How D.P. Brown Makes A Painting

To see Dan Price Brown paint is to get a glimpse of Flemish and Dutch painters of the 17th century. Like his painterly ancestors, he paints by natural light. Even his most modest work studios have featured good access to perfect northern light. His materials include a clean sheet of glass to mix his palette; a row of jars containing dry powdered pigments; china saucers for wet paint and a small container for egg yolk. Dan uses small sable brushes to apply the resulting pigment to a pristine white, smooth board which he has prepared himself with five or six coats of gesso that is finely finished with sand paper and emery paper and then lightly polished with a damp cotton cloth. He often glazes the finished work with a mixture of egg white and water to enhance the natural sheen.

The concept for a work takes months to ruminate. Photographs are studied. Sketches are made. All ideas are fully explored and considered before the rigorous simplification process of removing clutter from the composition begins. When that process is complete and prior to applying paint to surface, Dan very thoroughly and completely develops the composition on paper to guide his work on the painting.

The process of painting with egg tempera is slow and meticulous. In Dan's case, this methodical approach is exaggerated as he tends to focus on one painting at a time; only beginning a new work when the previous one is truly completed. It is not a medium that allows for painting in white-hot or seemingly careless gestures that one associates with expressionistic painting. The works take months to complete depending on size. When asked how long it took to make a painting, Dan usually responds: "Too long."

Early in his career Dan drew from life models but abandoned that approach to work from his own photographs exclusively. He uses the camera to capture images which he then modifies to meet his needs either for purely composition purposes (e.g. for balance) or for "the idea". Dan says: "I take photographs with a camera but I make pictures." Even when commissioned to paint a specific subject, be it a person or a building or a landscape, Dan does not create an image which would be captured by a camera or copied from a photograph. A commissioned portrait of an individual may incorporate any number of contemporary or historical details from that person's life. A landscape painting may offer a perspective or highlighted details unseen before its creation.

Occasionally a drawing created in preparation for a painting or serigraph is completed as a finished work. It is important to understand that those works are preparatory drawings and are not always exactly the same as the finished painting. A figure may have a different stance. In some cases there may be multiple studies each showing the figure in multiple poses. The background is often significantly different, usually simpler. Those completed "studies" are released to the market or retained in the artist's own collection. All other sketches and exploratory drawings are destroyed.

Dan admires the skill of a draughtsman. He has made egg tempera his medium of choice; he says it is like drawing with colour. Dan also appreciates the durability of the medium; colour integrity is not compromised with age. Ironically though, an egg tempera painting must be protected for the first few years to prevent scratches or bruises. This can be accomplished by applying a varnish or framing behind glass. Dan does not apply a varnish as it compromises the natural sheen derived from the egg; rather he frames behind museum glass(*) and recommends that the glass be maintained for at least the first five years.

(*) There are several brands. It is the highest quality of glass offering protection to the work from UV rays, moisture and knocks & rubs; it is anti-reflectant and hence the viewing experience is not compromised by reflections. It is the glass used in art museums.

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