Yes! That is the term used for a painting technique – ‘IMPASTO.’ Impasto technique in simple words is painting with a knife. A painting knife is different from a regular knife. The blades come in different shapes and sizes to create different textures. You could relate better if I named a famous artwork created with this technique – ‘Starry Night’ by Vincent Van Gogh.
Impasto technique is commonly used in paintings of the ‘Abstract and Impressionist styles’. Instead of using a brush to apply paint on the canvas, we use a knife. It is a metal piece (flat) not exactly sharp but more of a shaping tool with a wooden handle. We can create a variety of textures using it. The texture created will depend on the pressure applied and how the knife is held by the artist.
Hence, the texture created by two different people using the same materials can be different. The method of application is what matters. This method is not exactly taught. The artist must try different strokes to see which one he/she is most comfortable doing. Like they say each one of us has that one special movement in which, only we can do best.
Initially, when I learnt this method during school days, we referred to it as ‘texture painting.’ This term expands the scope to use other tools for application to create textures with paint. For example, we can use the blade of a cutter or a simple piece of ply laminate. These can be sharp, so please be careful while using them. Ever noticed a worker applying a white base (putty) or cementing the cracks in the wall?
I know, to be safe please use knives and not these other things. All I meant was that we can create textures with anything, even combs. It’s like the application of icing on the cake. In this case, think of paint as the icing that we are using. I gave that connection on purpose. The consistency or feel of how the paint should be for a good output can be understood through this connection- soft, quick drying and thick.
This painting technique gives a 3D-like output. There is no need to paint various layers. We only need to give a background colour to the canvas and then we can paint directly on it. Impasto is originally done with oil paints. But it’s expensive and takes very long to dry. I have tried this method with gouache paints (on paper) as well as acrylic paints (on canvas). Both work very well in their way. The paint dries quickly and the artwork can be completed in one go. We also get various mediums that we can add to acrylic paint in order to enhance this work.
Textures can also be created with ‘Guesso’ at the beginning for the background and then painted. However, most of the time we just directly apply a nice rich thick coat of paint directly to the canvas. Please note, this method uses a lot of paint. So make sure you are stocked up with enough paint in the colours that you need. The exact amount depends on the artist’s usage but the amount of paint that is used in a painting with this method is almost 3-4 times more than a regular method.
A trending art that uses this technique but with different material is ‘Russian Sculpture Art’ or ‘Russian Sculpture Painting.’ Readymade ceramic pastes in various colours are available in the market. These are used to make florals. Do check this art on the internet if you heard it for the first time. It isn’t exactly sculpting but it uses ceramic paste with the painting knives.
And finally, where will I get these knives? In earlier days artists would make their knives but we are in the modern world now, right? That means it is available at almost all stores selling art material. It is also called a ‘palette knife’. It is barely sharp enough to cut the paint. So even children can use it under their parent’s or teacher’s supervision. Go ahead and try a new technique of painting this week! Have an Arty Week ahead!