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Annie Steiner Art Blog

"When things go wrong" and Palette knife painting

by AnnieSteiner , May 9, 2008—12:00 AM

Topics: Blog, Cottage Street Studios, Provence, cats, palette knife painting, yellow and purple irises…

When things go wrong and Palette knife painting.

I took me a long time to start dealing with anything that was artistic after my children were born. There was always something else to do. I seemed to have lost the ability to concentrate on anything but my family for a while. Even reading was impossible, as I could never relax enough to grab a book for at least 15 minutes. When my kids both started going to school (relief!) I investigated the local Community Arts Center, and discovered that they were offering a colored pencil drawing class. As when I was in Art school, attention to details was de rigueur, I decided that colored pencils were going to be for me. And indeed, for several years, they were. I relished in the meditation that the most tedious details drive you to. I definitely got into the zone, and it felt good. I was an absolute detail maniac. I spent hours, days, weeks, drawing lace, tiny insects, minuscule leaves, shiny hairs on fur, and enjoyed it all immensely. It was my salvation, my sanity. javascript:AddText('

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I ended up with lots of jewel-like tiny paintings, which I became anxious to sell, as I was a young mother with growing children who seem to go through food like hounds. I was probably in the wrong market area, because the prices I was offered for the fruit of my labors were not even competing with minimum wage, considering the time I had spent on my pieces. I guess I would have made more money working at MickeyD! Then I occurred to me that I was still drawing, and not yet painting, which was what I ultimately wanted to do. So finding another medium was necessary. I switched to pastels. I thought that that did it for me. I could grab the stick sideways and cover a whole area in one sweep, instead of dealing with the tiny point of a pencil going round and round. I could blend the pigment by painting with my fingers, O joy! I suddenly recalled memories from my childhood when I ended up covered with paint. javascript:AddText(' ') Delightful! I love the brilliance of colors that pastels give, especially Sennelier. Up until now, Pastels are still one of my favorite mediums. However, I always hesitate starting a pastel piece, because I dread the framing process. I also am always concerned about having the piece handled by well-wishing people who do not know that the pigment is a powder, and that no matter how much it has been sprayed, powder stays powder, and eventually with travel to the bottom or to the sides if it is not handled in the upright position, even with spacers. The oil paintings are a lot easier to frame. Canvas or panel, you just finish a piece, pop it in the frame, and it is ready to go! But in order to finish a piece, you have to be able to hold the brush___ Last summer my children and grand son were with us for a few weeks. I rarely see them, as my daughter (and grand son) live in Australia, and my son in Florida, so that was a very special few weeks. Unfortunately I managed to break my right wrist within a week of their arrival! I was devastated. I was planning to cook them delicious meals, but they were the ones who ended up cooking for me! I was planning to take them for pleasant day trips, but I could not even drive, so they ended up driving me around. And when they left, when I wanted to resume with my painting, I could not even hold a brush in my hand. How frustrating! I was however determined to paint, and I tried every way I could. That is when I discovered palette knife painting. I worked out how to wedge the knife between the cast and my palm, and off I went! I was truly amazed by the result I achieved. I think that I suddenly ___saw the light___. The palette knife forced me to see the larger forms, body of colors, and helped me to splash the colors. I felt liberated! My love for details is still apparent, but I am no longer the maniac I used to be. I rather spend the time on emphasizing the light effects, the way it envelops any object, the way it changes the colors and the way the reflected light gives different shades to shadows. My style has become more impressionistic, literally by accident. I have decided to continue painting with a palette knife but still enjoy using the brushes. Whatever works to achieve the desired effect! It seems that when I have an idea for a painting, the subject usually dictates the medium at the same time. I have a commission to paint a dog in the near future, and that will be done in pastel, as he has very soft and curly hair for which pastels will be ideal. My most recent field of flowers has been done in oil, with brushes. And I know I will enjoy painting the tulips I saw at the bulb show of Mt Holyoke College with the palette knife. That will be appreciated in our next Spring Open House at Cottage Street Studios! Check it out:




  Michael Mize ( homepage )

05/13/2008 * 23:08:22

The story of your injury and it's subsequent effect on your process reminds me of Chuck Close and his personal story. For those unfamiliar with Close, he was originally a photorealist who painted 6'x 9' portraits of staggering detail until a blood clot in his leg left him paralyzed from the waist down and in his right arm. Through extensive occupational therapy he was eventually able to return to painting but with a much looser and, I think, more expressive style. For more information on Close, take a look at:

Thanks for sharing your story, it's always refreshing to hear about someone's creative spirit and its insistance to not be ignored or neglected.

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