What is it?
A long-time standard in the artist’s toolkit, the palette knife is a tool consisting of a handle and a blunt blade, and was originally used for mixing paint on an artist’s palette. Since the 1800’s, it has seen an increase in popularity as a painting tool as well as a mixing one. Artists use the palette knife itself to thickly apply the paint to the canvas or panel (sometimes mixing colors directly on the surface with the knife), often to get a nice impasto effect. Here’s an example of a set of differently shaped palette knives:
Examples from art history:
Palette knives used for applying paint has a relatively recent history, as until the 19th century, these tools were primarily just for mixing paint on the palette. A few artists here and there, including Rembrandt and Francisco Goya, used palette knives in addition to brushes and other tools to create a nice effect, but it wasn’t really until the 19th century when Gustave Courbet started using them to thickly and smoothly apply paint on his landscapes that the technique began to really grow in popularity. Other well known artists who used palette knives for painting include Camille Pissarro (a student of Courbet), Paul Cezanne, Marc Chagall, and Henri Matisse. Many of these artists used palette knives in addition to brushes and other painting tools. It was in the 20th century, however, that more artists began to experiment with painting an artwork entirely using palette knives. Many artists today who use palette knives dabble in a bit of both methods!
Examples from Principle Gallery:
Palette knife painting can give a really gorgeous texture and accentuate colors on a canvas or panel. Many techniques that we’ve discussed in the Technique Tuesday post, such as impasto or the multi-loaded brush, can also be accomplished using a palette knife as well as a brush! Principle Gallery carries several artists who excel in the use of palette knives for paint application, as well as some who have dabbled in it from time to time, with some lovely results. To see more great examples of palette knife painting, check out our website, specifically the pages for Barbara Flowers, Mia Bergeron, and Lisa Noonis! Here are some cool examples, including a brand new work from Mia Bergeron titled “Somewhere Else.” To keep up with all our new incoming works and upcoming events, be sure to join our mailing list! To sign up, just fill out the form here on our website, or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!