Friday, July 4, 2014

Plein air two ways

Palette knife demo
6 x 8

8 x 10
Recently, my students and I spent our final class day in a nearby wetland area, enjoying the sound of the birds and the sparkle on the water.

The day started ominously, and I was wondering if we could endure the cold wind and brooding skies for the full day, but this is Calgary, and weather changes.  By lunch, we'd peeled off our jackets and were basking in the sunshine.

The first painting that I did was a palette knife painting demo using a 4" triangular knife (why use a little tool when you can use a large one?)  The painting has some brushwork because there's no sense in being dogmatic about things, but most of it is knife work.

I toned the panel with red to start, hoping it would inject some much-needed warmth into the grey scene as well as modify all of the blues and greens towards greyer hues.  I'd intended to cover most of this underpainting, but found that I loved the broken marks that the knife made as I spread local colour over it, so I left a bunch of it behind.

The key to using the knife is to use it in a variety of ways.  Too many palette knife paintings feel monotonous because the tool was only used in one way.  This demo has the knife used to scrape, burnish, drizzle, and slather paint on.  Knives have the advantage of allowing you to get lots of paint on quickly and cleanly: a huge help when the light is changing by the minute.  And it's really fun.

The second painting is more typical of my style, but it had the benefit of being done over an old painting. I'd scraped off any impasto and knew that the painting was generally thin by the depth of the weave visible under the paint, so I could gauge how thickly I needed to work to respect the fat over lean rule.  My medium was pure oil, helping to ensure that no lean layers went down.

The nice thing about painting over a painting is that you're in the thick of things very quickly.  I find that I mix generous piles of paint from the start, knowing that I have to obliterate most of the underpainting.  There's also no sense of preciousness at any point; the painting I'm covering is a dud, so why worry?  The resulting free brushwork and dense colour made me happy.

It was a great way to mark the end of the course and we all went home tired, but content, and with plenty of good paintings.  I'm glad we hung in there.

Happy painting!


Susan Birgeles said...

Thank you, Ingred. Had lost my way listening to painfully realistic teachers. You have reminded me how much I love colorful, expressive works. Your article in International artist this month is what directed me to your website. Great article.
Great work.

Ingrid Christensen said...

Thank you, Susan! I know what you mean about "painfully realistic"; it can be tough for people of our aesthetic in a world that seems, increasingly, to value photo realism.
I look to people like Manet, Cezanne, Modigliani and Van Gogh. They seem as revolutionary now as they did in their own times, and they have endured. Their works are as exciting now as they were then.