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Janice Nowinski

Brooklyn NY

About eight years ago I started working from photos that I had taken of people that were important in my life. I usually work with low resolution photographs because I don’t want too much information. I just want an overall sense of something reminiscent of those experiences. I look for things that I can respond to not just for their color, shape and form but that have an emotional trigger for me.


I prefer to work on a smooth surface with little absorbency. The smooth surface can come from many layers of paint that I put on or it could be a prepared board. I’m probably a little bit like Soutine in this area. He apparently liked to paint on aged, discarded canvases that he would find in flea markets and on the roadside. I don’t know if it was necessarily just the tone of the canvas he would respond to, I suspect that he liked jumping in on the middle of somebody else’s conversation and taking over.


Titanium is my main white but I’ve added some cool and neutral whites as well. Old Holland Yellow Light, that a painter gave me as a gift, was a great addition. I’ve since added Old Holland Yellow medium. Thirty years ago, Gretna Campbell advised me to use these kind of colors instead of titanium white to keep my colors from getting chalky. I wish I would have listened to her advice sooner.

My latest paint color crush is Gamblin cadmium green. I have a couple of Williamsburg browns that I use regularly now: Brown Ochre and Brown Pink.

My palettes always end up with mounds of paint surrounding a very tiny area where I mix. The palette in the photograph above is probably going on two years old. I don’t pre-mix my colors but rather mix them as I paint.


My paint medium is the traditional thirds of damar, linseed and turpentine – I sometimes use Gamsol instead of the turp. Lately I’ve been painting with a lot of medium so at the end of the day I have to lay them flat for 20 minutes so they don’t drip.


Many painters I know work with up to 20 brushes at a time. I tend to work with one brush that I like (Raphael Karrell #10). It’s versatile; I can use it sideways or on its point. Since I work small – this brush does what I need it to do. I can draw with it, make different size marks etc. I like the way it changes over time. I use it until it stops giving and then begin with a new one.


I work on many paintings at a time. I always have a still life painting going from life and several others from reproductions of masterworks or photographs that I’ve collected.  I depend on the history of my painting surface to lead me to the next move I make. You could call it “call and response”.  I don’t remove paint. I tend to be additive.

I paint without assumptions and formulas until something happens in the painting that feels real to me and reflects what I was after.

It can take a really long time for a painting to become what I want it to be. It takes a lot of faith and patience. I paint until it resonates as “real”. I am the arbiter of “real”. It’s very satisfying to have that feeling of “rightness” that comes when you’ve expressed something clearly and honestly. When others respond to it as well, that’s a plus.

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