Sunday, January 18, 2009

Painting with a knife

In the spirit of continual experimentation, I decided to try painting without any brushes whatsoever, just a painting knife (not a palette knife, which is perfectly flat for mixing, but the kind of knife with the little metal bend between the painting surface and the handle...also confusingly often referred to as a palette knife, and I may myself call it that out of habit, so beware).

Can I just say that five minutes into it, I was so frustrated I wanted to scream and tear my hair out? And that ten minutes into it, I REALLY wanted to scream and tear my hair out? And that fifteen minutes into it, I wanted to tear out the hair of the person who invented the painting knife? And that twenty minutes into it, I wanted to also tear out the hair of the person who invented the very CONCEPT?

I wanted SO badly to grab one of my (tantalizingly near) brushes--A brush! Give me a brush! Any brush! Pleeeease!--and just make the damn mark I wanted to make. Painting with a knife is like trying to paint with some kind of severe physical handicap. The mark you try to make doesn't do what you thought it would, and then you go to fix it and completely mess up some other part that looked halfway decent, and then you go to fix that and...

I had to make a deal with myself, that if I could just do one painting from start to finish, I would never have to do it again. And it was even hard getting myself to agree to that.

...And an hour into it, nearing the end of the painting, I thought it was so totally cool.

The results are so fascinatingly different from painting with a brush. The result looks so sparkling and jewel-like, I suppose because there are all these subtle different physical levels so you're getting light reflecting off all these little edges. And the color seems somehow more remarkable, much more intense, than when painting with a brush.

Of course, when the Roma tomato was finished, all high on the experience, I decided to try another painting-knife painting, the white onion. I naively expected it to go better, since I now had "experience," but, huh! Whaddaya know!, it was just as hard and frustrating if not even more so since I was mentally fried from the first one.

Will I suffer through this experience again? You bet.

P.S. Best part = no brushes to wash! Worst part = see all of the above.
More art on my website:


Karen said...

I love (and hate) the knife too! I haven't used it for a while, for for a time it's all I was working with.

I think these pieces are rich and beautiful. And you've managed to get at subtle color transitions, like that ochre into the purple in the hard to do with that dang knife.

I'd love to see more of your work with the kinfe, or knife/brush combo!

Anonymous said...

Jala, the hairless knife painter.
So what, you don't have hair.
You have two stunning paintings and a diminishing fear factor of doing this again.

You kept your colors so clear and well seen.

Jala Pfaff said...

Thanks, you guys! That's exactly it--a "love/hate" relationship with the knife, to be sure... I'm simultaneously excited and dreading the next knife painting...which may be tonight if I don't chicken out... said...

Jala - that was VERY well told. And the paintings are neat. You are right they look very different. Now I want to try it. Not so much as to finish paintings by knife but to learn to use a knife to better effect when doing a "normal" painting.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

I can relate to this. There always seems to be a place where the painting process turns from a chore into.."I think this is working."
I liked the post too.

Kelley Carey MacDonald said...

Also great about the palette knife is that you can layer paint over other colors and it stays on top and doesn't smush. But seriously, for the details.... I NEED my brush! Nice work, great challenge!

Loriann Signori said...

Hi Jala!
A couple of days ago I commented on your lovely palette knife work, but I don't think it went through... problem? I just wrote to tell you that the jewel like quality of that tomato blows me away! I do understand frustration at the new. Rest up and gather energy. Then return to the knife and see if you can be friends. It obviously likes you.

Jala Pfaff said...

Thanks so much, you guys! Funny, I also love how the tomato knife-painting turned out. I wish you could see all those jewel-like reds in person!

I will face the knife soon again, I promise. :)