Tired of using paintbrushes? Want to experiment on using other tools in painting? You can try using a painting knife. People confuse a painting knife with a palette knife, the terms are used interchangeably, but when applying paint on a canvas, painting knife is used. Palette knife is used to mix and blend paint colors.
Using a painting knife produces thick, textured art work which is great for creating impasto. Impasto is a painting technique, using a thick application of paint that makes no attempt to look smooth. Most of the times, oil paint is the medium used in knife painting because of its think consistency but acrylics can also be used.
Knife painting can be a liberating technique. It lets you play with paint using the knife to create different depth and texture to the canvas. You need to load more paint that you normally need to the painting knife. You can then rub, squish, scrape, whip, slice, dab, mix the paint and let it sit there on the canvas. Many abstract and impressionist painters use painting knives in painting such as Vincent van Gogh, Willem de Kooning, Hans Hofmann, and contemporary artists Frank Auerbach and Leonid Afremov. Most common subjects in knife painting include architectural structures, landscapes, and man-made objects.
If you’re looking at a painting and you’re not sure whether the impasto technique was used, look at the painting from the side. If you see lumps of paint on the canvas, you’ll be sure that impasto was used.
Here are some beautiful paintings which used painting knives:
Vincent van Gogh created several paintings in his Wheat Fields series. In the painting above, notice the movements of the clouds, trees, and the wheat field. Van Gogh used the impasto technique in this painting, and all the paintings in the series. He used bright, vivid paint colors to convey energy and movement.
Leonid Afremov is a Russian-Israeli modern impressionistic artist known for his use of painting knives in his artworks. He is also known as a self-promoting artist, using the Internet to promote and sell his paintings and not much relying on art galleries and exhibitions. In his paintings, you will see how he effectively used the knife in applying, mixing, and creating images. He was able to develop a painting style distinctly his own.