The Benefits of Black and White
It doesn’t matter how good you are, art is, and always will be, a never ending journey of learning new techniques and developing your skills. Whilst there are many ways of expanding your techniques, one fantastic way of improving is to leave out the colour in your art, as this can not only improve your skills but also take your art in a completely new and unexpected direction. Of course, there is no denying that working with colour can be exciting and beautiful, however there is something to be said of stripping things back to the very basics and focusing on the main elements of drawing. For many, using a monochrome palette can be challenging, as there is no colour to distract from the fundamentals like composition, value, lighting and form. However, this can be a great learning experience and can ultimately make you a better artist in the long run. So here are a few reasons why working in black and white can be brilliant for your art work.
1. Highlighting Mistakes When you are working with a monochrome palette, errors in your work become far more obvious. With such a heavy focus on contrast, any issues with shape, form or perspective really do become far more evident. Working in a tonal palette can therefore be a fantastic way to spot and improve upon these errors that could otherwise be disguised under the appealing veil of dazzling colour.
2. Lines, Shapes and Contrast The most basic and fundamental element of an image is the shape of a subject, which is heavily determined by your line work. Removing colour from the equation can throw so much more attention to this and therefore your image becomes very dependent on contrast. Lines and shapes are arguably some of the most important elements of your artwork, so just as a language expert studies grammar and pronunciation to become fluent, an artist should also study the basic lines, shapes and contrast of a composition.
3. Colour can cause confusion and distraction Even with a reduced colour palette, there are just so many choices to make and colours to choose from. Sometimes the distraction is just being spoilt for choice but there are other issues that can come with using colour. For instance, what colours work well together or what colours accurately portray the message you are trying to tell. It could even be that the use of colour is distracting the attention away from what you want the viewer to see. Of course, many art styles benefit from a vibrant display of colours, but sometimes it can lead to more of a distraction from the subject, rather than an addition to the image. A single tone palette presents no other distractions from the art itself and even when you return to colour, you may find yourself reaching for a more limited colour palette.
4. Understanding tonal values and light sources Creating a realistic perspective in art can be very difficult to achieve, but working in black and white can really hone in the focus on how light and shadows work. Bringing everything back to the basic shapes and layout, you can really focus on where and how light affects your composition. With a little practice, you will be able to identify light sources and where they highlight your subject, with ease and precision and this can also then be translated when using colour.
5. A Vast Range It is easy to think that working in black and white can be limiting, but in reality there are an endless supply of options. The more you work with a monotone palette the more you will notice the sheer variety of blacks, whites and greys that there are available, with some cool-blue toned, some rich-red toned, some light and sheer, some heavy and bold… The options are endless. How do you find working in black and white? Do you find it to be a helpful learning tool? Will you be using a monochrome palette more often in the future? Or will you always find yourself heading back to a splash of colour?