How to paint like Willem de Kooning – with Corey D’Augustine | IN THE STUDIO

How to paint like Willem de Kooning – with Corey D’Augustine | IN THE STUDIO


You should really have a lot of fun
this week because we’ll be exploring some really wonderful viscus and
fluid paints here. The whole range of painter’s materials. We’re exploring the work of Willem
de Kooning this week, certainly, one of the masters of
the New York avant garde. And you can see in front
of me a lot of paint. A lot of oil paints
straight out of the tube. We have a lot of linseed oil here,
we have some damar varnish here. And I do have one typical baker’s pan
here, which I’ll be using as a pallet for one color, but
really we’re in the realm of kitchens now. And if you have some old bowls or
old cans, or what have you, this is really the quantities of paint
that we’re going to be working with, if you’re going to be working
with a large format painting. de Kooning painted with his whole body,
he was a gestural painter, he was an action painter. And really using really large
quantities of liquid paints here, allows the body to trace these huge marks,
powerful strokes across the canvas. So let’s get started. What I’m going to do, essentially,
is to build my entire palette first, before even approaching the easel,
that way I know what I’m working with. Let’s start off with a cobalt blue. A vast majority of the paints I’m working
with are going to be really low viscosity, allowing them to be quite fluid, and really
translate the power of my gestures on the canvas. In other words, I’m not going to
paint with this really thick, toothpaste thick quality of artist’s
oil grade paint right out of the tube, I’m going to douse it
with some nice oil there. And I’m really going
to cut that viscosity, make it a lot more flowable on
the surface of the painting. There is something really gorgeous,
really wonderful about this gooey quality of oil paints, which you just can’t get
in the rather plastic realm of acrylics. So, here, kind of a medium speed paint,
if you will. It’s not super thick, but it’s not super
fluid, it’s not running off of my brush. And I’m going to vary my consistency of
different paints here, some of them medium like this, some of them, as you’ll see,
will be a lot more fluid than this. So I’m just going to save that for later. Now, let’s work on another one, and
let’s work with some kind of flesh tone. Now, for a kind of basic Caucasian flesh
tone, it’s nice to use some buff titanium. This is actually the same thing as
titanium white, it’s just not bleached. So both of these, buff titanium and
titanium white, this one gets bleached, titanium white, buff titanium has
more of a neutral tone to it. And then to get a decent kind of
Caucasian flesh tone, believe it or not, you add a little bit of red for
warmth. You add a little bit of yellow for warmth. And then you add a little bit of green for
depth. And again, once I add a little bit of
varnish into there, make it nice and glossy, this is Dammar varnish,
it’s a natural resin, comes from trees. Dammar is D-A-M-M-A-R. Let’s add a little bit of
linseed oil in there as well. And then let’s add a little bit of
mineral spirits, or turpentine. And let’s choose a nice brush for flesh. How about this one? We’ll start getting some of
these colors mixing here. Now, that mixture of solvents and media
that I added here, remember that’s dammar varnish, linseed oil, the typical vehicle
or binder of oil painting medium. And some solvent, some mineral spirits,
that’s to do a couple of things. First of all, it’s to make it a lot
thinner on the brush, a lot faster, and here I am getting sloppy,
this is just the beginning, you’ll see. To make the viscosity lower,
to cut that viscosity. Another role of that combination
is to make it glossy, and shiny and these wonderful fluid
paints that de Kooning worked with are often extremely glossy in character. Okay, so here’s the second
color of my palette here. Kind of a murky,
mean looking skin tone here. I like this. This is going to look really nice when
contrasting with some really hot colors, some nice warm red colors. So let’s make one of them. going to be working with
cadmium red hue here. Any time you see that word hue that means
well, you cheaped out a little bit. Cadmium is a heavy metal, it’s expensive. Cadmium red hue is an organic,
read cheap, substitute for it. Now, it’s okay because the hue
of that color is going to be exactly the same as cadmium. In other words, gorgeous,
stop sign red, or Coca Cola red. We’re going to add a little
of linseed oil, and then we’re going to add some water. You’re thinking whoa,
whoa wait a minute water and linseed oil, what is this guy doing? Well, de Kooning liked to violate
these rules because he liked to have really interesting paint textures,
sometimes frothing up on the surface. Now, because I’ve mixed water and oil, you
can see this texture is an unhappy texture. It’s really not a solution as
much as it is a suspension. In other words, it’s just a physical
mixture of these things that don’t like each other,
they don’t play nicely together. But this weird alligator skin kind of
texture here is going to be really active and
really interesting on our surface. Let’s make some nice
hot light yellow color. And since we already have a little
bit of white going, let’s add to it. And now to this one I’m going
to add just mineral spirits. No additional vehicle or binder this time. Just some solvent,
a fair amount of it in fact. Then the reason I’m doing this,
is that I want this paint to quite thin, thinner than the paints we’ve made so far. Now when you add binder to a paint,
in this case, that’s linseed oil, you make it more
transparent and you cut the viscosity. When you add solvent to the paint, mineral
spirits here, you make it more into a stain. It doesn’t have any additional gloss like
linseed oil will provide, but it really makes it incredibly low viscosity,
so it’ll absorb into the ground or even sometimes the under paint layer that
is beneath it, so what you have left with is a super thin application of really
fast, really runny, consistency of paint. What I’m going to do to speed
up this process a little bit is just to transfer this into a mixing bowl. Just out of convenience. This is going to help me blend this
paint a little faster, a little better, a little stronger, so it’s not
splashing all over the studio floor. And if you can hear that sound, that’s
what a de Kooning painting sounds like, liquid, fluid, runny, kind of,
wonderful viscous kind of materials. Okay, so we have a nice pallet going here. Let’s move to the easel. Okay, so large format canvass, a little
small here, but roughly human scale here. Interesting to note,
that recent research at Guggenheim Museum on a painting
by de Kooning from the 1970s, 1975, if I’m not mistaken,
called Who’s Name Was Writ on Water. We looked at that painting, an abstract
painting, in infrared light and actually found an under drawing. Now, usually an under drawing is made and
then a painter exactly paints over that drawing but, of course, for an improvised,
gestural abstract painting, why would you use an under drawing? It’s actually akin to a dancer
warming up before performing. It’s a way to get loose. It’s a way to stretch, to get limber. And to kind of rehearse some of
the same physical gestures that you’re about to perform, not with a drawing tool,
but with a loaded brush. Now, before I start to warm
up with that under drawing, I’m going to sand the support. And this time I’m using some
very rough sandpaper, 40 grade. This is the stuff that if you
rubbed on your own hand would hurt. And what I want to do is, basically
make this canvas very absorbent, rub off any sheen so that my paint is going to
be nice and roughly attached to it. [SOUND] And now I’m going to get lose a little
bit, warm up on the canvas here, and start thinking about some of the gestural marks
that I will be performing with oil paint. But now just kind of, I get use to that
idea, get use to those range of motions. But now, with charcoal. [SOUND] [SOUND] [SOUND] All right, a good
time to step back from the painting and take a look. And this is actually really important and
underestimated aspect of de Kooning’s approach to painting. We all think about these
explosive moments, these active moments of painting and
you just witnessed some. But really, de Kooning alternated those
with some very long, very patient, very critical periods of careful
looking at his paintings and trying to understand what
the painting wanted to do next. Because this is really not the kind
of painting that you can push around. It’s one that you really
need to listen to. So what I’m looking at,
when I’m seeing this painting, are a couple things that are working and
a lot of things that aren’t. What’s really sticking
in my eye first of all, is this very artificial line
coming straight down here. Now, when I was painting, that didn’t even
occur to me, I was so close to the canvas. But stepping back, there is a very
linear element of all these different gestural marks aligning in a vertical way,
this is artificial and it looks bad. It catches the eye in an aggressive way. Similarly, there’s a little bit too much
parallel stuff that’s going on here. Although there are some nice moments of
paints mixing, wet in wet into each other. Some of these really nice color
combinations working here. This, kind of,
beautiful mark here, wet in wet, blue into it’s complement yellow,
some gorgeous mark making. Also, there are very flat planes of
color that need to be worked in. But, essentially, what you saw me do in that
first step here, is to knock out all the white. To start bringing this painting forward,
in space, together, to really understand what is going to happen next. Now, it’s also really important to
understand that in de Kooning’s painting technique, there’s as much
subtraction of the painted material, as there is addition. In other words, a lot of the marks
that are made in the finished product are a function of labor, of putting paint
on, scrapping it or smearing it back off. So let’s get into some
of those activities now. [SOUND] And already, what you see me do there,
is edit out some of the areas that I didn’t like, that I thought were weaker. Wow, they just got a lot stronger for
a couple of reasons. First of all, colors are mixing
in a really interesting way. Look at this chaos here, gorgeous. Also, bringing back
the drawing into the equation. Skinning, flaying some of the white of the
canvas here and giving us some transitions between thickly painted, thinly painted,
opaque, translucent, luscious, fat paint, glossy, and dry,
scratched kind of texture here. All of these variables here that we’re
exploiting are really going to allow this painting to come together as a whole. Another technique that de Kooning would
use is to take some turpentine, or in our case, some mineral spirits, on a
rag and just scrub back into the surface. And this is really going to remove paint
and also make the paint bleed together, very aggressively. [SOUND]
And already the painting is way more active, way more alive, way more variety going on. Now, there are areas now that
are bothering me that didn’t bother me a minute ago. The reason is,
I just attacked the problems, but guess what, now there are new problems. These problems weren’t as
strong as the original set, but now they’re the strongest ones left,
so time to attack them, too. [NOISE] Wow, and now we have a nice start
to a painting. What before looks red or
spare and artificial, almost hackneyed or almost sarcastic. Now we’re starting to really embrace
with the physicality of the medium and things are starting to happen. de Kooning was a huge fan of really,
really long brushes. This is a pretty long brush,
it’s a 35 brush size, here. But de Kooning had brushes that literally
were as tall as I am, six feet tall, something like that. The reason was, he liked to be
painting on a canvas from a distance. Why? Because he wanted to have this global
perspective over the work while he was working. I’m going to do my best
approximation here and start painting from arm’s length anyway. Remember, that de Kooning is taking
advantage of this distance, but from even further back to really
understand how the entire painting is evolving as he’s adding or
subtracting gestural marks to it. Some of this accepted chaos, as this drip
is just cascading down the surface here, is how some of the most beautiful
marks evolve in de Kooning’s work. Now one thing that will tend
to happen when working with so much alla prima technique,
or wet in wet technique, as I’m working with here, is that your
oil paints will gradually get muddy. And, in fact, if you’ve gotten
this far into your de Kooning, you may have already lost it
in some very dark colors. Now, there are two ways to rectify that. One, scrape it off. This is the wonderful thing about
oil painting, you don’t like it, well, get rid of it. Number two, you can wait for
that paint to dry. Now, this is oil paint,
it’s going to take awhile. We’re using a really high quantity of oil
that makes the drying time even longer. But when that paint does dry, well then you
can work in any color you want over top. Because since this paint is already dark,
if I add, well this kind of magenta color to it, it’s going to stay that dark and
I’m going to lose this lovely magenta hue. If this dries first, that will not
happen since they won’t blend together. It’s often said of de Kooning,
that he never finished a painting, just sometimes his paintings
escaped from the studio. He was relentless in his editing going
back and forth and back and forth. And speaking of back and forth, he also
alternated between activities of not only painting and looking, but
between painting and drawing, and then back to painting again and
then back to drawing again. So let’s do some more gestural
mark making with a hard tool, in fact, soft charcoal here. Now, when drawing into wet paint,
you lose your mark quickly but you begin to gouge into the surface and
some interesting things can happen. [SOUND] So these little bits of
charcoal that are left there, you’ll often find in de
Kooning’s paintings. When the paint is completely dry, that charcoal
remains embedded into the surface. Now, how to think about
what kind of marks to make? I’m thinking as much about the mark
I’m making as I am my own body, and how I’m moving in space. For example, I see there’s some kind of
residue of this kind of a mark, a down and then back up, so
I’m going to reenact this mark now, but with a hard tool rather
than that wide fluid brush. And you can see that the edge here is
far sharper than anything I did before, as that’s the point where the elbow
is driving back up off the canvas. What I’m trying to do,
is to enmesh all of these marks so they don’t look like individual planes of
color, but they start to wrap together. So what you can see is
that I pulled this color, not only combining with this
maroon purplish color, but I brought it back into the canvas,
commingling with some other colors here. But also starting to highlight that
beige tone, which is found scattered throughout this entire painting now,
which ties things together visually and allows these to exist in the same space,
rather than all these interdependent, or I should say independent kind of tectonic plates of color
sliding over each other. Now they’re becoming
enmeshed in each other, since you see that color
throughout the work. Following that same logic, I have
a lot of the yellow on the left hand side of the painting,
especially at the bottom. None on the right, none at the top. Well, let’s take care of that. And I think this is a good
time to call it quits. Now, let’s talk about how this painting
can grow, since, in all honesty, no exaggeration, paintings stayed
in de Kooning’s studio for sometimes two years as he
actively worked on them. So, of course, when looking at
this painting, it looks thin, it looks simple compared to a de Kooning,
for a couple reasons. This is all done alla prima,
it’s all done wet in wet. And really de Kooning alternated periods
of working wet in wet within working wet over dry and having some harsh,
scraped kind of marks here, but, because it’s wet,
it starts to all mix together. de Kooning would build up these
heavily encrusted surfaces so that by the end of them,
they’re two inches thick full of paint. They’re very heavy paintings,
physically, to carry around. But as you can see here, really, as much paint
comes off of this painting as goes back on. Really get involved in this process,
not only the physical process of painting, but this back and
forth looking, analyzing, and then diving back into the action
painting phase of the work. So here we have a very promising, but
a very brief start, to a painting that, in de Kooning style, should really
be allowed to grow in the studio for a month, if not really a year.

100 thoughts on “How to paint like Willem de Kooning – with Corey D’Augustine | IN THE STUDIO

  1. Tune in for a live Q&A with Corey on Wednesday, February 7 at 3:00 p.m. EST! He’ll be answering any questions you might have on artists, materials, and techniques. https://youtu.be/OxS8X_V6TCU

  2. It just baffles me how simple paintings like this and those extremely simple pours and scrapes and simplex abstract paintings that can be done in under an hour it just baffles me how those things can sell for thousands and thousands of dollars and I'm not talking about the ones 50 years old I'm talking about the ones today when you have all these highly gifted artists or artists who maybe are not as gifted but have the work ethic who have such amazing technique and detail and spend hours and hours on their work and yet they sell a 20 by 24 for only $300. When some other dude makes a painting any 6th grader can do and it sells for $7,000 all because he got with the right people and they bullshitted about what the painting means when the truth is he just slapped down colors onto a canvas and then thought of some creative idea for it later. I'm not saying that's not art. Of course it is. I'm talking about rewarding people for their true efforts, skill, and their insight. It is an absolute crime that some of these guys scribble some lines on canvas or slap or pour some stuff here and there in under an hour and put a $10,000 price tag on something while these other brilliant artists slave away and get $300 for something 50 times more creative.

  3. I'm not a de Kooning fan, but you are such a pro, you made his techniques fascinating. I enjoy your videos greatly and watch them over and over again.

  4. It is fascinating how you can make what looks like chaotic child's art to me sound like science. I think you are a great teacher. But I admit that I cannot understand this style of art. I am no way an expert but looking at de Kooning's paintings online, I always was able to make out some kind of figure although it was really distorted and smudged out and messy. I know that this is an example of his technique but I still cannot see the figure you were trying to shape here.
    However I did take a lesson from this, so thank you.

  5. de Kooning is certainly not one of my favourite painters, or at least his work; to be more specific, is not to my taste. Through Corey D'Augustine, I can see the pleasure of the actuality of making such work. D'Augustine knows his stuff. By elucidating mixes of paints, oils and water and so on, the process becomes more interesting and inspiring. A painting tutor said to me, 'A painting is never finished'. A bit like a good party; you've got to know when to leave ! Otherwise, at a certain point, it will be 'all downhill from here!'

  6. I hate the paintings de Kooning is famous for from the 50's and 60's, but the works he did in the last ten yes of his life I actually like a lot.

  7. when I first started painting I did non representational art like this. It was fun to make, but I found it unfulfilling. It meant nothing to me. Said nothing about me or anything else. But, it was all I could do. After much hard work I now paint representational and that is where true abstraction lies. Making, through the use of paint, a two dimensional image appear to be three. What people referr to as "abstract art" is really the most "realistic art". It is exactly what you see, paint smeared on a flat surface. There is no "abstraction".

  8. that creamy cobalt, esp after adding linseed oil, really grabbed me… now i want to try oil paints since i can make it fluid… I Love fluid acrylic painting and the effects different pigments create, and this demo has turned me on to oil i think

  9. Its a wonderfull way of painting – its like dancing, drawing,painting,dreaming, discovering, imagining, associating as a stream of consciousness

  10. Is he making soup or painting? Jesus man SAVE SOME A DAT SHIT. Or donate it to starving artists like me 😫 lmao. He used 5 paintings worth of paint for one tiny one smh

  11. I have a few canvases on my wall that took me four days that I can get lost in, and impress visitors along with a few metal sculptures that aren't half bad. Maybe I'm a "starving artist," but none of them cost mearly as much as the first two squeezes of oils. I'll watch later. Maybe.

  12. But who would even want to paint like DeKooning? That man painted some of the ugliest and generally most unattractive works of art in the Western world. Can't we be learning to paint like Caravaggio instead?? Probably not. That would take years, rather than minutes.

  13. Thanks for sharing your imagination and performance about the style of de Kooning . I think every famous artist has had some techniques and secrete materials that they never reveal it . In this demonstration MoMA did a very good Job at least to try to discover de Kooning’s style and this kind of demonstration is very helpful for beginner artists like me to start off .

  14. FFSake! Who pays for your paint?!? The amount that goes to waste is obscene. Every tube of paint represents a cost not only to the artist but to the planet. It needs to be created, packaged, shipped to a warehouse, transported to the shops, sold, and transported to the artist's studio. Respect the medium, respect the process and respect the planet.

  15. I am sure aspiring artists will find your words very helpful – but WHY paint like someone else?. Wouldn't it be better to learn how to paint like your own self? Each of us have something unique to contribute to the world.

  16. Disagree that the drawing would have been a mere warming up. More likely the drawing would be importing graphic (or gestural) ideas from previous painting not satisfactorily resolved.

  17. 13:13 "I just attacked the problems, but guess what, now there are new problems." Sounds like the story of my life…well at least parts of it. I guess life is a painting. I absolutely loved this lesson. It gave me butterflies in my tummy.

  18. Advice for young artist. Yes study other’s art and learn there techniques but don’t paint like others. The biggest insult you can get is you paint like so and so.

  19. "Accepted chaos is how some of the most beautiful marks evolve"

    I really enjoy his tutorials, and the language he uses to explain the techniques he's using is so lovely.

  20. I love listening, watching you! I’m learning so much from you! Thank you! 😀🖼😍 terrye Palm Beach FL

  21. I noticed many of the comments her today that people watching abstract painting find it disturbing that he filled the brush with much paint, or he did this, or he did that… if you really want to see the ultimate in abstract painting, that will have you wondering why these recent paintings sell for tens if millions, go to "Gerhard Richter In The Studio", and watch what he does with a 6-foot squeegee as he pulls the paint across the canvas, and he does this over and over, as the painting changes and changes and changes..
    At times you may think wow, what a masterpiece nearly twenty feet in length, why did he smear more paint over it?… why didn't he stop 10 or 20 minutes ago, and just leave it and sign it? …

  22. Paint like de Kooning?.. why in heavens name would you want to?!
    de Kooning and Schnabel – two of the most woeful painters to ever pick up a brush. Wretched stuff.

  23. well i appreciate the mixing tips and i understand the concepts. but i lok at it and i know i would run away from de kooning. for miles and miles.

  24. Thank you for this video. I’m a self taught artist and literally watch every few weeks.
    You have encouraged my soul to keep painting, even when my hands don’t work.
    Pure Expression/Abstract is the action, the record of thoughts while performing, held for eternity.

  25. I always feel that modern art is jus slapping a bunch of paints together hehehe 🙂 what an interesting clip 🙂

  26. at about 10:28 he speaks of "a very artificial line coming straight down… a very linear element… aligning in a very vertical way, .". he doesn't seem to change that very much, except with a curving line/mass near the top and near the bottom of the vertical line. but maybe it's 'enough'?

    most importantly though, as tezrh said a yr ago (below) "Your aim as a art student should always be to learn the basic techniques you need so that you can start speaking with your own voice, not to begin by imitating another artists language."

  27. I sincerely doubt that the under drawing was a kind of mindless "warm-up." Typically this kind of drawing in gestural and abstract painting is used to begin to think about the division and composition of the canvas and is a record of this process. A plain rectangular canvas has no character, so this part is crucial to guide the mind into the path of discovery and creation… from nothing to something. Then as you work these lines re-emerge and in many ways tie the temporal aspects of process back into itself.

  28. This is why I love this century so much. Legendary musea, explaining how to paint like Willem de Kooning in high quality video format, delivered to your doorstep for free on YouTube. This is just amazing right?

  29. Absolutely enjoyed this insightful glimpse into the creative process. Well done, Mr. Corey. Would love to see more. 🙂

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