What is palette knife painting?

This article explains palette knife painting and what brought Emilie and Mike Fantuz to this method of creating art.

The method of creation an artist chooses often gets overshadowed by their creations. While the finished piece is where the artist’s pride lays, the tools that birthed that piece carry a part of the story.

The paintbrush is so iconic an artist’s tool that it evokes less curiosity from an audience about its use. The same cannot be said for the sight of a painting knife. This tool has a short but rich history, only having gained traction since the 1800s. The palette knife was once reserved simply for mixing paint, but artists like Rembrandt and Matisse saw its value for adding to their art what the brush could not. Though the traditional palette knife is still used for mixing paint today, the artist now has a range of painting knives in different sizes that create the distinct imagery its pioneers pursued.

The characteristic style offered by painting knives is one of the qualities that makes the work of husband and wife artist duo Mike and Emilie Fantuz so compelling. Both artists were drawn to palette knife painting through their own paths. Having previously used brushes and feeling disconnected to his work, Mike’s artistic process transformed with fervor upon inheriting his grandfather’s painting knives. Emilie also felt the same intensity of inspiration upon using painting knives, though she came to the method spontaneously, having befriended the local artist behind artwork she appreciated, only to find it was the result of palette knife painting. Ultimately, it was palette knife painting that brought the couple together, having discovered each other through social media in a hashtag dedicated to the method.

The power that palette knife painting holds for Emilie and Mike Fantuz is seen in both their work and lives. Upon picking up painting knives, Emilie’s work took on an urgency and focus that has birthed a well of joyful inspiration. For Mike, the change in method also carried his practice to a level beyond the technical and aesthetic, but into the universal and spiritual. Just as each person carves their life from the many options the world presents, so too does the artist carve their practice.

What has made palette knife painting such a powerful method for Mike and Emilie Fantuz are the parallels this practice offers to the progression of life itself. The obscurity of this method offers fewer chances for self-comparison and less instruction for studying the technique. Such a path requires the artist rely on themselves and dedicatedly pursue individuality in their work. In palette knife painting, both Emilie and Mike discovered a vehicle not simply for creative expression, but personal progression. The doubt and fear that confront us in the challenges of life also confront the artist in their work. Yet, just as in life, the challenges of palette knife painting provide the gift of growth, overcoming the inner obstacles that plague artists through the external artistic process.

Though it may not capture the audience’s attention like a finished artwork, the artist’s method can mirror the artist’s life just as closely. For Emilie and Mike Fantuz, palette knife painting is Robert Frost’s road less traveled — “it has made all the difference.”


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