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Knife Painting Exercise: "Living On the Edge"




Painting with a knife is great fun and especially painting mountain scenes. The theme of this knife painting centers on the tree perched on the ledge. The hard-edged detail of the tree against the softly blended background mist creates scenic depth. Careful color mix control, overlapping objects, misty haze effects, and close value changes all add to the atmospheric feeling of the painting.
In this exercise, we will first look at the tools used and the palette of colors needed.
Then we will intentionally mix planned color values that work well against and with all other colors in the composition. With each step there are color mix swatches for you to use as a guide to mixing. Try to match the color and especially the value (lightness or darkness) of each color.


A word regarding preplanning the work:
In this day and age, we tend to rush right into things...sometimes, including creating a work of art. Spontaneity is very important in creating a painting and especially in knife painting. However, the tendency is to jump onto the major canvas and just hope it happens. Well...all good art is created using a set of basic foundations that cannot be ignored. Some of the most important ones are, drawing, composition, color, perspective, both geometric and atmospheric. The masters did not just dive in, they spent great amounts of time and effort planning the work and preparing themselves for the work ahead. Preplanning a composition is very important. One should always work out an idea or composition by first making small thumbnail sketches. This way, we do not just blindly begin, hoping it will happen. Decide what size and shape you wish to present the work and then make several thumbnail sketches to help place elements within a compositional area. Also, make several color thumbnail sketches to select the correct color palette for this composition.

Premixing the Colors:

By planning color values and then premixing them, we have more control of the final work. Yes, color interaction and mixing on the canvas itself is a very important part of painting. These premixed colors are a result of first making a number of small color thumbnails to find the combinations that work best together. The premixed I call "intentional" colors are simply the most dominant ones in the construction of the painting and will be intermixed, lightened, darkened, grayed and changed into very subtle and pleasant mixtures that I call "accidentals". The combination of the premixed colors and the accidentals that occur on the canvas during the painting development are a great part of what makes the work come alive. All of this prework and planning does not mean that the work is stiff or contrived but will show that you have given much thought to your subject and your color selections along with the way you wish to present it.

Planning time of day, light source, color mood, and palette of colors to portray those elements are also just some of the things an artist should give thought to. The more preplanning you do in a painting composition, the more successful the end result.

I have been painting for more years than I want to tell you but I still make color notes of all of the main mixes in each new painting. After all, no matter how experienced a painter is, each new canvas with its color mixes, moods and paint manipulations is a new journey and a learning experience. Since I am on a new journey, I always make color notes and swatches used in all paintings. This not only opens up new avenues of color mixing with each new painting but also helps me repeat a mixture if I run out of a color while creating the painting. 
©1995 William F. Powell
Backgrounds in all steps are soft to show the delicate color changes. Click here to Tools and Color Palette

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