas, such as where warm tones can be perceived, and to use blue for cool tones. For example, to apply blue to cool shadows pooling over the worktop, and green (or violet) for warm tones, this might be seen on an orange. Making choices on whether to use blue or its adjoining colour to key an actual colour or tone will make students more aware of how tones shift throughout the scene.
More Painting Exercises
The best blue pigments to use in art
Step by step demo on how to paint a tomato
How to paint in glazes
Tips on painting water and reflections
White color balance in photography