25 Mar

Trippy Impressionistic Undulation

Being a great believer in challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone and stretch my brain, I took a class in palette knife painting last month. It was apparently part of a self-improvement kick, as I also took a refresher class on perspective drawing. I figured it would be useful both for the NYC scenes I’m working on and the custom portrait of a building requested by a collector. Practicing perspective, however, reminded me of all the reasons I disliked it. Perspective drawing is all slow measuring, not about the energy and color that characterize my work.

The palette knife class, however, was great fun. I painted a scene I’ve done before in pastel, changing the composition from vertical to horizontal. St. Emilion, a medieval wine village in France, was a place I loved. My thinking was that my passion for it would compensate for the frustration of trying to handle a new medium (oil paint) and create my first palette knife painting. (Or at least the first in decades; I did find an old palette knife in my studio, presumably from college.)

Using a palette knife was very different from painting with pastels and really forced me to stretch, With pastels, I have a range of colors from dark to very light at my fingertips and never need to use white or black, which can dull a pastel painting. With oil paint, I had to use lots of white to get paler colors for the light areas, blending every single color I wanted with the knife. In pastel I can layer paler colors over dark colors to get wonderful highlights, but when I did that with oil paint on a palette knife, the colors blended. So I had to scrape some off and do it again, more carefully. Now I’m not sure those little globs of oil paint will EVER dry.

People who saw the palette knife painting described it as Van Gogh-like, textured, and – my personal favorite – trippy impressionistic undulation (thank you, Jeff!) That is kind of how it felt to be in St. Emilion off-season, when there were more wine shops than people and the cobblestone streets were empty at night. I thought it would be interesting to see the palette knife and pastel paintings side by side, so here they are for your viewing pleasure.


  1. As always, your enthusiasm for trying new things and stretching yourself amazes me! These are wonderful, especially seeing them side by side. Keep up the incredible work, Beth!

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