traditional and digital paintings,

Painting a Still Life using a painting knife
and Atelier Interactive acrylics

Saturday 5th June 2010

On Saturday the 5th June from 10 am to 4 pm I held a painting workshop at the Sandpiper Studio which is situated in the idyllic surroundings of the Foxes Riding School, Ledsham on the Wirral CH66 8PF. The subject of the workshop was ‘Painting a still life with a painting knife’ the medium we used was Atelier Interactive acrylics on Saunders Waterford 300lbs watercolour paper. The weather on this day was sunny and very warm, this was an ideal situation to test the Atelier Interactive acrylics to see how they would react to these conditions… and I must say I wasn’t disappointed.

I had done all my prep work days before the workshop i.e the drawing the artists would be painting from, and getting copies of the drawings made, the same size as the one I would be using. Another part of the prep work was the priming of the paper for added protection against absorption, for this I used Atelier Interactive ‘Binder’ Medium, this seals the paper giving me more time to work on the painting before it starts to dry. There is another final part of this procedure I do before painting, but that is left until I am ready to paint…

There were eleven participants in the group and none of them had painted with a painting knife before…and to be honest neither had I, so this was going to be a ‘very’ interesting session indeed, I could not afford to fail, nor did I have any intention of failing…after all a painting knife is just another tool in the artists paint box, and another technique I had to learn…on the job!!

Although some of the artists’ had reservations about using a painting knife those reservations soon disappeared once they started painting, I think it’s the ‘paint brush’ that puts a lot of people off painting or at least, slows their progress. What kind of brush do you use? what size? what technique etc? when you think about it there is a lot to take in…and you do need to have the appropriate brush for the painting you are doing. The painting knife put all their doubts aside and they soon began to experiment more.

We started the workshop by tracing the drawing onto the paper, to do this we turned the drawing (photocopy) over and rubbed a graphite stick all over the back, we then turned the drawing over again and placed the ‘blackened’ side onto the paper Saunders Waterford paper and taped it into position. The artist would then draw over the copy with a hard pencil or ballpoint pen to transfer the image onto the paper. When the drawing was completed and cleaned up, we used a watery mixture of Crimson and Ultramarine Blue to paint over the drawing to strengthen and stabilize the image. (Graphite is a lubricant and as such can stop paint from adhering …best to use charcoal or compressed charcoal, but this can be quite messy!!)

Prior to commencing the painting I made a mixture of Atelier Retarder and Liquefying Medium (no set amount) and brushed this all over my drawing and the other artists drawings. This would be the main barrier  to protect against the paint from drying up in the heat and the six hour period. By adding the mixture it would also help the application of the paint and stop any ‘drag’. During the whole session I had no need to spray the painting with water to re-activate it as it stayed workable throughout, however I did have to spray water onto the colours on my palette quite often as the areas I was mixing the paint were drying up, but the spray did re-activate the paint again. Some people sitting under the fans found that their paintings were beginning to go tacky as a result of the ‘downdraught’ but this was rectified either by water or by spraying Atelier Interactive ‘Unlocking Formula’ over the area they were working on.

The paint was quite ‘buttery’ in it’s application and had a sheen on the painting at the end of the session which made it look (and feel) like an oil painting, even now as I write this review twenty fours after the session the painting still has a tacky feel to it indicating that it can still be re-activated to further work on it…very useful in this particular case if you wanted to carry on developing the painting in your own studio or home.

Overall I was absolutely delighted with the painting knife technique using the Atelier Interactive acrylics and I would highly recommend using these paints (and the techniques I have described) for anyone thinking of trying them. They are non toxic and there are no worries about disposing of used solvents and soiled solvent soaked rags as you would when using oil paints (something I would seriously have to think about if I was teaching in Night School), which is becoming a major factor in our increasingly (Health & Safety) conscious society.

The session must have impressed my students as they were asking me if they could do another workshop using painting knifes, but next time painting a Sea Scape (surf) or landscape.

For information about workshops at the Sandpiper Studio in Ledsham you can email either myself at the link at the bottom of this page or contact Mrs Julie Mc Lean who runs, and has her own art group in the studio at;