When many of us think of painting, we naturally think of brushes. And while most paintings are created by applying paint to a surface using a brush, there are other ways of doing so. Applying thick paints to a surface with a specially designed painting knife is another way to create beautiful paintings that are textured and rich with color. In this tutorial, we'll look at creating a landscape painting using painting knives exclusively.
Painting knives are available in all sorts of shapes and sizes and are manufactured in a variety of materials. Plastic, metal, and wood are the most common materials used for painting knives. A variety of shapes are also available, each with their mark making abilities.
Painting knives allows for large amounts of paint to be applied to the painting surface quickly allowing for textured effects on the surface. When paint is applied in this manner, the technique is referred to as impasto. Impasto is an Italian word that is derived from the same root as "pasta" which literally means "paste". Only certain types of paints are capable of producing the impasto technique. These paints include oils and acrylics. Watercolor, gouache, and tempera are much too thin to accomplish these effects. Therefore, knife painting only applies to oil paintings and acrylic paintings.
Color and value are not the only considerations in creating a successful knife painting. Physical texture also plays an important role. Since the paint is built up on the surface, the painting becomes sculptural. The resulting surface texture effects how light hits the painting and the texture becomes part of the viewer experience. This, of course, is clearly part of the appeal to creating paintings of this nature. As the medium is applied to the surface, the textural marks that are made must be considered since they will enhance the finished look.
Since the paint will be build up, the surface in which a knife painting is completed must be very rigid. Watercolor paper, Bristol Paper, and other papers are much too thin to support a knife painting. Instead, stretched and supported canvas, masonite board, or wood are suitable surfaces.