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Monochromatic Painting

Monochromatic Conch Study, 2021

Painting in monochrome is a great way to ease back into painting after a break from regular studio practice. After trying different combinations of paints and surfaces over the years, I have found materials that allow me to build up very subtle shifts of value, melding the joy of drawing with the permanence and solidity of oil painting.

I have tried many brands of white pigments, and nothing compares to Rublev's lead white. I like that is has a fine-milled, creamy flow and also has enough substance to be built up for more opacity. Most other lead white oil paints are in comparison more slippery and transparent. Here I am also using a Rublev umber, one they call "Italian Green Umber". I like that it's a bit cooler than other umbers. I toned the smooth gesso ground with a medium gray mixture, allowing for the streaky look I find inspiring in Rubens' oil sketches on panel. I've found applying the ground using an alkyd medium for flow makes the pigment dry quickly and remain stable so it doesn't lift up when I paint on top of it. This panel had dried for a few days before I painted on it. The panel I am painting on is a smooth-sanded chalk gesso.

I've been using an old bottle of Gamblin's Galkyd Light to apply the toned ground, but next I plan to try Rublev's alkyd medium. Alkyd medium however has a stronger smell than I like to use in my home studio, so I only use it for a couple hours a month, when preparing a stack of panels. For the painting I use linseed oil and stand oil as my medium.

When returning to the easel after a break from regular studio practice, I'm often full of big ideas, but I like to start with what feels achievable and enjoyable. This painting was simply joyful to create.

I filmed this painting and other recent monochromatic paintings. Those videos will be available to members of my Online Atelier.


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