This is the grisaille study that we did before starting a grisaille portrait last week. Grisaille refers to a painting done in a monochrome palette that can serve as a base for color application. The purpose was of grisaille study is to understand composition, form-(modeling of each object separately) and value(showing the transitions and shadows in great detail, establishing the darkest darks and lightest lights for the final work) ~ but all this with limited colors. For this one, I've used raw umber and white, a little bit of burnt umber and black. It is unfinished, but it did help me understand the play of contrast and difference of edges(sharp/blurry) to create depth and show objects that are closer/ farther away.
There are many monochrome painting styles, including grissaile(French) and Verdaccio(Italian). Old masters always did a detailed grisaille study before starting to paint, to be sure of the values and composition. It is a stepping stone towards the finished oil painting. One can add layers of relevant value of hue(glazing) to create a full color believable painting with correct values underneath.
Grisaille is based on neutral and warmish gray tones. And Verdaccio is based on cooler grayish green tones. Some believe that verdaccio method can really enhance skin tones to create high realism because of its greenish underpainting(as green is complementary color for the skin. I read somewhere that when you paint with complementary color for your underpainting, it makes the final work more believable.)
Another method that we used here at school is by underpainting in the same colors that we plan to use in the final painting. (It is like creating campitura with different colors) And thus, the first layers of paint laid down serves as a basis for applying the subsequent layers to achieve likeness.
Here is the portrait in Grisaille I am working on; using raw umber, and a tiny bit of burnt sienna and white. 4 more days to work on this one.
I was reading about correcting and tone neutralizing for creating believable skin tones in painting, when I read about its use by makeup artists. It is really interesting to know how the same principles were used in the make up industry during the switch from black and white to color films. The makeup artists had to study all the principles of color and its behavior in different light(warm light/cool light) to do the color corrections while applying makeup. Back then, there was no technology to aid the artist. Only color theories to experiment with. So it was like applying right quantity of green shade(complementary of red), purple shade(complementary of yellow) so that it neutralizes the effect of red-yellow skin blemishes when captured by camera, with a certain light(warm/cool). Even the actors had to undergo several tests to make sure that the shades of green/purple looked correct for their skin color. That's the reason, they say makeup is an art-form, and it's interesting to know its history as to how it has evolved, even when there are so many options (concealers!) to aid makeup artists now.