|6/19/19 Wedgwood neighborhood|
It pains me to say this: As much as I thrive on color – seeing it, using it, collecting it – I have come to realize that when I limit my palette to one or two hues, I tend to make better drawings. I started to feel an inkling of this last year when I began sketching with graphite more. And during the past couple of months when I’ve used only two colors, I’ve noticed the same thing.
When I’m not preoccupied with which hues to use and whether they match or adequately express reality, I observe tone and values more closely – and the sketch ends up looking better. Maybe “better” isn’t the right term. In most cases, I prefer the full-color sketches I make because they more fully capture the moment as I saw it – the brick red building, the yellow excavator, the lime green bike. But when I limit my colors to one or two, I find that the results are often better rendered drawings.
In classical art training centuries ago, masters required their students to make monochrome studies for years before they ever began to consider color. Even in contemporary ateliers, students work with charcoal, graphite and other monochrome media for a long time before they touch paint. (I once heard Gage Academy atelier instructor Juliette Aristides say that during her own classical training, she worked with graphite for seven years before moving on to other media.)
|6/17/19 Convention Center|
Shortly after I began sketching, I read a book in which the author advised beginning sketchers to stick with pencil for a while and work on basics like composition, proportions, tone and value before introducing the complications of color. “No color? HA! Forget it,” I said to myself, slamming that book shut and pulling out my watercolors. Over the years, I continued to hear that same general advice occasionally from other authors and instructors – advice that I immediately dismissed.
Sometimes I wonder where my work would be now if I had heeded that advice. What if I had sketched with nothing but graphite for seven years and only just now, in my eighth year, started using color? Would I be ahead of my own game in terms of rendering accurately? If I’d done my homework in monochrome for all those years first, would it be easy now to simply add color, since all the basics would have been covered?
I suppose there’s little benefit in pondering questions asked in hindsight, but sometimes I do – while sharpening my many colored pencils.