Part 1 Project: Transparent and opaque Part 2

Monochrome Studies

Preliminary sketches: In the top sketch I drew in the tree as a positive image, blocking in the resulting negative spaces. In the bottom sketch I drew the negative spaces and blocked in the resulting positive spaces. The white tree enabled me to add some quick tonal variations to it. I haven’t done this on the bottom sketch as it would have made it too much of a ‘negative’ tonal image which wasn’t what I intended, I was more interested in the process at arriving at the tree shape.

Charcoal sketches using positive shapes (top) and negative shapes (bottom)
Charcoal sketches using positive shapes (top) and negative shapes (bottom)

Preparing my supports: using Acrylic paint on preparatory acrylic paper I used an acrylic wash of paynes grey mixed with a little ultramarine blue for the dark ground, then mixed with titanium white for the light ground.


The first thing to notice is the ‘messiness’ of the second image. I found the acrylic paint difficult to work with. It had dried before i could rectify a mistake. The aim of the exercise was to look a the effect of the juxtaposition of the glazes, so I didn’t want to go over mistakes withe the dark paint. I found the paintbrush hard to control too, it was easier to do positive branches that the negative space around them leaving small positive spaces. Clearly much practice needed in general brush handling skills.

I wasn’t entirely sure what modulation of the grey meant in this context. Thinning the dark colour as a positive shape makes sense, but thinning the negative space seems wrong to me, unless you can feather the negative space backwards in some way to produce the effect of twigs. i had chosen a rather un-twiggy tree which did limit my trial of this technique somewhat. However I am feeling as if I am taking baby-steps with just learning to paint so didn’t push this too much.


The dark positive, more opaque shapes make the tree stand out in the foreground. Some tonal variation was possible depending on how thick i layered the paint on (doesn’t really show on photo) which does give some 3d effect (there is a large branch coming forward in the centre of the image) but the tree is undoubtedly solid. By contrast the negative shape image has the tree receding into the background and is quite ephemeral in quality. The ground shows through the dark wash making it seem like a tree shaped hole in the paper. The light wash  over a dark ground takes on an atmospherical quality as it is quite translucent.



Part 1 Project: Transparent and opaque Part 2

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