Summer is here. It’s not just the excessive heat and oppressive humidity and proliferation of insect life that we have to deal with. Once again and many people are dealing with summer greens. I’ve covered this subject quite a bit in earlier posts and while those ideas may overlap with some presented here, I think there is always something to add to these types of discussions.
When I teach, the biggest problem I see with people painting a monochromatic landscape is artists ignore the forms of objects robbing their subject of some of its subtle diversity. Light and shadow are always important but especially in a monochromatic setting.
A limited color setting turns the focus to other painting aspects. It raises the importance of lighting (value) and shape (design). It becomes more about how you organize what you are seeing. This is because we can rarely mimic with any accuracy the visual range presented to us in nature. With less variety the limitations of pigment become exaggerated. Remember careful choices in subjects will lead to better painting outcomes.
Whenever you have areas of light and shadow in a painting you have an opportunity to introduce color shifts relative to the surrounding area by paying attention to all of the aspects of color, hue, value, chroma and relative temperature. It is possible to tease out more interest from a subtle painting, heightening its impact. Bright sunny days will give you a greater range of value for your contrast overcast or cloudy days will give you more chance for subtle shifts.
Shape and pattern help add interest in monochromatic paintings when the colors are subtle and similar. When you are using patterns, think about using small shapes against big shapes varying your brushwork accordingly. Large marks against smaller tighter marks and hard edges and against softer ones.
The concept should drive your choices for the painting. Design helps to decide on the approach to the subject and composition is your arrangement and editing of the pieces. Together they all allow for something that permits you to capture the unique essence of that time and place on canvas.