I have thought, and commented, several times that the first few minutes of a painting or drawing is the most important and today after being influenced by an online post I did two hours of grisaille figure painting starts.

Studio Incamminati was founded by Nelson Shanks and his wife years ago and it was only today I found the schools blog with lots of posts and tons of great information.

Stephen Early, oil sketch
Stephen Early, oil sketch

The above sketch by Stephen Early was where my search started. I wanted to find out how he achieved the wonderful color and value relationships in such a simple yet superbly accomplished painting. This soon lead me to find out that Stephen Early teaches at Studio Incamminati and eventually this blog post that goes through the process. Basically a very limited palette of white, burt sienna and ultramarine blue is used to build up a very simple grisaille drawing of the figure. In another post a different palette is indicated, “a mixture of cadmium red, cadmium yellow, titanium white and a small amount of ivory black”. I believe this 4 color palette plus burnt umber was used for the painting above. But the important part is not the colors but the working and thought process.

Needless to say I was influenced by these posts and my motivation was further codified by this post  in which the student indicates that the studio has them do “thousands” of starts. This is a literal number, and a nice challenge/goal to work towards. Hence after all this reading the following painting ensued.

Grisaille Figure Painting Starts, 30 minute
30 minute
Grisaille Figure Painting Starts, 30 minute
30 minute painting
Grisaille Figure Painting Starts, 20 minutes
20 minutes
Grisaille Figure Painting Starts, 20 minutes
20 minutes
Grisaille Figure Painting Starts, 20 minutes
20 minutes

I had a ton of fun doing these and I’m going to add the process to my “Can Do List” and try and incorporate it into my weekly process. I have so many “can do” options that I can choose from I could fill a whole day with art without repeating any.


  • Session: 1215
  • Work: 1041
  • Width: 10"
  • Height: 8"
  • Medium: Oil
  • Location: Home
  • Art Time: 2
  • Creative Time:



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Chris Beaven

I am an Artist and a programmer currently living in the amazing state of Washington. I have a passion for art, but I'm stubborn as hell with it. My day is complete only when I do some piece of art each day, no matter how small. "There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile."