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Painting: "Cream Satin Drape," 18 x 24, oil on linen

Cream Satin Drape, 18 x 24, oil on linenI am trying a technique that is different from my other paintings. I usually work in the Indirect Flemish Method: Many thin layers on wood panel to get a very high level of realism, without texture, for an almost enamel-like finish. It can take 4-6 weeks to complete a very small 9x12 inch painting.

DETAILIn contrast, this painting is done with a Direct Method: Only 2 layers (the umber underpainting and one pass of full color), painted with thick, loose paint, on stretched linen support. At 18x24 inches it is larger than most my work, and it took less than 2 weeks to complete.

I am finding what I have long suspected to be true: Working precisely and with great control in my more detailed work is teaching me to see better and make better decisions when I work faster and more loosely.

With this more direct method, this is how I think about painting:

The strokes are applied slowly: I look at my subject, decide what is the ONE stroke I want to make. I load up my brush with the correct color, and then very, very slowly make ONE mark. Then I look at it, and decide if it is right or wrong. Sometimes I need to wipe it off and try again if it is wrong. Then I decide what my next stroke will be. 

I start slow, but during the session I naturally speed up, keeping this same level of attention on every stroke. I stop thinking and it starts to feel like the brush is painting on its own.

I use a very light touch, only touching the paint to the canvas, not the bristles. In addition to swiping the brush, I also might push, twist, or wiggle the brush to make the stroke needed. The light touch lays the paint on the canvas, and might leave some broken scumbling drags, without pushing the paint flat.

When loading the brush: To get thicker paint, I push the brush forward into the paint puddle on the palette, not a just a back swipe. I build up a nice glob of paint, with even maybe with a string of peaked paint at the tip.

Every stroke should make the painting feel like it is developing and getting better. If it starts to feel like I am “fixing”, and the painting feels like a struggle, and the painting gets worse even though I am trying to make it better…. I stop painting. I wipe or scrape anything unsuccessful, I breathe, slow down, take a break, and try again.

While painting this I was thinking about how I would teach it as a class or workshop, and realized the only way I could teach it is to teach the Indirect, Flemish method I already teach. For every Direct stroke one must think about drawing, value, color, and edges, all at once. The way I would teach this is to practice each of these skills in isolation until each is mastered, before trying them all at once. 

The Flemish Indirect method separates these steps and is an excellent way to learn all of this. 

For me, working in this more Direct manner is emerging naturally from my Indirect method of study.

WORKSHOP: Still Life Drawing and Painting in the Flemish Method, January 2013, San Francisco

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Reader Comments (3)

Fantastic.Beautiful paintings.

April 1, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterfine art oil paintings

Amazing! You use the same medium than the other technique??

April 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJLC

Thanks for sharing this. :)

August 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJosef
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