Posted by: Julie Duell | June 3, 2008


Greetings !  

Before I start, just bear in mind the general rule that oil based paints & solvents etc. can be applied over water based ones – but not the other way around. 

Let’s start with some textural examples – either acylic or oil is suitable and these are applied with a painting knife.  A painting knife has a raised handle as opposed to a palette knife which is flat. There are 3 main ways to use a painting knife – loading the paint on the side of the blade for thin lines, on the flat for broad areas or the tip for smaller controlled areas.  (If your acrylic is too fluid, you can add some modelling paste to it for body).  A good way to learn is to use any leftover paint at any time to practise with.  A light touch is needed usually and if you are layering one colour over another for broken effects, you need to be so light that you can think of not so much “putting the paint on” as “leaving it behind”.

In this first little demonstration, I first laid down a thinly washed undercolour of light blue. By getting rid of the white at this stage I have given myself liberty to leave knife textures alone without fiddling – whereas if I were trying to cover the white board I would be overdoing the number of times I apply each knife load.   There was a lovely moment when I overlaid blue across the top of the reflection of the reddish-orange sail.  That is the magic I look for in knife paintings, when it “works”.

The foliage on the side was applied with the tip of the knife in a “jiggling”or “tickling” action … the masts with the side of the knife and the rest with the flat part loaded with paint.

In this next exercise, broad brush strokes were applied first to indicate the body of the buildings in a cityscape.  Then, using the side of the knife blade loaded with pale yellow the rows of “lights” were applied quickly and loosely. Then the same vertically with dark paint to define the buildings and spires.  This is just a small segment of a larger painting but should give you an idea to try.

Sometimes you may wish to give the texture of corrugated iron…

Here is the modelling paste I mentioned earlier, this time on its own – though you can mix it with the paint as well.   Using it this way, paint can be applied to the surface once it is dry.

Now rough, tufty grass effects…

and shorter grasses…

You could try using a sponge for texture (one with nice holes in it preferably) …

This method creates texture with 2 layers of paint...

Once you have the effect you want, you can paint over with various foliage/flower effects closest to the bottom of your painting to make a readlly interesting foreground area…

Now -here is an effect created by wax resist using a plain uncoloured candle… 

Then there is the wonderful world of collage to explore…

Of course once you have the texture there, you can paint over it as I have done in the painting below which features water texture created with unwaxed lunchwrap paper.

These are great fun to do with the kids…


Then there are Masking techniques to try…

Now for finishing a painting, why not try…

Stippling is a nice way to apply paint without leaving brush strokes showing. Use undiluted paint preferably…

Want to paint still water reflections?   Mirroring the imaged above the waterline is easier if you turn the painting on its side while you do that.  One way to get a watery effect is to paint everything in the water area with strokes going towards the bottom of the painting.  Then, with a clean soft dry brush, gently blur it all taking your brush horizontally.  You can then add slivers of light or drifts of weed etc. to suggest a bit more of the water surface “over” the reflected images.

Now a little change of direction…


So I wish you “Happy experimenting!”  What joy!



  1. hi julie,
    i find your art lessons very useful and inspiring and have learnt a lot from them. i am a self taught artist from india and i love to do semi abstacts,but sometimes, like right now i am facing a blank canvas syndrome, i don t know what to paint!! i have already spoilt two three canvases! please help!!

    • Hi Puneeta – I wish I had a magic solution for your problem. Take your sketch book or camera and look at the world around you for inspiration – otherwise, just play with paint and see what happens when you experiment. This is what I do if I ever have blank canvas syndrome. Some artists find a white canvas a bit intimidating so try giving it a wash of colour first in quick dry acrylic. Don’t worry – ideas will come. Julie

      • Thanks a lot Julie! I will do that! Really glad to get your guidance! Thanks a ton once again!

  2. I just love the way you did share the secrets. i am so grateful. Thank u ……… it helped me alot to develop my ideas on the mixed media. i like to do oil painting with little assistance of others but i like to get more creative in my work. i m even saving this page so that i can try these interesting paintings very soon. thank u once gain.

    Raisa from Bangladesh

    • Thank you Raisa – Enjoy discovering your own creativity! Julie

  3. Hi Julie,
    How kind of you to share your knowledge,and your time.
    many thanks,Valerie.

  4. Hi Julie,
    Whilst surfing I came across your site and find it very inspiring. As there is so much to enjoy and learn I have saved it in my favourites. I attend an art class once a week and paint in watercolours,acrylics and oils in between times. For the next five weeks the project is ‘Landscapes’.
    Today our tutor had set up a ‘landscape’of broccoli,brown paper .stones and twigs. I used watercolours for this.
    I look forward to reading your site .
    Yours sincerely, Eleanor.

  5. Dear Julie,
    Having glanced through your demonstrations, I think this may help me with work I need to complete for a course I’m doing. I’ve ground to a halt in trying to prepare papers by experimenting with different mediums like Van Dyke stain, ink, torn paper, oil pastels etc. I’ve been using a close-up photo of distressed stonework on an old building with crumbling pointing, laminated stone surfaces and tonal and textural contrasts as a starting point, but I am being too literal. I’ve been trying to duplicate what I see and can’t get away from that way of seeing and doing. I have a project to complete by May and time is running out. I only do 1 day a week, but do have time at home. Is there anything I can do to loosen up?

    • Hello Marianne – I’m glad if my website can help you loosen up. If you have Photoshop computer program you could try out countless options of your subject in various artforms to broaden your concepts as to what is possible when letting go of photographic images. See Posts 41 or 42. Other ways to loosen up are to use applicators other than what you are used to (usually brushes) such as painting knives, gladwrap, collage, spattering, scrapers, using different background colours etc. Do what you love and love what you do is the key to success. Success does not equal happiness…rather happiness equals success! Find joy in your heart for what you are doing and the rest will follow. REMEMBER the magic words as you work…..”What if?” Try things freely. Play. Good luck, Julie

  6. Thank you- very helpful, looking for new techniques and like the simplicity of each one shown. cheers!:-)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: