Description of the Chamberlain Method


The so-called Chamberlain Method studio process for creating monotype oil paintings on paper involves a light table, several carefully positioned overhead mirrors, an etching press,and a variety of improvised and specially adapted hand-tools - including spatulas, kitchen implements, combs, rollers, straws for blowing, and (especially) our hands and fingers. No brushes are used in making these unconventional oil paintings.

My duett partner and I paint on a transparent surface with light coming through from the back: a clear polycarbonate plate (like Lexan) with chamfered edges is affixed face up to the light table with water droplets (surface tension). The surrounding glass tabletops serve as paint palates, and hold the blended pigments that are employed to make the painting.

Angled overhead mirrors positioned in six locations allow us to view the images we createfrom varying perspectives and, since we work flat, from a distance. They also allow us to interpret what the painting will look like after it has been run through the press and converted into a mirror-image of the original (so we learn to work backward and inside-out).

Satisfied that the painting composition is finished (when it can no longer be improved) we move the plate from the light table to the press and crank it through by handwith a sheet of moistened French Canson-Montgolfier paper carefully positioned on top.

Under ideal studio conditions – when the paper is properly wet, the paint has just the right viscosity, the roller pressure is exactly adjusted (and the moon is in the right location) –the painted image comes off the plate and is transferred perfectly onto the paper.

Since all the paint is removed from the original plate there can be no additional prints made (hence the term mono-type), and since no part of the original image can be used again in any way the one-of-a-kind artwork is referred to as a monotype oil painting (not a mono-print).

As with most fine art, artful mark-making is part of the visual lexicon; and our goal is to make virtuoso marks – exquisite images that are skillful, sophisticated and extraordinary. We can imagine these compositions as sculptural paintings and we endeavor to give thema feeling of depth and dimensionality, carving and forming the paint (and light).

We often use our hands and fingers as the ultimate mark-making tools, for there is exceptional control of these mediums: we can feel the density of the marks as we make them, we can hear the squeak of our fingers as they move the around and through the paint and newly developed imagery, we can sense the layers of paint as they are built up and applied.

The goal is to be the paint, to be inside the image, to generate something honest and true. It is no accident that these paintings are considered unique in the field, for the process is unorthodoxand embodies aspects of painting (original compositions in oil), drawing (artful marks madeby hand on paper) and graphics (embossed images run through an etching press).

Experts often wonder how we can achieve these effects in just one pass through the press…. and that is part of the magic.

— David Chamberlain