When I am indoors and searching for something to paint I often think about the organic forms that are on my countertop or in my refrigerator ready for consumption. I think some of the best still-life subjects come from the produce aisle.
If you’re like me and appreciate the variety and similarity within organic shapes, produce never gets boring. Just like trees and rocks are never the same, peppers, onion, and garlic each have their unique qualities. And you can dream about dinner while you are painting it!
A great practice for learning to paint or draw forms are red peppers. They have an interesting form that showcases a variety of surfaces and therefore a variety of values.
With red peppers, you can easily practice monochromatic value changes.
Monochromatic is art jargon for the same color, but implies darker and lighter tones and shades are used.
Tones happen when you add white.
Shades happen when you add black.
Or in a watercolor painter’s case a purer, thicker pigment creates a darker shade and a watered down pigment creates a paper white tone.
So how do you make a monochromatic study?
The objective of a monochromatic painting is to see if you can realistically portray that subject with that color alone.
- Use a strong underdrawing
- Make dark shadows with thick paste
- Preserve white highlights
- Gradate washes (add more water to make it more transparent)
- Make a transparent shadow of the object with the watercolor
- Overlay one value on another
- Block in value with one shade of crimson to push object forward in space
The watercolor artist who wants to know the capability of a single color may try this for a number of colors to see what a color will do under certain circumstances.