13 Nov

When I started painting again, I made two pledges to myself. 

One:  I would avoid using brushes unless absolutely necessary. Brushes make brush strokes that demand attention, yanking the viewer out of the painting’s whole visual experience. It’s like watching a emotional scene in a dramatic movie shot with a shaky cam. The camera’s constant, jerky movement pulls the viewer from the story while he/she is trying to connect with the character and be moved by his/her circumstance. Annoying! 

Two:  I would never ever, ever, ever, ever, never ever leave raw canvas in a finished painting. Again, it’s distracting, but more than that – raw canvas is a sign of laziness – for me. I’m not blaming and shaming any artist who intentionally does that. I’m simply saying that for me such a practice would signal a breech in my artistic standards. So, in light of how I will not paint, let’s look at what I do and why. I use pallet knives and trowels for applying paint. 


I have a variety of pallet knives—different shapes and sizes. Some are rounded at the tip; others, pointy. Whichever the shape and size, the marks correspond. I use small knives on 12x12s and large knives on 40x30s. Large canvases also call for trowels—of which, I use a super-duper large one and sometimes the medium size, too. I love my knives and trowels because no tool can smooth paint better. It’s like icing a cake with thick butter cream frosting. Knives are not only good for smoothing paint over the entire canvas, eliminating patches of raw canvas, but they are also excellent for scraping off, scooping out chips, and gashing and cutting tacky paint. Ahhhhh . . .   

Longevity  Even though I prefer to paint with pallet knives and trowels, I do have some brushes. The downside of brushes though is that they wear out and must be replaced. That can be costly. Really good brushes—and who wants to use poor quality ones—are expensive! Not so with metal pallet knives and trowels. Making sure they are thoroughly cleaned after each use—a little love goes a long way—I ensure these tools will last forever, making them practical and cost-effective. 


I admit throwing globs of paint and smearing them across a canvas with my trusty pallet knife may seem like a haphazard technique. But I do it because repeating the process multiple times builds layers of amazing texture. Typically, smooth, choppy, and woven elements magically appear in the paint. It’s all completely out of my control. I love it when it happens like that! Using pallet knives and trowels are a must to ensure a smooth, even, and elegant application. No brush strokes here! 

When painting, I want to be surprised. I want to love what I see happening on the canvas. Pallet knives and trowels guarantee those things will happen.  

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