Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Knife work

Yesterday, I talked about 20 stroke paintings. The oil painters in the workshop did one 20 stroke painting with a large brush and one or two with a palette knife like one of these. Because pastels are no mix, I did three small and two larger paintings in the same time period.

Working with a palette knife is very different than a brush. First off, it takes a lot of paint. Many painters are thrifty with their paint. I've heard the expression, "Paint like you're a millionaire," and that abundance will show in your work. Secondly, to get that quantity of paint, you have to mix, mix, mix a lot of paint in advance. Third, one must be very creative about the angle of the knife, so that all the strokes don't look alike. Fourth, one mustn't get frustrated with the knife; this can be hard as the knife is almost parallel with the canvas, needing more peripheral space versus a brush being almost perpendicular to the canvas..

In fact, as we sat around and did a critique of our little 20 stroke painting, the other ladies said I should use my foot or my left hand for my next one in pastel, that I had not suffered enough. I laughed and said I had suffered, oh I had suffered, just listening to them whine about using the knife! Knife work is hard and it brings out your worst as you're also bringing out your best.

I decided to try oils for the first time outside on Sunday; when you go to a workshop, you're supposed to be proficient in your medium and I figured I was ballsy enough to wing it. The instructor carried over some of the skills from Saturday, skills like knife work that I'd never done before. Heck, all I'd done in oils previously was about three classroom still lifes and one copy in my class last fall. I am not experienced, but there's only one way to get experienced.

I've gotten to where I can give myself latitude in trying new things artistically. I leave the perfectionist at home, as that bitch really gets in the way of creativity and production. So I let things flow, do not judge, and feel strongly that I get more out of it as a result. Not every painting is a masterpiece and it is no crime if they're not. Each is on the journey to the masterpiece, so each is important.

This is my French easel with supplies. It was only the first time I used the umbrella, although I had attempted to use it many times in the past. Umbrellas are a pain to position correctly; it is best to paint with your canvas and palette in the shade. I decided to use cable tie wraps to attach it to the upright and it worked relatively well, except for the time a wind gust sent it all tumbling. Nice. The umbrella now looks used with paint splatters all over the inside.


Our first assignment of the day was to create a small painting using just the knife. I chose this scene because the red tree was nestled in a way that spoke comfort to me. I liked the hue (not visible in the picture) and the mood.

The plein air artist fights many things, one of them being the sun. See how the shadows, colors, and clouds have shifted.


Here's my attempt as using just a palette knife. It's on 6x8 cotton canvas board. Using the knife on a small surface, one must simplify considerably. This is quite bumpy and full of paint. You can see bugs caught on the surface.We then had to use a very large brush and attempt to use it like a palette knife, so heap on paint with minimal fussing over it. We could go back with a palette knife as well. The trick with it was to bring back in some detail, but also figure out what is best to be left out. That takes a lot of experience and it is a challange for me.


I don't love them, but that's not the purpose. I also wish this one didn't slide off the Gessoboard, but for my first oils outside, these will do. One thing I really like is how my style translates from pastel to oil. I can tell I did them both.


Here are some of the other works from workshop mates.


For some, the spontaneity of the palette knife piece worked best, for others it was the larger piece which drew on the experience of painting the first. Either way, we all know that we'll make better use of the palette knife in the future.

6 comments:

Bridge said...

Okay... thats it! I will have to go get all my supplies out and pain. /sigh I did mention that I suck right? LOL.

Gianna said...

I'm still impressed!

evil-e said...

Wow, very good. This is really your first time with oils? I am having a hard time believing this.

I personally love to use the knife...I am a heavy handed artist who likes to "glob it on". I like the textural effects that thick paint can produce.

Keep posting this stuff...I am turning into a fan.

Shinny said...

I like your work. Glad you are back into painting, I know how much you enjoy it. Have you ever done speed painting? That has been the big craze around here and they have been doing bits on the news about it. The big one that was just last weekend was for charity, but there is a group that apparently does this all the time. You get two hours and a certain part of town and go nuts. If I had even a bit of talent I might look into it.

Val said...

Wow, I am still just blown away...
[keep after it GF]

Cricket said...

Bridge - just do it! (Good for you.)

Thanks everybody. Evil-E, I did take a class last fall, so I think I'd done 2-3 still lifes in class and one copy of a painting in class. These are my first attempts outside, but it's not like I am experienced in oils. I have experienced eyes, though.

Shinny, good to see you. I have not heard the term speed painting. Around here, they call it a Paint Out when people gather outside, sometimes strictly prescribed by time and boundaries, sometimes for competition or just viewing. I've not done one, but I should I paint so fast.