Creative advice- 3 easy tips for beginner artists – painting more expressively using a palette knife

When an acrylic seascape painting was going horribly wrong, I decided to leave it to one side until I was ready to continue.  It was actually months before I finally got some inspiration one day, when I got the urge to try a more expressive painting style.  I already had new palette knives that I had not tried yet, so this seemed a great opportunity to break open the packaging and give expressive palette knife painting a go.  Read on if you want to find out 3 easy and handy beginner hints that I learnt from my experience.   A video is also available at the end of this article.

I originally started my painting with acrylic paint and brushes.  I had such high hopes the colours in the reference photo were so pretty and I love blending so figured this would be a great painting to attempt.  Well, as it turns out, because acrylic paint dries so quickly blending is not quite so easy to do, as it is with say pastels, and so it became, to my inner critic, a bit of a “hot mess”  I lost heart and stopped working on it.

a “hot mess” at this point (inner critic)

It stayed at this stage for months, until I had the bright spark idea of trying my hand at painting with palette knifes.  I have been trying for sometime now to be more expressive and less tied down with detail, to loosen up with my painting style. Not quite as simple as it sounds, until now.   I figured I could not make my painting look any worse (so nothing to lose).  The more I create art the more I am noticing that psychology has more to do with our success than any other aspect of art.  “oooh this would make a great topic to write about”  Watch this space, I will place a link to it in here once I have written and published it.

first half a joy to work with

The first half of the painting went very well.  Working with thicker paint meant it did not dry quite as quickly.  I also added a little golden retarder medium to my paints so this extended the drying time too.  This gave me so much more time to blend my colours.  This is definitely tip number one.

“If you are struggling with blending acrylics, it could be that your paints are drying too quickly, try using a drying extender medium.  Having longer before they dry helps a great deal with blending acrylic paints. There are many different paint companies who manufacture this type of medium for acrylic paint.”

The second half was a little trickier for two reasons.  Firstly, the white canvas was tricky to contend with.  I found that the palette knife, the way I was using it, was not getting into the indentations of the canvas.  I suspect it was partly due to me being tentative with the paint and spreading it thinly to make it go further.  The frugal side of me lol.  However, as I doubt I am the only artist to have this problem I knew of a good solution, that other artists use.  I did an under painting so there was no white canvas to contend with, tip number 2

“Use an under painting to take away the whiteness of the canvas so when using a knife and the paint does not go into the texture of the canvas there are no white spots left”

second half with under painting

The second issue was difficulty with accidental unwanted colours. The advantage that acrylic paints has over oils is the fact you can paint one colour wait for it to dry then paint over with another colour without the headache of it changing to a colour you don’t want (usually mud lol).  In my case, trying to add orange/yellow reflection on blue sea runs the risk of turning green.   So, even though I stopped using the extender at this time, the fact I was using thicker paint (thick paint takes longer to dry) meant I had to be more careful.  There was a couple of occasions I got green paint but I just worked with it, waited for it to dry then painted over it.  So tip number three.

” Be careful/mindful of using two colours on top of each other, you know will result in a mixed colour you do not want. If it happens don’t panic. It is not impossible to fix just, try using a lighter stroke and if that doesn’t work, let the first colour dry and paint over it again. ”

So in summary. Here are my 3 top tips for painting with acrylics and palette knives. For a fuller explanation read the full article.  Don’t forget to scroll to the end to check out the time lapse video available for you.

  1. “If you are struggling with blending acrylics, it could be that your paints are drying too quickly, try using a drying extender medium.  Having longer before they dry helps a great deal with blending acrylic paints. There are many different paint companies who manufacture this type of medium for acrylic paint.” (this tip also applies to painting acrylic with brushes)
  2. “Use an under painting to take away the whiteness of the canvas so when using a knife and the paint does not go into the texture of the canvas there are no white spots left” (this tip also applies to painting acrylic with brushes)
  3. ” Be careful/mindful of using two colours on top of each other, you know will result in a mixed colour you do not want. If it happens don’t panic. It is not impossible to fix just, try using a lighter stroke and if that doesn’t work, let the first colour dry and paint over it again. “

Thank you for reading, I hope this has been helpful to you on your creative journey.  Please feel free to explore my other articles for any other useful information you may need.  Have a great day.  Before you go though, you might enjoy watching my 7 minute video shown below.  Showing the process from start to finish.

 

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