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  • Writer's pictureGillian Holding

Surface Tension

I read recently that Rothko used to use paint diluted with turps on unprimed canvas; I thought this was an interesting thing to do at a time when other artists exploring staining effects would have been experimenting with the newly arrived acrylic paints.

Unprimed surfaces are obviously very absorbent and very slow and normally the exact type of surface I hate most. But in all these recent months of paint experimentation I’d been driven nuts by mediums drying too quickly and wanted a simpler more direct approach, so I gave Rothko’s technique a try on a scrap of nice linen canvas.

It was surprisingly forgiving and subtle and explains a lot about his edges. It was hard to lighten the tone and the surface neutralized every colour mix I tried but the approach is worth a more considered piece.

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