Most novice oil painters resist the painting knife. After just having learned to manage a brush, a knife can seem as cumbersome as eating udon noodles with chopsticks. (Can't I just get a fork, please?) But a small painting knife in the plein air kit is a multi-purpose tool. You don't just have to paint with it.
I use mine for:
- Laying in the block-in roughly so I can finish with a brush
- (Or finishing with the knife after blocking-in with a brush)
- Scraping clear my palette when I need to make a clean mixture of color
- Picking up and mixing clean color when my brushes are dirty
- Paring down a brush stroke that is too wide or that has a bad edge
- Scratching through the paint to create the fine lines of twigs
- Making sharp, straight edges in architectural elements
- Adding a dark accent or light highlight with thick paint
- Scraping off a mistake
- Scraping off the whole painting if I think I'd be better off just taking a walk
|Top: Pro Art knife|
The knife I recommend is small with a trowel-shape. Before the weld broke, I really loved my 1-inch Pro-Art knife. With it, I painted everything from 4x6 on up to 16x20. I replaced it with a weld-free, solid-piece knife from the RGM Ideal Line.
|RGM Ideal Line knife|
These have no weld to break, but the uncushioned metal grip is very hard on the hands. I tried wrapping mine with bubblewrap and duct tape to cushion it, but it felt too "squishy" in my fingers, so I've returned it to its uncushioned state for now. I like to suffer for my art.
You can find more helpful tips and tools in my book, Backpacker Painting: Outdoors with Oil & Pastel, available at Amazon from this link.