‘Artistes Magazine (Grand Palais Editions)’ about the painting technique by Kuzmin.
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"Artistes Magazine (Grand Palais Editions)" about the painting technique by the Russian artist Nikolai Kuzmin.



October 2012

Step by step, entering the material

Nikolai Kuzmin, oil with palette knife
Unctuousness of the oil.

Photos: Christophe Audebert


When he comes to France to his daughter Luba’s home, the Russian painter Nikolai Kuzmin likes going to the ponds of Corot, in the Fausses-Repose forest close to Versailles. The reflections on the calm water of the pond, the houses lost in nature, the delicate pink flowers of white water lilies floating on the surface are great sources of inspiration to him. Before setting up and opening his easel box, he paces the place, makes little sketches with a felt pen, until he finds the most suitable point of view to him. “Walking by allows one to think, to tame the landscape.” Nikolai Kuzmin, highly concentrating, paints in one session, doing his best to catch the “soul of the place”. He will not carry on with his canvas even if he gets back to this place. He prefers starting a new painting.

“I want to keep the memory of a fleeting instant. I paint the truthfulness of the moment.” Depending on his inspiration Nikolai Kuzmin paints with a light or heavy stroke. After a first very fluid coat, he immediately lays thicker colour strokes. At the end of his work he goes back over his lines to enrich his tonalities, to emphasize the shapes.

Keen on the motif, the Russian artist Nikolai Kuzmin paints in oils with a generous stroke, modeling the matter with the sharp and the flat sides of his palette knife.


Small house at the ponds of Corot.
Oil on canvas,
58 x 58 cm (22.8 x 22.8 inches), 2012.

1. Nikolai Kuzmin cleans his canvas with methylated spirit to take the grease out. He sketches his composition with charcoal crayon, then softens his lines again with methylated spirits, in order to prevent the charcoal powder from making his colours dirty. Wash-painting with very diluted blue and phthalo green, he paints the deepest masses.

2. Once he has finished this preliminary stage, Nikolai Kuzmin moves on to his palette knife work. First he puts the bright colours. The sky is painted with pinkish tones, the tree foliage with grey-green tones he gets by mixing blues and yellow ochre.

3. The artist makes mixtures on his palette only. He starts putting his strokes in a spaced out way, leaving the canvas visible in places. In this way he limits the stacking of coats of paint, which always presents the risk of dirtying his colours.

4. The trees in the background, painted in a deep mixture of phthalo green and blue, delimit the outlines of the house. This colour can be found in the reflection on the pond. The painter ordinarily works with the flat side of the palette knife, and uses the edge to draw lines, such as tree trunks.

5. At the finishing stage, Nikolai Kuzmin puts smaller strokes, filling the free areas of the canvas. In this way he creates gradations of colours, details (such as the house windows). He takes care not to smooth his lines, so as to retain all the effects of his material.

His material

Oils: titanium white, nickel titanium yellow, cadmium yellow medium, yellow ochre, red paint cadmium, vermillion red, carmine, red ochre, bright violet, cobalt blue, phthalo blue

Medium: turpentine, pig bristle brush, methylated spirits, duster

The palette of the artist

The colours he mainly uses:

'cobalt blue' colour cobalt blue
'cobalt green' colour cobalt green
'nickel titanium yellow' colour nickel titanium yellow
'cadmium yellow medium' colour cadmium yellow medium
'carmine' colour carmine
'red ochre' colour red ochre

Born in 1938 close to the Volga. Studies in the Moscow Academy of Arts. Has exhibited in Europe (London, Germany, France) since 1995. Present in the museum of contemporary Russian art (New York) and in the Maison des muses (Matthieu Dubuc) art gallery in Rueil-Malmaison.

Valérie Auriel


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