Saturday, November 3, 2012

Palette Knife Painting

Nude in Grey and Rose
16 x 12
There's a look to palette knife paintings: rough, chunky and, in the worst instances, repetitive.  It's always made me wary of overusing the knife in a painting and so I've reserved it for embellishment at the end of the painting.  It's been what I used to lay in that last bold, dramatic mark.

Then I watched this incredible demo by Sharon Sprung on the Art Students League NY Youtube channel.  Using large knives, augmented with brushes, Sprung creates a subtle nude in front of her class.  I was amazed!  And of course, I had to try. This painting is the result.

I used the largest knives I could for each area in a bid to keep the piece open and loose, and I laid the paint on thickly but modified it, especially at the edges, with the brush and the knife.  Sometimes the paint got too thick, but scraping it down revitalized the area and made it possible to rework it.

What I noticed was the luminosity that I got in the skin.  The paint went on smoothly, without brushstrokes, filling the linen weave, and created very clean colour.  Whereas I normally layer many colours with broken brushstrokes to create skin, this method meant that the paint totally covered previous colours, mixing down into them and smoothing the whole thing out.  It's a very different approach and appearance; the skin is reminiscent of Fechin's portraiture (he, apparently, smoothed skin by licking his palette knife and then stroking the surface; a practise that resulted in a case of lead poisoning).

I won't ditch the brushes, but I feel I've added something to my repertoire of marks with this painting and that's always a good thing.

Happy painting!

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