“The elements of composition embrace the whole creative process.”
The Art of the Artist – Composition – by Fletcher Martin
The COMPOSITION #6
A grisaille and grisaille underpainting are similar to a value study in that they are monochromatic in color. Typically done in black and white or gray. Throughout history they have been a foundational element to the creation of many master works particularly when using glazing as a technique in oil painting. There are many grisaille’s that stand on their own as masterworks . Grisailles date back to the 15th century.
A few definitions:
- GRISAILLE – (French: gris [ɡʁizaj] ‘grey’) is a term for painting executed entirely in monochrome or near-monochrome, usually in shades of grey. Wikipedia
- GRISAILLE – (the technique by which artists work without color, using only the resources of black and white.”) The Art Tribune May 2014
- GRISAILLE – “A grisaille underpainting is meant to provide the form and tone of a structure that will later be tinted with a finishing glaze of color.” Color for Painters by Al Gury
Tip! Observe art
Tip! Keep practicing
These are helpful historical works to view in terms of developing your eye and sensitivity to “value” in your composition. While you may not paint a grisaille they are a useful in broadening understanding and as a result can contribute to the development of your own work.
The following are examples of masterworks using grisaille. The first work “Scalzo” by Andrea del Sarto in the 15th century is in a monochromatic state. This can be seen at Chiostro dello Scalzo in Florence, Italy. This looks like a relief and that is another characteristic of a grisaille.
The second artwork “The Holy Family” by El Greco during the 16th century, has color applied through glazing technique to a grisaille. This is part of the collection at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
You can see the vast amount of detail each artist was able to achieve. As I have read, grisailles tend to have light masses painted much lighter than nature and in that sense they are different than a value study. Painting the lighter areas in this way on a grisaille allowed room for the layering of color as glazes to ultimately define the proper values.