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Old 06-11-2008, 08:22 AM   #1
Meg Godfrey Meg Godfrey is offline
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question Are monochrome paintings ok?




I have a client who wants me to paint her daughters, but since her house is very contemporary, wants a brown/white or black/white effect--she wants oils rather than a charcoal drawing, and I thought I'd do a finished painting in umber to create a kind of sepia effect--but since I usually do that only as an underpainting I wonder if it is ok --that is, professional, or does it sound tacky? I feel almost like I'm doing an incomplete portrait. I have done a preliminary drawing so far. Any ideas?
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Old 06-11-2008, 09:49 AM   #2
Michael Georges Michael Georges is offline
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Hello Meg! Welcome, I see this is your first post.

While monochrome works are typically done in charcoal, graphite, and single hue pastels, I see no reason why a monochromatic painting could not work quite well and be quite dramatic!

I don't know if your subjects will be together in the same painting, but if you can get something on her person - a hair bow, a necklace, or something around the area of the head that you can add a touch of color to, that spot will immediately draw the eye (which is why you want it around the head).

Either way, it would be a wonderful way to express value and take the painting to a very finished state. Here is a LINK to one of mine in monochrome. Now, this was taken to color, but it shows that you can get very finished with just a range of values of a single hue.

Is it traditional? No.

Is it trendy and designing artwork around decor? Yes. (We as artists may scoff, but EVERY client does it!)

But the really important question is....

Do you feel that you can produce a wonderful portrait for the client using just a monochrome palette?
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Old 06-11-2008, 10:16 AM   #3
Enzie Shahmiri Enzie Shahmiri is offline
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Meg I have done a lot of monochrome painting (black and whites), because sometimes the effect is more dramatic. Have a peek at my website under Figurative and you will see what I mean. It is wonderful that your client is presenting you with a little challenge to do s.th different.

When I used to do outdoor shows there were always those people who gravitated to the monochromatic paintings better the colored ones. So it is really a matter of personal taste.

These type of paintings are the best studies in value control and I have found them to be a huge part of learning how to paint better.

Can't wait to see what you will paint!
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Old 06-11-2008, 11:00 AM   #4
Chris Saper Chris Saper is offline
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Monochrome paintings are more than OK, they are gorgeous!

I have done several and here is my take: paintitngs done in black and white don't have the color shift that paintings done in earth colors experience. Bill Whitaker suggested that I try an approach where the painting is done in b/w, then later glazed with a sepia color.

A transparent oil monochrome painting in an earth color realliy has to be done all prima, so that you can lift out areas of paint to show the lighter canvas underneath, rather than having to add white, which will cool the underlying color. For me this works fine for Open studio, but I don't work quickly enough to make this approach work as a commission. I suppose one could use clove oil to retard the drying of the paint.

Gamblin says that its Chromatic Black is better than its Ivory Black to reduce color termperature shifts (the Ivory Black is very bluish).

I have tried lightening using Naples Yello light instead of white, but still could not control the color shifts. In my painting of Alicia, the color changes drove me crazy so I just decided to quit fighting them and ended up with painting with several variations of earth colors.

Spend some time looking at some of Richard Schmid's monochromes, and also Aaron Westerburg, whose monocrome is on the cover of Strokes of Genius (North Light Books, 2007)
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Old 06-11-2008, 01:50 PM   #5
Meg Godfrey Meg Godfrey is offline
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Thank you so much for your input--I checked out the link and that is just what I do as an underpainting also--I guess I am so used to adding the color layers that leaving it in monochrome seems unfinished (like a bakery selling a cake with no frosting?) but you know, it can work out--I liked the idea of adding a little color in some element of the work, too. Thanks again!
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Old 06-12-2008, 12:16 AM   #6
Debra Norton Debra Norton is offline
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Meg, in art school we had to do black and white cast paintings. We pre-mixed and tubed ivory black and raw umber, and I used cremnitz white, which is a warmer white. Combining the black and umber gave us a warmer dark, and I didn't have any problems with getting the lights with cremnitz white. I've attached the painting I did to show the effect with these colors.
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Old 06-12-2008, 07:37 AM   #7
Meg Godfrey Meg Godfrey is offline
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Wow, Debra, that is a beautiful work. Thanks for sharing. You were fortunate, indeed, to do cast paintings in college. I did my first cast painting on my own AFTER I finished my BFA. (Realism was NOT encouraged when I was in school--my professors rolled their eyes at any attempts and usually said "that's been DONE" as if all of the history of art before 1920 should be chucked out) Anyway, thanks for your input. The example you showed is beautiful. I have finished my prelim drawings and am moving to canvas today!
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Old 06-12-2008, 11:25 PM   #8
Debra Norton Debra Norton is offline
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Thank you Meg. What color did you decide to use? Are you going to post your painting?
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Old 06-13-2008, 10:36 AM   #9
Meg Godfrey Meg Godfrey is offline
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Actually, I'm going with your colors--Raw umber, Ivory black, & white. When I saw your painting a big light bulb went off! The colors will look great in my client's house. I will post it if I can figure out how (I'm techno-challenged as Cynthia can attest-hahaha!) Thanks again for your input. I found it extremely helpful and encouraging!
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