I Love Palette Knives

I think that I shall never see,
A painting tool so right for me.

Though people often use the term palette knife when referring to any type of metal blade used for painting, there is a difference between a true palette knife and a painting knife (yep, I got that right off the internet). However, I’ll let you do the research if you’re interested. It’s really not that important. They can all be used to paint with (even the cheap plastic ones, if you’re on a budget).

The Love Affair Begins

Less than a year ago, I rarely used palette knives. I was mainly a brush painter. Then I met cold wax. Cold wax set me up with palette knives. At first we just played around and watched a lot of videos. I had no idea how strong the attraction would be. I just couldn’t stay away. I had to know more. I had to be with them… use them.

Now, palette knives are now my first choice when making art and are perfect for my preferred method/style of painting (whether using oils or acrylics). It’s fascinating to see what can be done with palette knives and different mediums. The layering, the scraping, the marks they can make. It’s quite exciting. I LOVE my palette knives.

Other reasons I love them are: they are not expensive, versatile, can take a lot of abuse, and are easy to clean. You can paint big and bold, or small and precise. (It just takes practice.) They aren’t limited to the traditional oils and acrylics either. I’ve seen them used by a watercolor artist. Yes, watercolors. Who knew? Someone experimented and it worked.

Where Did they Come From?

I’ve often wondered how this painting tool came into existence. I mean, did someone notice a bricklayer with a trowel and think “hey, I can slap a LOT of paint on a canvas with one of those!”

I don’t know.

I do know that palette knives can be traced back to the 17th century and were most likely first used to mix paint on the… tadaa.. palette. (Bet you saw that coming!) They were also used to scrape paint off of the canvas. (Made a mess? Using Oils? Still wet? Scrape it off!) By the 18th century, the palette knife was a popular tool with artists and they were widely used. Somewhere along the way, this handy dandy tool went from being a tool used just to mix or scrape off paint to being refined into a tool of many shapes and sizes for creating a painting. Just like brushes.

Want a Storage Tip?

My knives.

Go to someplace like Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Harbor Freight and look for a magnetic strip used for holding small tools. Attach it within reach of your painting area. The metal blades of the palette knives will attach to the strip. Gets them up and out of the way, yet keeps them close for when you need one.

Did I say I love them?

Taking the Plunge and Investing in Myself

This is the year I decided to step up and invest in myself. To put myself out there. To get my artwork in front of the public. And, sometimes, this requires spending some money. Investments are rarely cost free.

It wasn’t an easy decision. I had been full of doubts about whether or not I was “there yet”. When the opportunity first presented itself this past summer to become a part of the local art gallery (which had become a co-op of local artists) I let the doubts creep in and I passed it up. I spent the next six months kicking myself.

My Step One: Ignore the Doubts and Jump In

So… when I found out last November that they were still taking artist applications to join, I didn’t hesitate. No more kicking myself. I presented my work, made it in, and signed a six month financial commitment. Was it scary? You bet! Let me repeat… it was a financial commitment. What if nothing sold? I’m in a gallery with over 40 other artists/artisans and with people who are well known around North Texas. Boy was I nervous.

I also felt very vulnerable. When you put yourself out there, no matter what your creative thing is, you get viewed (and critiqued) by others. Others who usually have no clue about the process, the practice, the techniques, or the cost of what goes into what you have created. They only know what they like. Unless, of course, they too are an artist because artists know.

So… I hung my first artworks in December at the gallery. Has it been worth the monthly fee to have space there? YES! My work is selling and I do a happy dance for every one of them. I take nothing for granted.

My Step Two: More Public Interaction (Getting to Know Me)

I just took part in the indoor Winter Art Fest here locally. Step number 2 of putting myself out there. Participate in more public events. (Of course now, depending on how that darn virus spreads, that may take a backseat for a time.) Relationships are important and I need to cultivate them! Anyway, I don’t have to get into all events, just those that work for me, my schedule, and my pocketbook. As a lot of you know, there are lots of events that don’t involve any financial commitment to participate but are a great way to get your name and work out there. I’ve got several in mind for where I live.

My Step Three: Invest in Simple Advertising

I have started giving out business cards instead of leaving them in my purse. (If you prefer, you can just call them introduction cards.) They are the cheapest way to advertise what you do. If you are on Facebook (or Instagram) and have a page for your artwork or other creative outlet, it won’t break the bank to make a post and then boost it for a week to an audience that meets YOUR criteria. Social media is a great way to promote what you do. However, I’m a little concerned about Pinterest. Seems a lot of people find their artwork getting swiped from there and showing up where it shouldn’t. Anyway, I know it’s a slow process to get noticed and I don’t expect instant success.

My Step Four: I Don’t Have One

The steps above should suffice for now. I believe in myself and I’ve worked hard to get where I am in my art journey. I love what I’m doing. I am now investing in myself so others might love what I’m doing and invest in me as well.

Now, if you’re ready, go out and invest! Invest in yourself!

Walk This Way: Following Your Path.

Walk This Way

When I was younger, I loved hiking. I actually still do, though my stamina is really crappy now. Anyway…. not the serious gotta have a backpack, camping gear, GPS, bear repellant, etc. kind of hiking. I’m talking about the kind where you just go out and follow a path or two through a state park, local park, or the woods behind your house. There’s something freeing about venturing forth, water in hand, to just explore where the path leads you.

Life is full of paths too.

Following Your Path: Have a Plan

Here’s the thing with me and maybe with you too. I don’t blindly forge ahead. I make sure that the path I want to take is doable. I don’t want to get lost or hurt following it. So I plan… usually. Yes, it’s exciting to step off the path and see “what’s over there”, as long as you keep a firm eye on where you were, so you can get back on it. Lost is not a fun thing to be.

Following Your Path: Keep Moving

Your career, your hobby, your art, your hike in the woods should never be stagnant. Not moving gets you nowhere. Enjoy the stops to rest, explore, enjoy the view…. but keep moving forward. When I look at my artwork from years ago to where I am now, I see all the paths I took to get here. And I see how I kept moving forward. Occasionally, I see where I got off the path, but I managed to get back on it. I didn’t give up getting to where I wanted to go and I’m still exploring as I journey on.

So… follow your path, plan for new ones, take a break if needed, but keep moving.

Painting Trees: The Tree Amigos

I love trees. I find myself including them more and more in my paintings, which is a real change for me because I never felt good at doing so in the past. However, you know what they say about practice. Thousands of people regularly paint trees so obviously there’s a lot of practice going on. Painting trees is hugely popular with artists. So many interpretations! Trees are also a popular subject with poets and other writers.

Advice From A Tree

Stand tall and proud.
Sink your roots into the earth.
Be content with your natural beauty.
Go out on a limb.
Drink plenty of water.
Remember your roots.
Enjoy the view.
– Ilan Shamir

The Tree Amigos: It Didn’t Start This Way!

When I started this one, I had no intention of painting trees. It actually began with the idea of a rainy day and a child under an umbrella. That’s all. No trees. Just a little girl ( which became two) under a large umbrella. And that’s what I did! I had mixes of blues, violets, grays, whites on my palette and with my palette knives, laid on my background then when dry enough, added the figures. However, the composition bothered me. Therefore, I swiped through it all, removed a lot of the paint, and in the chaos of colors I saw a street scene. I worked that idea for a while, but didn’t like that either. It just didn’t speak to me. Actually it did speak to me… it said “noooooo”. So I scraped and wiped and re-swiped the colors and sat back and just looked at it for several minutes. That’s when I started seeing trees in the shapes. Trees and water and sky. So I started developing the shapes and moving colors around. In the end, I had a painting of three trees which I finally named The Tree Amigos.

Speaking of Trees

If you google it, you’ll find that there are over 60,000 tree species in the world. The ten most common in the U.S. are the Red Maple, the Loblolly Pine, Sweetgum, Douglas Fir, Quaker Aspen, Sugar Maple, Balsam Fir, Flowering Dogwood, Lodgepole Pine, and the White Oak.

A lot of lovely subjects if you like painting trees. I guess I had better get to practicing.

Evolution of an Unplanned Painting

Plan? What Plan?

Most of the artists I know start with a plan. They sketch out what they intend to paint, either from real life, a photo, or a design they come up with. It’s probably the smarter thing to do; however, that’s not usually how it works for me. I tend to just “wing it”. I find I get a lot more enjoyment out of a session if I just slap down some marks and colors, then step back and just look at it for a few minutes. Because within those few minutes, I start seeing things and what is on the canvas starts to “talk to me” (not literally, I’m not hearing things… most of the time… that would be creepy).

I Start With Colors

I mixed up a palette of blues and lavenders, then threw in some white and black. After several minutes of moving colors around, shapes started to form. I backed up and stared at it as I began to see either a treeline or rocks and what might be a horse in the foreground of the painting. Yay! A start!

I Look At Shapes

As you can see, the black area did not want to be a treeline. It wanted to be rocks and cliffs. (Okay, my brain wanted it to be rocks and cliffs.) So, I added oranges and browns to my color palette and worked on the main shapes. The horse shape is still there since I think I can work with that.

Now, however, the horse bolted and two cows showed up. Again, I am letting the scene evolve as I play with it. By this point, I have a good idea where I’m going to wind up. Some kind of a Southwest scene. Memories of Arizona now start running through my head.

Get Along Little Doggies

The cows drove me nuts. On this particular day, I could not get the illusion of bovines on my canvas. So off they went to graze somewhere else. The evolution of this unplanned painting is almost complete. I just need to work a bit on the foreground and keep the animals corralled.

The Final Painting?

I’d like to say this is where I wound up, but as usual, after letting it sit for a week I did come back and do a little more touching up where I felt it needed it. I’d show you, but the changes aren’t that much.

To end with an update… the painting now has a mat and is framed. For this one, the evolution is complete.