View Full Version : First knife painting

02-22-2014, 12:49 PM
First painting with knives. I must say I thought it would be easy, but it was quite difficult. However, it did force me to make decisions, and think about how we see and perceive visuals, and I learned a lot from it. I think it would be a good thing to do on a regular basis. The challenges seem similar to working in abstract forms, or Asian ink painting - elements of movement and design.

Does anyone know anything more about knife painting? I see it is very instinctive, and am curious about how other people view it, as opposed to brush painting.

Many thanks to Itsawonder (Meredith); I did a WC search and your painting came up - and I think it is fantastic. Me, I'm hoping that working with knives in painting will help me become more confident and better able to view the composition as a whole - I tend to get all worked up in individual elements.

I did more searches on WC and didn't come up with any more threads specifically on knife painting - maybe I am doing something wrong. But I would like to read and hear more about what people are saying about it. I guess it is similar to alla prima (?)

11" x 14" on paper, over clear gesso.


Charlie's Mum
02-22-2014, 01:06 PM
This thread (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=273758) might help you - by Gnu, a former guide here.

I used to use a knife in oil painting, quite a lot ... with acrylics I find it more difficult and less satisfactory ......... you do need a fair amount of paint on the palette I found!

Don't know how much detail you want Cathy - with different sizes and shapes of knife you can get more than in the ptg. above.:)

The knife in your hand certainly makes for a vigorous work!:lol:

02-22-2014, 01:33 PM
Cathy, your painting looks so open and free and fun! Great color. That's one good thing I found about palette knife painting, the color can be cleaner because there's not dirty paint from other colors inside the brush--as evidenced by those bluer than blue blues you have there!

I'm no expert, just a mere few paintings ahead of you in the knife department, so we can learn together. Thank you for your kind comment on my painting, though! I also did read that thread that Maureen referenced. Maureen, I wish you could show us your oil knife paintings, but I guess you really can't in Acrylics???

As Maureen says, this method takes a lot of paint, but I find I can significantly cut back on how much paint/pigment I need to use by adding medium to the paint. I am adding medium to give the paint more body, and finding out how much the medium stretched my paint was a side benefit that I am thrilled about!

One thing I have learned is having an experimental attitude and letting go of control over how I think my paintings "should" look, because, similar to what you were pointing out, the knife itself is going to play a role in how the painting looks.

If I think of any other tips, I will let you know, but I think the main thing is to experiment and enjoy the challenge of it all. And remember since it's thicker and stays wet for a bit, you can scrape off something you don't like and cover the area back up with other paint/medium fairly shortly.

Please keep posting them--I am looking forward to seeing more!!


02-22-2014, 01:48 PM
I often start with some basic shape/colors brushwork , like an under painting, and then change over to knife for the extra oomph.

02-22-2014, 01:53 PM
There are quite a few knife painting videos on youtube, for me I seem to learn it better by watching , how they move the hand and the different stroke techniques..

here is one of mine-

02-22-2014, 01:54 PM

02-22-2014, 02:25 PM
I hope Joy (tj84) doesn't mind but there are some other paintings she did recently that are also really wonderful examples of knife work, in my opinion:


Your painting is a really good start, Cathy.

02-22-2014, 05:31 PM
I don't mind at all, thank you for the very nice compliments.

02-23-2014, 10:59 AM
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/23-Feb-2014/149321-Jazz_Singer.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/23-Feb-2014/149321-Jazz_Trio.jpg


Thought I'd pipe in since I have been working on a series that is in acrylic and nearly 100% painted with knives, except for the line work on top. I love working with knives because it feels so free. It does take a LOT of paint.

Here are a couple examples. :)
48x60 inches Jazz Singer
48x72 inches Jazz Trio

02-23-2014, 07:23 PM
Thanks all for your thoughtful and knowledgeable comments, examples and tips!
Maureen - Thank you so much for the link! As far as detail, a good question, I'm not even sure at this point - I was not happy about adding the butterfly's antennae, as I felt it would look too representational - but would be remiss not to include them for identification of what it is.
I have a few pieces in mind for knifework - I have already done literal paintings in acrylic and also watercolor of a few subjects. I think painting with a knife might give a different approach and understanding of composition and contrast.
And it looks like I am now in for a penny, in for a pound. Have bought several knives. We'll see how it goes :)

Meredith - Thanks so much! I did use some retarder (not to slow drying necessarily, but to give it some body), and I noticed that the paint just by itself did not really spread or do much.

Joy - Wow, your work is just beautiful!! Thank you so much!

Colin - Thanks!

Kim - I love your jazz series, the figures have a lot of movement and the background, great depth.


04-24-2014, 01:46 AM
doing good with the knifes. they not easy but they fun