Palette Knife for Oil Pastel Textures

Textures for sky and sails by using a palette knife

This week I began experimenting with how to use a palette knife to create textures in oil pastels. In the past, I’ve relied on other techniques, most notably:

  • Fingertips – to flatten colors to a uniform finish, for calm water, reflections, etc.; and
  • Paper stubs – for combining colors, drawing lines through colors, building raised areas.

I knew that oil painters use the palette knife with canvas, but I wanted to determine whether it would work for oil pastels on paper.

Scraping the oil pastel evenly across the paper works well to combine different colors into a very flat surface.  It also can suggest a uniform surface, for example, the texture of a canvas sail.  For the mainsail, I combine luminous yellow (Sennelier 233) with white & charcoal.  By dragging the flat edge of the palette knife across the paper, I create the horizontal lines of a canvas texture.  The vertical strand of pure white down the mainsail suggests a concave sail.

But as I gained more confidence, I learned that substantial papers – in the above case, Arches 140-lb. Oil Paper – can withstand serious pressure.  I can create both raised areas (e.g. cloud surfaces), as well as “negative areas”, where I create a depression against the paper that gives the image depth.  In the above example, I needed to avoid creating a lifeless, placid sky.  Sailboats move through (invisible) wind – my work needs to suggest moving air, so I wanted to suggest dynamic movement. Although close examination looks quite “busy”, that appearance dissolves when the viewer takes in the image as a whole, from a distance.  At that point, the viewer sees a very three-dimensional sky.  The small wisps of white become distant clouds, the greys draw the eye back towards the horizon, so that the boat & sail can pop into the foreground.

~ by Delfino on 2019/10/22.

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