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Working in Monochrome

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

This was our challenge given to us by Graham Lock:-

'For this challenge you may choose to use pencil, charcoal, ink or paint. If you choose to use colour – then pick one dark colour (eg ultramarine blue or burnt umber) which will allow you to use a broad range of values from very light to very dark. The subject of your work can be absolutely anything. You may have decided what you want to create and wish to just jump in and get started. Alternatively you may wish take the opportunity to explore the use of value as part of your planning towards creating a picture. To that end I offer some thoughts and insights into the ways I sometimes work, and you may choose to read through this and take on board or ignore in whatever way you like. '

Here are our members results. They look wonderful. Well done.

Reviews of some of the work can be seen by scrolling to the end of the page.

John Hamilton

This is on a very rough open canvas which hasn’t been primed so the light shines through when it is held up. It creates a beautiful sparkle to contrast with the dark monochrome tones. The picture is of a sea loch in Scotland where the low sun has broken through the mist and created sparkles everywhere.

Graham Lock

Burnt Sienna mixed with a little Ultramarine Blue or Permanent Mauve in places


Michael Haynes

Caught my eye in the Daily Telegraph. A photo of this years winner of the Melbourne Cup in Australia and thought, super shot. So, not captured quite how I wanted but in charcoal - Surprise Baby over the finishing line.

Sally White

Pen and Paynes Grey

David Dixon

Shellness on Sheppey painted with acrylic Prussian Blue hue on board

Alison Chandler

Monoprint with chine collé

I have been experimenting with monoprinting and particularly liked the textures created using screwed up clingfilm. On this plate they reminded me of a woodland photo I had taken recently, so I gradually overprinted further details – trunks, branches and foreground undergrowth – and then glued on the 2 figures from the photograph. It sounds easy but each time I added more details, the print had to be carefully registered to get them in the right place!

Gunda Cannon

This painting is inspired by Joseph Farquharson’s ‘Sheep in a winter landscape’. I used Payne’s Grey. The sky in the original is an intense blood red and orange – the challenge was to make it interesting without that colour contrast.

Pat Lock

Standing Stones at Avebury

Pencil and chalk on 'grey' paper

Clive Dand

I painted this still life in the style of the Italian painter Giorgio Mirandi. He used simple domestic objects painted in subtle tones.

Judy Williams

Here is my leaf in oils. It is meant to be monochrome but I used ochre and burnt sienna so it doesn’t quite count!

Chris Hautot

Tall grass on the river Bank


I have enjoyed commenting on this submission – I hope the members enjoyed painting them. I’d like to encourage members to grab the opportunity of using these challenges to keep painting, hone their skills, perhaps experiment and try new ideas. Keep well.

Shellness on Sheppey by David Dixon – painting this in Prussian Blue gives the painting a very ‘cool’ wintery feel which I like greatly. Prussian Blue is not an easy colour to control but David has used it well here to give a broad range of values with the lights and darks of the sky reflected below. The groynes lead the eye into the picture and are balanced by the diagonals of the angle of the sea and the lines of lights and darks. Imagine these lights and darks going in the same direction as the groynes and the painting would not be as satisfying or powerful. Also if you imagine this painted in Burnt Umber or Burnt Sienna, or even a red, it would have made this a very different picture … with a much warmer feel … but, again, I think, less powerful and eye catching. If you haven’t tried it I can recommend experimenting with Prussian Blue (or the modern alternative of a phthalocyanine blue like Winsor Blue). It makes a near black when mixed with Cad Red, and beautiful deep greens with Burnt Sienna or Burnt Umber. It can be overpowering – so it definitely isn’t for everyone.

Alison’s chine colle monoprint gives a fascinating range of marks and values. Using cling-film is new to me – tissue paper is more normal, I think. The overprinting and the use of photographs goes to illustrate the value of experimenting. It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of equipment to create original prints, so during lockdown this may be something else for members to try. Printing can be combined with pen and ink, watercolours, acrylics, oils, pastels, photography. Be bold and experiment. Art is whatever works for the artist.

Joseph Farquarson did lots of pictures of sheep in snow, but Gunda has given us her own interpretation here, with again, a great range of values. The dark wet-in-wet brooding sky with its light at the horizon accentuates the dark skyline, but what I really like are the dark faced, soft, fluffy sheep in the bottom left which become less detailed as they recede into the distance and are a nice contrasting balance to the hard, skeletal winter trees on the right hand side.

Commenting on your spouse’s art is always a risky business – but I’ve already told Pat how much I like this piece. Almost everything is cold and hard, but the tree is a symbol of sleeping life and your eye is undoubtedly drawn to it. Four isolated standing stones shouldn’t work; but somehow the composition works. Is it the different shapes, heights or their almost triangular composition? I honestly don’t know. This is a picture with very dominant verticals .. but the horizontal skyline and the landscape (rather than portrait )format, make it seem well balanced. The shadows link the stones but also draw the viewers’ eye into the composition. I can’t help seeing all sorts of different images in the stones – a bird, a bear, a stooping old lady.

Clive Dand’s still-life is a very accomplished painting. Where Pat’s four standing stones are isolated, Clive’s four objects each overlap at least one other in a much more conventional composition. The darkest darks here, inside the object and where the objects touch the surface upon which they are standing, are little more than dark middle values. The objects themselves are subtly painted in a muted range of light and mid-tones. Notice how the eye is kept moving around within the objects and how the variety of curves, lines, and lost and found edges all excite the eye.

Judy Williams’ leaf is definitely monochrome – a subtle use of yellow, orange & brown. This painting definitely uses the warm side of the palette conjuring the season of autumn; imagine this painted in blues and mauves, as some contemporary artist might, and the feeling would be very different. The painting is much brighter and much yellower, and the reproduction much more pleasing on my phone than it is on my lap-top. Also, my phone shows a clear vignette effect which sets the leaf off well. This is almost completely lost on my lap-top, and perhaps goes to show that we can’t accurately judge a work or art on-line. This is a very seasonal piece, appropriate for our next challenge.

Chris Hautot’s “Tall Grass on the River Bank” Notice here the range of different marks – straight and curved lines; horizontals, verticals and diagonals; dots & dashes. Some marks are very solid – others dry brushed, some hardly marking the surface. Again all this helps to excite the eye. The diminishing sizes of the clouds as they move from the top of the sky down to the horizon, the foreground grasses towering over the background trees, and the river disappearing into the distance and around the bend all give a very strong sense of recession.

Graham Lock


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Alison Chandler
2020년 11월 10일

A great range of mediums and styles showing what is possible even in monochrome!

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