Tag Archives: #monochromatic

Pairs (IV), Ink Resist Revisited and Reuse Old Paintings

The first one is sumi ink, and the second one is ink resist with gouache. Both are on watercolor paper and they are separately composed.

Caroline, ink on paper, 9 x 12in, June 2020
Thoughts, ink and gouache on paper, 10 x 14 in, June 2020

A few notes:

  • The ink I use is from a Japanese dollar store called Daiso, and it’s really cheap.
  • You can manipulate the ink to some extent while it’s wet but when it’s dry, you can’t lift it as watercolor.
  • For ink resist with gouache, please see my previous post “Try New Things (1).”
  • The second painting is done on the back of an old painting (of a broccoli). When I soak the gouache painting in ink, I got some unintended texture. It’s probably because of the unevenness of the paper. I might have done some lifting or scrubbing for the old painting. I decided it didn’t hurt.
  • In general it’s fun to think about how many ways you can deal with a subject.

Now a few more words about old paintings. Good watercolor papers are expensive, so I never throw away old paintings, no matter how ugly they are. There are always ways to reuse them:

  • The obvious one is to paint on the back. If the paper is not flat, you can soak it in water, then lay it flat and add some weight on it (or re-stretch it). Sometimes the texture of the paper on the back is different. It’s still workable.
  • Another way is to examine the old painting and see if there are some elements can be used. The flames in the second painting was modeled after the leaves of the broccoli on the other side. Look at it upside down, side ways, hold it up against strong light, you may discover something different.
  • You can also directly use it. Tear it apart and make it into a new collage.
  • Take a picture of it and manipulate it into a new digital art with Photoshop, Procreate, etc.
  • These methods are not exclusive, and that one piece of paper can generate many artworks!

More on Monochromatic and Morandi

As I mentioned before, the paintings of Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) often have a monochromatic look, even though he used a lot of colors. The result is a very restful and understated effect – something I always find difficult to achieve. Usually the more time I spent on a piece, the more colorful it becomes, as if keeping quiet on canvas or paper is against my nature. The same goes with details and edges. The more time spent, the more definition, and the looseness and gestures are lost.

So I tried a couple with limited time and clear goals. 1)No more than 2 hours per piece; 2) limited palette to create near monochromatic effect; 3) less definition; 4) lost edges; 5) be quiet.

Still life, acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12 in, 2019
Still life, acrylic on canvas board, 16 x 20 in, 2019

I think goal setting with time restriction is an effective way of practicing. Right? :))

Color Studies (2) – Monochromatic

Of the three components of color, hue, value and saturation, I personally find value the most difficult. Colors are attractive and distracting, and it could be difficult to discern values accurately from all the colors in front of us. Monochromatic painting is a great way to train your eyes this way.

In traditional Chinese brush paintings, many of which are monochromatic, it’s the value changes through the control of water that create the art. I took a few lessons of Chinese brush painting one summer, and lessons were mainly copying old masters. This is one of the paintings I copied:

After Qi Baishi, ink on Xuan paper, summer 2018

Monochromatic is a good strategy when time is limited. In life painting, it saves the trouble of finding the right skin color and allows me to focus on value and shape.

Woman, ink on watercolor paper, 9 x 12 in, 2018

In landscape scene with overwhelming branches and leaves, monochromatic approach simplifies the view. This plein air was done in burnt sienna. I included some of the visitors I had during the painting – out of proportion, I know, but a lot of fun.

Fox and Caterpillar at West Valley, acrylic on canvas board, 16 x 20 in, 2018

More than often, monochromatic painting is used as underpainting. It serves as a value map, but also allow some color strategies. (I found this post by Mitchel Albala very helpful.)

Another approach is to do a monochromatic underpainting, and glaze over it with transparent colors, often times many layers. For acrylic, that means adding quite some medium to the color. My selfie is done this way – dozens of layers. I have to admit, I doubt I will ever use this method again. Too tedious.

Selfie, acrylic on canvas board, 16×20 in , 2018

I think in theory it could be done with watercolor too, for watercolor is transparent in nature. Even the opaque ones, with enough water, become transparent to some extent. From what I heard, to glaze in watercolor, the key is to wait for the underpainting or the previous layer really really dry, bone dry. Maybe someday I will try it.