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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > October 18 > The value of monochrome

The value of monochrome

Paul Riley explains why making monochrome landscapes will help you to understand tonal relationships

Here a typical green landscape is reduced to greyscale (below). The green trees and fields are pretty much monochromatic, which is reflected in the black-andwhite image. Interestingly the black-and-white one has homogenised the view, making it a more interesting image

We are accustomed to seeing the landscape in colour, which makes us presuppose that we are aware of the tonal contrast. Breaking down the tonal values into light, mid and dark doesn’t come naturally. This probably accounts for why so many watercolours can end up wishy-washy rather in the same way as the colour can get muddy.

Tonal values

Basically if the colour is light it will be light in tone; if the colour is dark, the tone will be dark (below). When it comes to primary colours, yellows are invariably light; red is darker and blue the darkest. When evaluating the difference in hue, difficulties can occur with dark blues because of the depth of tone. Landscapes can consist of a lot of green, which may appear monotonous as a colour but when reduced to black and white many subtle varieties of tone make for an interesting image. As an image, a purely tonal interpretation without the distraction of colour can be very satisfying.

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About The Artist

Welcome to the October issue in which many of our top-class artists celebrate painting in a variety of locations in all kinds of weather, from Pete the Street Brown in Havana, to Geoff Hunt who shows how not to let an unpromising day spoil your painting. Our artist-tutors also offer help and advice on colour mixing in oils, how to improve your compositional awareness, use gouache to paint atmospheric landscapes, create luminosity in your paintings by combining cold wax and water-soluble oils, and develop your skills by working in monochrome. Paul Talbot-Greaves suggests a simple exercise to help you loosen up, Julie Collins shows how to mix the right greens for your watercolour paintings, while Glyn Macey invites you to learn from the painting style of Lamorna Birch by following this month's demonstration. Plus, be inspired as we introduce many of this year's The Artist Open Competition amazingly talented prizewinners!