Friday, May 11, 2012

Knife Painting Techniques

Lately I have gotten interested in palette knife painting. Years ago I used to do some, and I still use a palette knife occasionally but it's mostly done along with brushwork. But nothing is "breaking the rules" in painting as far as I'm concerned. An artist can use anything- even elbows if they want to!

I recently saw Barbara Flowers doing her wonderful and inspiring palette knife painting demo in Florida during our Women Painters of the Southeast (WPSE) show and got interested in doing palette knife work again. Here is a beautiful loose painting by Barbara who served as our show judge just in case if you are not familiar with her work:

Teaching Pallet Knife Painting...
So this past week I brought fresh pears to my painting class and taught palette knife for this weeks lesson. I was not sure what the students would think as I have not even talked about palette knife painting with them. And since I have never taught this - I looked back to my painting image files to find some of my own works done in palette knife. Here are a few along with my thoughts about how I did them:

 I did this one in 2005. I used to sell wholesale to a decorator store in Tupelo- Staggs Interiors. Staggs sold my work exclusively somewhere from around 2002- 2006, and they  sold a LOT of my work. It was wonderful and I would produce many of these little 5x7 and larger paintings that they used in decorative frames. These little pear paintings look great stacked in dining rooms and above other larger paintings, and were reasonably priced and very affordable. 

 As I told my class, there are several thing that I love about palette knife painting:
  • Mixing colors is easy. Piles of paint are easily blended on the palette - or even on the painting itself - to make loose layers that show the colors underneath.
  • You can easily paint right over an existing painting that you dislike, because you are using thicker paint and texture just adds to it's visual appeal.
  • Due to the thickness of the paint -it's easy to scrape out and re- apply another swipe of color on top of what you're correcting. 
  • Adds detail and texture to the painting
  • They are quick to do and studio clean up is easy
  • Palette knife painting is a "natural" way to make very LOOSE paintings. 

 Here is another painting that I did around 8 years ago...

This was so much fun to do! I enjoyed doing the reflected lights by adding a  in the shadow area by mixing right into the paint on the canvas. Here is a detail of that:

Looking at the detail, it reminds me of pastel paintings that I used to do back then, the mixing of the colors directly on the surface of the painting and "smushing" borders of objects to soften the edges. This style painting is so natural, easy and almost intuitive for me to do for some reason. I don't know why I stopped.
I also used the end of the knife to add color to make the surface of the cantaloupe in the sunlight:

I believe that a palette knife exercise is good for artists to try occasionally. It gets you out of your comfort zone and opens your eyes to the wonderful freeing feeling of painting if you find yourself getting "tight" with your brush work. 

Here is another knife painting of mine...

And some detail:

The photo above was made prior to varnishing, but you get the idea. In this one I also used a brush to drag paint around on the painting. I like texture in my palette knife paintings that I don't usually put in my other works. It gives the observer some "up close" detail that they can enjoy. 

Here is my demo from my class last week. It is 5x7 and is available unframed for only $75 plus tax in MS -and actual shipping if anyone is interested.  It looks great framed!...But would also look good on an easel... I am going to start selling these small works on my own to raise money to be able to go to southern France to paint next year! Contact me at artist@dotcourson.com if you are interested in helping the me get to France! 
: )


  1. Hi
    I like all your paintings, and your dog!

    1. Marietjie, I thank you, and my dog Cane thanks you! : ) - Dot