Many of you have been asking some amazing questions about my oil painting practice, so I wanted to create a blog post featuring the most common ones!
WHY OIL PAINTING?
Oil painting is currently my primary medium. It offers me the ability to work with consistently bright and expressive colors and the benefit of the freedom to sculpt texture into my paintings. Other mediums always disappointed me over the years in one way or another: high costs, too time-consuming, colors drastically changed when dry, too hard to clean, or even too easy to mess up and ruin everything. I knew I loved painting, and I knew I loved ceramics and fabric work (I didn't pursue this outside of a school setting due to the high costs), and when I realized I could marry the two mediums together as a hybrid, I dived in.
WHAT IS YOUR OIL PAINTING STYLE?
It changes! My current oil painting style uses two techniques: Impasto and Direct Painting. I use palette knives and other smearing utensils instead of brushes. My works feature varying degrees of abstraction of representational compositions (primarily due to the knives' large strokes), while different designs are purely abstract.
WHAT IS DIRECT PAINTING?
Direct painting is one of many oil painting approaches. This technique is also called wet-on-wet, Alla Prima (Italian for 'at first attempt'), or au premier coup (French for 'at first shot'). This technique is when an artist paints a painting without letting earlier paint layers dry. Images created in this manner are typically completed in a single session, so it is popular with En Plein Air artists (painting outdoors). You might be most familiar with Bob Ross, who helped popularize this means of painting through his show The Joy of Painting.
WHAT IS IMPASTO PAINTING?
Impasto is Italian for 'dough' or 'mixture' and is another type of oil painting approach: layers of paint are applied thickly on a single surface to the point where the strokes are visible. These paintings are texturized and described as having 3D effects due to the paint appearing to come off the canvas. One can use impasto with oil or acrylic, or gouache. Impasto was used by French Impressionists to cover entire canvases (before this, painters used it mainly for bringing depth to small details like skin wrinkles) and is also closely associated with the abstract expressionist/impressionist movement. Impasto painters you might know are Vincent Van Gogh and Jackson Pollock.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR PAST PAINTING STYLES?
I have painted representational animal portraits, still lifes, florals, figures, and abstract surrealist dreamscapes using brushes. I initially trained in oil using Old Masters Techniques (also known as the Flemish Method) which involved detailed under paintings and many layers of glaze that slowly dried between multiple painting sessions. After finding it easier to work with, I later transitioned to direct painting with brushes (more on that below). In my pre-palette knife works, you can see my initial keenness for texture and visible strokes with raw hues, which carries over into my current works. These earlier works had varied levels of expressionism, abstraction, surrealism, impressionism, and other artistic movements, depending on what I was interested in exploring at the time.
I moved away from purely representational art very quickly after studying impressionistic artworks. I felt like I was more caught up making the paintings appear perfect and hyper-realistic (which I was admittedly not doing well) rather than creating a beautiful fluid work that sparked emotion and thought in the viewer. Palette knives forced me to stop obsessing over the small details in my work and opened the door to abstract impasto methods (also more on that below) and accidental & action paintings.
WHY DID YOU SWITCH TO DIRECT PAINTING TECHNIQUES?
After realizing I was continually running out of patience for "traditional" oil painting, I began exploring direct painting techniques with brushes. There was so much waiting involved, and it seemed like it took me months to create a single work I was never quite satisfied with. I always burned out and lost my spark before I felt like I was truly finished. The saddest part was that I knew I spent more time cleaning up than I did painting.
My current chosen technique allows me the freedom to work quickly and keep the creative fire pumping through my veins until the work is completed to my liking. It requires me to accept my 'mistakes' as happy accidents that give a piece character and offers me the adrenaline rush that goes along with making bold split-second decision-making. It's always satisfying to see immediate results in my work, and that single-session painting method allows me to keep my attention entirely on a single piece without becoming distracted.
WHY PALETTE KNIVES OVER BRUSHES?
I painted with brushes for years before switching to palette knives. I initially only used palettes knives to mix paint and did not even fathom using a knife in my work until I saw the texture that a knife could conduct with oils that I could never achieve with a brush. I never learned about artists using palette knives to create paintings despite years of art in public school.
My mother was the one who accidentally introduced me to palette knife painting. During a summer visit home from college, she showed me a tiny sunflower she painted using only palette knives in a local art workshop. I realized it might be what my art practice was missing. I refined my knives for years focusing on miniature flora and fauna still life studies before painting more extensive works. Most of my palette knife works are impasto; however, creating a 'flat' work with palette knives as possible.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST PALETTE KNIFE OIL PAINTING?
I painted a 6 "x6" sea urchin using leftover purple paint from an expressionistic pet portrait commission. I was not super confident in my strokes and didn't focus on anything besides controlling the knife and color, but I realized I would fall in love with this style. My first palette knife set was all plastic, and I broke them all in creating this one tiny painting.
I continued experimenting with flora and fauna exclusively for my palette knife paintings until I started venturing into seascapes and horizons in 2018 and abstracts in 2020. As of 2021, I am experimenting with larger works, painting on non-traditional surfaces, and mixing oil techniques with collage using encaustic wax.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR A PALETTE KNIFE OIL PAINTING TO DRY?
It depends on the size and the amount of paint used. Since I do not use mediums with my paints, it can take 3-8 weeks for an impasto painting to no longer be tacky to the touch and six months (or more!) until it is dry. If using mediums, the painting drying process is quickened.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE HISTORICAL OIL PAINTERS?
Georgia O'Keefe, Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Mary Cassat, Winslow Homer, Paul Cézanne, Childe Hassam, John Henry Twachtman, Willard Leroy Metcalf, Bob Ross, Andy Warhol, and Frida Kahlo.