How Do YOU Change Painting Method to DMP

I have only been painting 3-1/2 years and still learning a lot . 


I did do one painting that sort of followed Mark's method and it turned out great, but it was blended too much.  I'm totally fascinated by DMP method and have tried setting up a still life and painting it from life but have had a hard time even getting the drawing onto the canvas using the porportional divider and pointing it to the still life from the same distance away every time I make a mark.  The lighting in my little studio throws ambient light into the lightbox no matter how I have set things up and still have enough light on my easel to see the painting. Even made myself a homemade colo checker.

There is also the issue of finding TIME TO PAINT.  I have only completed three paintings so far this year and it is killing me that I don't have more to show for the five months that have flown by this year.  Lots for me to do in life, taking care of my disabled husband, a little hobby farm, cook, clean, laundry, and on and on, ad nauseum.  I have learned one way of painting and really REALLY wish I could get into the DMP method and use larger brushes and still turn out beautiful work.  I don't have a quiet place to paint either, so adjusting myself mentall takes great effort most days that I do paint.  And there are the inevitable interruptions.


1.  Are there other members of this forum who used to paint one way and have switched over to the DMP method? 

2.  How did you break old habits?  How did you unlearn something? 

3.  Did you attend one of Mark's classes in person or purchase his lessons (I  I am aware that here is enough on the website to give all instruction anyone could ever need or want)? 

4.  Do you always use a proportional divider (difficult pointing it from the exact same distance to the still life every single time for me)? 

5.  Do you have to use traditoinal oil paints when employing the DMP method or will alkyd oils do okay? 

I guess I'm just frustrated right now.  I feel like the clock is ticking more loudly lately.


  • You sound just like me.  I sometimes wonder how I ever turn out anything.  I did go to Austin several years ago and took Mark's course.  It was the best thing I ever did. If you can apply his methods, and go slowly it will benefit you immeasurably.  There was a very distinct difference in my paintings after the class.  Don't give up.  I completely understand about the interruptions.  There is no way I could paint all day, much less, several days in a row.  We just have to do the best we can.
  • A_Time_To_Paint - 

    What an interesting topic. BTW, I also am the caretaker of my disabled husband. This is my primary responsibility, not watching Mr. Carder’s videos in the correct sequence  :)   I have been painting off and on for over 50 years, and I am still learning a lot. I don’t want to reach the end of my learning.

    I retired in 2019, and promptly put into action my plan to improve my painting. My landscape composition was unsatisfactory to me, so I decided to improve it by design and composition exercises before I resumed painting. In the next 14 months, I put in 1600-1800 hours on this, so 3-5 hours a day most days of the week. I got much better at it but would be happy to get even better. I have no natural ability at this. Oddly enough, I can compose still lifes easily and rather well. Go figure. During this time, I did NOT paint.

    My composition improvement plan was not Mr. Carder’s, but one I designed myself based on what I thought were my weaknesses. I put together a list of formal design elements and for each composition, I wrote out what each of the elements were, how they were different from the photo I was using, and what the results were. On my computer, I played with variations and decided which one worked best and why.   (here they are if anyone is interested)

    Entrance to picture:       

    Armature: overall height/width ratio, size of painting, central focal points and overall flow:      





    Contrast and edges:                   

    Warm and cool:                          

    So, when I started to see that I was getting better at landscape composition, I next turned my attention on studio stuff, and that’s when I started watching Mr. Carder’s videos and reading this forum. I have not been systematic and disciplined about this. I am, however, consciously trying to break my bad habits and try the new ways. I take notes when watching the videos so I can make the correct set up from the first.

    So far, I have built a shadow box; bought and use new brighter and color balanced lights for both shadow box and painting; bought a cheap light meter that I have had a lot of fun measuring light in different places in my home; measured and marked off the best distances and angles between lights, painting, palette, still life, etc. I also set my easel for a completely vertical painting plane, which is still feeling unnatural to me. I put together a cheapo vertical palette. I hung cheap black floor-to-ceiling fabric. (I need to order a black velvet smock. Just kidding)

    I have REALLY struggled with the whole lumens/lux/illumination set up. I will likely continue to change it until I find what works for me. If this is different than what is recommended here or in Mr. Carder’s videos, so be it. This may be a bad habit, or it may just be reality. Time will tell. So far, my changes are much better than what I used in the previous 50 years (!!!). So thank you Mr. Carder. 

    I break bad habits by accepting that something is a bad habit, paying attention to it, designing an improvement plan, and then executing it. I observe my results closely, and try not to cheat by telling myself that something isn’t too bad. I accept that bad habits of some sort are part of painting life. For me, the process of creating a painting is important to me, so I will have more patience than if I was focused on just getting to a finished product which I will like. If I finish 1 painting a year that I think is pretty good, that is fine with me. If I finish none, that’s OK too.

    I have not purchased Mr. Carder’s lessons or videos.

    I do not (yet) use a proportional divider. I was taught in art school to use my thumb and the paint brush handle to measure angles and proportions. I made a series of small rectangular cut-outs from cheap black matt board in proportions which match standard frame size ratios: 100% square, 80% (like for 16x20 painting), 75% (18x24 painting), and so on. I use these to help work out compositions by holding it up and looking at the still life through the opening. (hey – it worked for van Gogh!) I have been eyeballing still lifes for so many decades that I’m pretty good at laying in the composition. I usually work out the composition in a small drawing first, so I catch proportion errors this way. However, I still make them sometimes. I will adjust this technique after watching the video on composition.

    Paints: I really dislike the smell of clove oil. I am sensitized to solvents such as turpentine or OMS so I don’t use. I use regular oil paints from commercial oil paint makers, such as in the US Williamsburg or Blue Ridge. I don’t know what alkyd oils are. I sometimes use a little Liquin (which is an alkyd medium containing a little drier) to help stuff dry faster, avoid sinking in of earth pigments (and avoid cracking of slow drying underlayers with pigments like ivory black), and to have a unified surface sheen. I will try just linseed oil, and experiment with the longer open time. I look forward to learning the benefits of this.

    I think that to become better at a skill is an excellent goal by itself. Music, art, cooking, more compassion taking care of one’s spouse – they are all skills which we can get better at. The clock is ticking for all of us, but I don’t care. Each day is an eternity if one has no expectations about finished products. 

    I hope you continue, and as OilPainter 1950 writes, don’t give up.

  • edited May 19
    @A_Time_To_Paint, It sounds like you are being a little harsh on yourself. It also seems like you are doing what you can in terms of painting with everything else you have going on in your life. Thats all we can do really.
    I would consider managing to do 3 paintings this year pretty darn good. Its sounding like you want to be better at it sooner.

    I would say that taking it all very slowly to start with is the way to go, it is only then that you become adept at being more productive. 
    Think of someone playing a really intricate flowing up tempo tune on the piano, they would not have played it like that when learning, indeed they would not have been able to. Give yourself time with each step, anything done by cutting corners shows.

    If there is any time in the week or at weekend that you can time table as being your protected time to paint an hour or two. Have everything set up, as much as possible, so that you can get down to the painting instantly when you need to.

    Can your hobby farm take up a little less time to give to painting, maybe.

    Yes the clock is ticking for us all but be kind to yourself.

    I am sure you will find a way to live up to your user name.


  • edited May 20
    @A_Time_To_Paint, in respect of your first question, I used to try to paint in my own way but the results were not pleasing. I used to try every colour under the sun and blend the life out of everything and end up with mud. I had almost given up when I discovered DMP and Marks videos. I decided I needed to forget everything I thought I knew about painting  and go back to first principles - value, colour, drawing. That changed everything for me.

     I don't follow Mark to the letter any more. He says to go your own way once you get the basics and that's what I've done but it would not have been possible without changing my approach and my work methods to bring them broadly in line with Mark's.

    Your second question about breaking old habits relates to what I mentioned above -  forgetting what you  know and going back to basics  - learning to see and mix colour and to draw.  It was hard work and tedious but that's what I had to do and I'm glad I did it. Just start on simple objects and put bad habits like over blending out of your mind and follow, and trust, the process. Learn what Mark has to teach then go your own way.

    Did I attend one of Mark's classes? No, I couldn't. I would have liked to but I live too far away.  But, as you say, it's all there in his free videos so I didn't really need to.

    I don't use  proportional dividers anymore because I rarely paint still lifes but they were great for that and for portraits. I only paint landscapes now but should I decide to do a portrait or a still life I suspect I would use a proportional divider again if only just to check the proportions of my drawing.

    I use traditional oil paints thinned with walnut oil. I don't use solvents or clove oil because I hate the smell and I like my paint to dry in a couple of days. You should be ok with alkyd oils.

    Finally, I have always wanted to paint and, like you, I could hear the clock ticking louder as I got older. But I was convinced I was no good at it.  It was just a stroke of luck that I discovered DMP.  Now I don't hear the clock ticking anymore because I'm so busy and engrossed in painting. 

    I know that as a carer you can't devote your entire life to painting as I have in retirement so, what time you do get for painting, is precious.  If you follow Mark's teaching then you will have more successes. Before I discovered DMP all of my paintings were failures. Mark's method is a way for us not to waste our precious time.   :)

  • edited May 20
    Step back and think about it . . . the main difference between "regular painting" and Mark's DMP method is that in the first, you use an array of paints from which you mix your colors, and in the DMP method, you use an array of five colors.  Mark's method forces us to think, plan and execute.  What's wrong with that?  In the end, the DMP method closely resembles the Zorn approach which allegedly uses only four colors.
  • edited May 20
    "Think, plan, execute". Yup, that's right on the mark, @broker12.  Mark's is a logical, systematic approach to painting realism and that's why, if beginners follow it, they'll get results. The DMP method is not all that different to what they'd learn at art school. Mark focuses on the basic skills of drawing, learning how to see and mix colour and the actual technique of painting but without all the highfalutin art-speak and the history and esoteric theory they'd encounter at art school. For those who come to painting late (like me) or can't go to art school for whatever reason, the DMP method may not be where they finish but it is the perfect place to start.  :)
  • A bit off topic. Although I don't use Mark's method anymore,  I learned a lot from it. What I value most about his method is that it just gets you started without creating confusion. because all you have to do is follow the steps to the letter.  Simple as that!
    Follow the steps

  • For sure, though I think Mark's method is a lot different from Zorn.  There is a different approach to color harmony.  With Zorn, it is like that musical instrument the Strum Stick where some frets are removed so that you can play any of the notes together, you loose a lot of scope, but you gain a kind of harmony.  Likewise the Zorn colors are of a type that an inharmonious mix is hard to find.  DMP achieves color harmony by different means, The palette is no help at all, but if you copy a subject that is already beautiful, and faithfully reproduce it, then you don't have to worry about learning how to make the paints on your palette work together. That is why both methods work well for beginners but they come at the problem in different ways.  So they solve a similar problem, in different ways.
  • Thank you @oilpainter1950, @Desertsky, @MichaelD, @tassieguy, @Marinos_88, @broker12,and @TamDeal.  I keep reading your comments and can't tell you how much I appreciate your advice and answers to my questions.  I so agree with Mark's method being very strutured and rigid.  It is something beginners truly need when starting out trying to learn how to paint.  Mark's method keeps one on track, on a road that takes them from start to finish, leaving no questions on how to get from point A to point B. 

    It was good to hear that not everyone adheres strictly to DMP method and developed their own style and way of doing things.  The works of art here are just incredible.  Starting to see color, value, learning to draw, all just the basics and those "ah ha" moments.  Art is a lifelong process and hope to never stop learning.  

    This is a great forum and so happy to be a part of it.  Again, thank you everyone for taking the time to respond to this post.  I will be reading and re-reading comments for some time to come.  Your views and as always encourating remarks are so appreciated.

    Happy painting all.
  • Thanks for your post.  Never ever ever worry about painting 'productivity' (as it is not your income or something you have to crank out!).  You will want to give Mark's method a completely fair shake.  Start slow.  Very slow.  Setting up a still life might take 2 days, drawing out with a proportional divider; 3 days.  This is not time ticking by -- this is taking the time to do something slowly and correctly.

    Of course, even the first time as you follow Mark's method, you'll have nuances you'll consider changing that will work better for you personally.  (This definitely was the case for me!)

    All good art takes time -- and that's okay.  There is no rush here.
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