My experiments with a palette knife (a metal tool artists use for applying paint to canvas) led to many mistakes at first! I would first apply too little paint, leaving scratch marks on bare canvas or, worse, on the carefully composed layer of paint beneath. To compensate, I would then apply too much, leaving a thick paste.
However, from that paste-like substance came a few amazing discoveries: First, by using the palette knife (and later, a larger putty knife), the paste-like image I’d created now burgeoned up and away from the canvas, reaching forward – toward me. What was once a two-dimensional composition was instantly now in 3-D! I later learned this technique had a name: “Impasto.” The canvas surface (or plane) itself – once ignored in favor of color and composition, but now with intentional surface irregularities – asks the viewer to engage a second sensory element beyond that of sight: It begs to be touched. . . . And so, I was hooked!
My second discovery grounded in this technique was the element of what I call “intentional surprise” that emanates from each stroke. As I load paint from my palette onto the knife, invariably, the palette knife scrapes up multiple colors at one time. When applying this loaded knife to canvas, the hand’s pressure and movement of the knife create a captivating recipe of 50 percent intention mixed with 50 percent surprise. The colors loaded on the knife intermingle capriciously, impulsively, and unpredictably on the canvas. With each stroke, I create the opportunity for what the late Bob Ross, acclaimed painter and former host of the PBS television series The Joy of Painting, called “happy accidents.”
My compositions are abstract. Usually, my work is large, oversized. My canvases play host to a lot of activity on-board, and all that activity needs a big arena, i.e., room to do its thing! Also, I have abandoned the traditional palette knife (too small) in favor of a regular putty knife (and other tools found at Home Depot!), which permits a wider surface for the interplay of color, enabling the final result to be better appreciated by you, the viewer, both from afar and close up. From mistakes to discoveries, to surprises and happy accidents – I continue to be enthralled by the sculptural-like quality of my paintings, and the process employed in their creation. An endless array of compositional possibilities lay before me.
-Beth Williams Pryor, Artist
BWPryor Fine Art