Amsterdam in monochrome

There were an exceptional amount of art supplies donated from generous sponsors in our Urban Sketchers goodie bags this year that I had to buy an extra carry-on pack to get them all home. The products are too numerous to name in one post. What I prefer to do is try each one individually when I return home, and then write about them. But I couldn’t resist cracking open a small watercolour kit from Sennelier while I was still there. It was a good opportunity to try some of the colours individually, as well as use a new travel rigger I picked up from Rosemary Brushes.

The Sennelier colours are vivid and very creamy. I was warned that because they contain honey, they do attract bees when you use them outdoors, and I have had that problem in the past with M. Graham paints, but sitting by the canal in Edam sketching the houses across the way, there were no bees in sight. I used French Vermilion for my first sketch.

Also in Edam, before catching the bus back to Amsterdam, I tried out the French Ultramarine Blue, again using the rigger brush, both for drawing and then for painting.

Back in Amsterdam I sketched the parked bikes using Burnt Umber. This is the colour I love best so far, evidenced by the pan which is now almost empty.

One evening a few of us ended up at the symposium Drink and Draw location, and I sketched this canal scene in Payne’s Grey, which is definitely less blue than I’m used to, but beautiful nonetheless.

On the last morning, before going to the airport, I sketched with Suhita and Liz. We found shelter from the rain on a café terrace and enjoyed a great hour of sketching and chatting.

I guess what I love about working in monochrome is that you really get to know your colours. And what I enjoyed most about these Sennelier paints is how they disperse in water, leaving behind beautiful and unexpected backruns, and also how my brush lines remained partially intact and partially dissolved as I painted over them with subsequent washes.

There are still a few colours left to try. In the set there’s also a Primary Yellow, Cinereous Blue, Phthalo Green Light and Sap Green. I doubt I’ll try the yellow as a monochrome sketch but there were lots of greens in this week’s vegetable sketch.

25 Comments on “Amsterdam in monochrome”

  1. Judy Sopher says:

    These are really striking. Would never have thought doing a painting in one color. Each color gives the painting a different feel.

    As I wrote before I do like Sennelier paints.For the little set, I cut out a piece. of Yupo(medium) the size to fit into the top part the palette. I don’t want it permanently so I rubber banded it to the bottom. It is great to insert over the top for a mixing area.


    • Judy, you’re right about each colour evoking a feeling.That burnt umber was perfect for the rainy day. Great idea about the Yupo too, since there is no mixing area on the palette.


  2. mayelalameda says:

    Love your monochromatic sketches. I’ve been enjoying them since you started a series a while back using paint tubes lost in your drawer. These ones are terrific!


  3. beth says:

    I love these colors


  4. TonyU says:

    So good I can’t decide which one I love most! Proof of the power of values in ‘readability’ … and that you could produce a masterpiece using invisible ink!


  5. I love the colors especially the Blue and French Vermilion. So much to study in your sketches. I picked up the same set from a little art supply store in Italy. I thought it would be a great set to leave in my handbag. However I have not used them yet . I have been wondering about the lid and where I would mix a color ..if need be. I will have to try Judy’s tip about Yupo paper.


  6. Our grandmother had heritage in Holland. Brings interests to mind to scout the ancestry.


  7. Denise says:

    Whether you are using just one color, or 50, I could stare at your paintings all day. Of course, that leaves me no time for painting myself!


  8. joantav says:

    I like the unusual colors you used for the monochromatic paintings.


  9. Ética Hoje says:

    Muito bom
    Um abraço


  10. Bernadette says:

    If I had to choose, burnt umber would be my favorite but I love each of your color sketches. I can’t think of a time I ever tried using just one color for a study but your post today incourages me to try it out. It can be such a valuable lesson. I could use a good rigger brush. Which one did you use?


  11. Barbara Lindsey says:

    Each of your sketches is beautiful. Thank you. I love the dear little Sennelier paint set and the travel rigger brush, just perfect for plein air sketching.


  12. Jean Mackay says:

    This is so impressive. You were so productive on this trip! Working in monochrome really forces you to see values, but your sketches go so far beyond that. Wow!


    • Thanks so much Jean. Yes, I was productive on that trip! Sketching all the time! But that is why I was there, so it was fun to have the time to do that. Hope you’re having a great summer.


  13. There’s such a wonderful sense of the light and atmosphere in each of these. All beautifully drawn. No drawing in pencil first?


  14. Lindsay Friedlander says:

    Love these!


  15. Susan King says:

    These are all simply fabulous. I am amazed at how you did all of this in just paint of one colour, including the sketch. So much detail! This monochrome really shows how good they are.


  16. Isabelle says:

    They are all fantastic, but the canal with Payne’s Grey is my absolute favorite one. I never tried a complete scene in just one colour, definitely something I want to try soon!


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