Painting With A Palette Knife

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Finding oneself agonizing over details can be frustrating.

Spending an inordinate amount of time painting and repainting, adding highlights or softening edges can leave an artist discouraged at a piece that never seems to be finished.

Even the artist that paints realism needs to loosen up, at least mentally.

Take a break from painterly brushstrokes and controlled layers of paint. Use your palette knife to create a work of art instead of blending paints.

Shapes And Sizes

There are a wealth of shapes and sizes of palette knives available. Many manufacturers have a wide selection from which to choose. Think of a palette knife as you would a brush, and see what sizes may be suitable for the kind of work you plan to do.

There are a number of different shapes, including diamond head, blunt spatula, oval and various angled edges. They are also available in several different materials, such as steel, stainless steel, anodized steel and plastic. The artist may select from a variety of handle grips, from traditional wood to colorful modern easy-grip rubber. These modern styled knives feature ergonomic shaped handles to make long painting sessions less tiresome for fingers and hands.

There are also two different layouts of knives. One is flat from the tip of blade to the end of the handle. These are used for mixing paints on a palette. The second type has a bend in the base of the shaft, so that the artist can use it damaging his painting with a clumsy knuckle colliding with the surface. This style is used for painting, but it also doubles as a mixing knife.

These tools are not costly, so a student can have a number of them without investing a great deal. Start out with a few in a variety of shapes and sizes, building a collection as experience and skill dictate.

Mediums For Palette Knife Painting

Thick paint works well with this style of painting, so oil and acrylic paints are well suited for palette knife work. This manner of painting is a natural for impasto work, and stiffeners or textural materials can be added to increase density and texture.

Stand oil can be used to thicken oil paint, and there are heavy paste mediums that can be added to increase the density of acrylics. Sand, sawdust and glass bead can be added to either for adding textural interest to areas of the piece.

The thickness can be enhanced by applying several layers of paint. A layer of paint must dry before adding another layer, so patience is necessary when doing heavy texture. Extreme patience is required to attempt this with oil paint.

Techniques For Palette Knife Painting

Manipulating the knife in different ways can give a variety of effects. Practice the treatments on scrap cardboard or discarded pieces to hone your skill in using the blade in different ways.

Use the edge of the blade to slice a line. Load the edge of the knife with paint and drag is across the support. The amount of paint on the knife and the angle at which it is held will determine the width of the line.

Dab the end of a loaded blade on the canvas to make small, impressionistic effects. Using various types of blades and different edges and angles will change the shape and size of the marks. Impressionism is well suited to this kind of paint application.

Paint can be applied directly on the support and spread or manipulated with the palette knife. Paint can also be blended directly on the canvas. This method is a painterly way to do light mixing, leaving some paint unblended.

Sgraffito or scratching paint aside or away from an area is another way to manipulate the paint. Use the edge to draw in lines through the paint or scrape away areas to reveal portions of underlying paint.

Apply large amounts of paint with the blade of the knife, and use a lifting motion to create random ridges of paint. This can be done in stages, building up heavy layers of texture with various colors, some of which will show through randomly.

Using a palette knife may be just the thing to cast off those bonds of tight control. The student should not be so intent on portraying every nuance and detail that he becomes bogged down in minutiae. Even if he returns to representational art, it helps to relax and look at painting from another perspective.

This style of painting is not for everyone, but it is a fun and easy technique to make a bold statement.

Push some paint around for a new twist on creating.

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