Exercise 7: Monochrome studies

The image I chose for Exercise 7 Monochrome Studies was from a photograph I took some years ago now of two old trees on the Guisachan Estate in upper Strathglass, Inverness-shire.    I always had an affection for these two old biddies and unfortunately I think they have now been cut down. Guisachan is taken from the Gaelic “giuthais” meaning pine trees or ‘place of the firs’.

For the dark coloured transparent graded wash I used a mix of ultramarine and burnt umber to prepare a graded tonal background. The lighter sheet was prepared using an opaque application of grey pigment. Once both sheets were dry I sketched my image of the ‘twins’ using a thin charcoal stick.

Charcoal sketches

Charcoal sketches

Working on the light ground first, I over-sketched the outline of the trees using a mix of the ultramarine/burnt umber palette that I used for the dark background sheet. I added a wee bit of positional context to the image and attempted to ‘feather’ in suggestions of smaller twigs and leaves. I didn’t want to over-work this, but I’m not sure I achieved the desired effect I was after. However, it is a kind of striking and stark representation of the trees and some of the wonderful bark twists and turns are visible.

Next onto the dark background and here I used a light grey mix (although it did dry darker than I intended) to sketch in the negative spaces backgrounding the trees. This was a more difficult operation and the resulting image is, I feel, more abstract in its visual representation of the subject. I was probably a bit heavy-handed with the grey mix and also found it way too intricate to try and capture every wee twig and leaf. In fact, I found it difficult to accurately capture the true outline of these trees. I still find it a challenge to see larger blocks of shapes/colours through squinting eyes, but hopefully with practice this will improve. The one aspect of this image that I do quite like is the almost complete absence of detail. Is this progress?

Monochrome studies - dark on light (left) / negative space (right)

Monochrome studies – dark on light (left) / negative space (right)


I think that I brought an understanding of the processes in this exercise, but as usual probably veered a bit away from the original brief (or as that observed aside from ‘The Commitments’ film in discussing the saxophonist’s playing goes – ‘your spiralling man’)! So, for the sake of reference I have included a copy of the reference ‘photo.

Trees - reference 'photo

Trees – reference ‘photo