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10. Palette Knife (No sharp edges-- whew!)

CONTEXT: I’m in an artists book club and we’ve started Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. For me, there’s an ongoing challenge to trusting my intuition. With that in mind I’ve been inviting change by doing more “loose” daily paintings. Relinquishing control to intuitive moves can be tricky and, with that as the goal this month, I decided to step away from brushes and learn more about palette knife painting.

PAST: I’ve played with a palette knife before– it was my preferred tool when I started painting in 2019– but I know more about color mixing and composition so reapproaching this tool held appeal.

CURRENT QUESTION: What would happen now, with who I am today? With some guidance, could I use the tool differently than I had the first time, when I just picked it up and gave it a shot?

Youtube videos were a great help to see how other artists used a palette knife. I have used mine like a trowel, dragging paint like you’d drag plaster. I love seeing the different marks that turn up with a sweep across surface space. Using a palette knife, my play pieces on paper quickly showed me that “overworking” the paint was going to be a key struggle that resulted in a wet mess. I’d need to sweep and possibly make one more move in the paint and then Leave.It.Alone (a great exercise for me– to stop overthinking and diving back in).

Another help from youtube was seeing someone use a rounded palette knife. On this paper piece, such a small change had large effects. Movements were so much softer. And I was starting to accomplish the “make a move and be done” behavior.

Also a challenge with this technique: accept that I’d need to burn through more paint. Sigh. As a viewer, I love the effect of thick paint but, as a creator, I don’t want “to waste” art supplies. Releasing of control issue? Or reasonable practical consideration? Either way, I went forward, putting out a limited palette of colors to use in the larger amount I’d need for knife work.

BAM! Then a new idea arrived.

With the leftover paint from knife play, I used a color shaper to lay down a base coat and– wait! Maybe it’s not a base coat for another painting. Maybe it IS the painting!

This moment was completely intuitive and put into practice what I’ve learned as a painter and, perhaps because I’ve been more aware of my intuition, I trusted it and stopped.

On this canvas, I see a secret waterfall with pooling water but, beyond that impression, I see an important combination of Selves. The quick movements from who I am as an artist + My accepting & honoring part of who I am: waste not, want not.: ♥️

I’ve loved palette knife play this month– the actual look that comes from using this tool– but I’m surprised that the change elicited such deeper and philosophical insights. Never would I have predicted how reducing control would bring more authenticity to my creative process and a result that leaves me smiling.


Because my first two art shows this summer are both garden-themed, I’m moving from flowers on small paper to larger canvases.

Pieces for sale through my website or, if you’re in Central Iowa and want to see a full display, stop by and see me at any of these 5 shows:

May 20: Ted Lare Garden Center in Cumming

June 24-25: Bob Kling Art Festival in Indianola

July 15: Waukee Art Festival

July 29-30: Indianola Summer Art Festival

Sept 24: Octagon Festival in Ames

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