Getting to Grips with the Knife!

‘Reveal’: verb – make known.

Recently I have made some new discoveries using the palette knife that are challenging the way I paint the ground and build up  layers. I think more traditional oil painters will throw their arms up in horror but this approach is really working for me and I want to explore it more.

It is my understanding that traditional oil painters start off using fairly dark layers, gradually getting lighter as the painting progresses, using the lightest lights ( and the darkest darks) in the foreground. I have veered away from this approach, partly because I don’t like to start off too dark anyway, but more because I have started using the palette knife to suggest fine grasses and scrub land by scraping back a layer to reveal a lighter layer underneath.

Many painters use a palette knife to thickly apply paint but my interest is more about using the knife to scrape back and take away.

I paint a lighter tone first and let it dry. This is followed by darker tones which again are left to dry. Then I use the palette knife to scrape very fine lines suggesting the foliage.

I will then go back in with a rigger brush to further suggest foliage with flicks of paint and fine lines in between the knife marks. This is developed further with a small round brush putting in spots of really dark colour in between the clumps of grass to create depth and suggest the base of the clumps of vegetation. I may scrape off more paint to add to the suggestion of depth.

It means I have to plan a bit more the order I build up layers and what colour and tone I use at different stages. As well as using this technique in the foreground foliage, I also want to explore more use of the palette knife in other parts and at earlier stages of the painting to create line, suggest shape and form, and to change tone, maybe moving to more semi-abstract which will be really exciting!

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