In the summer of 1997, Ana Gonzalez traveled to San Miguel Allende, Mexico, to study ceramics and find a new start after her 36-year marriage ended in divorce.
Gonzalez, a former interior designer, decided to enroll in raku pottery classes at Instituto Allende and later joined the group’s painting class as well.
That was when Gonzalez, now 72, discovered her love for painting.
“The group just bonded beautifully even though we had not met before. That's why I followed them on their move to painting classes,” said Gonzalez. “We painted outdoors and in the town square with all sorts of people coming up to us with comments and questions. What an experience that was.”
After adding painting to her list of hobbies, Gonzalez traveled back to her home in Puerto Rico in 1998 to teach art to the homeless, then in 2009, she moved to her current home, Miami, to keep expanding on her art.
That’s where she was introduced to her most current passion of palette knife painting, a technique that does not involve brushes but just palette knives to paint the canvas.
“It [palette knife painting] feels like flying free. Many times, when I see a finished painting, I wonder how it all happened,” said Gonzalez, one of the 11 students attending palette knife painting class in Coral Gables.
The group, Palette Knife Artists of Miami, of women older than 40, is currently preparing for an art exhibition on May 2 at Sunstate Bank in Coral Gables.
“Our members have been working diligently to present new work,” said Mai Yap, founder of Palette Knife Artists of Miami. “They are all very strong artists with mature work.”
Yap always enjoyed painting with a palette, but it was not until 2011 that inspiration truly hit her.
“I decided to translate my love for the Everglades into painting and realize that the best way to portrait the passing clouds and the movements of the wind would be with the palette,” said Yap. “Palette is fun and very challenging. You never know if a painting will be successful until it is done.”
After Yap, 54, completed her first collection of palette knife paintings, she realized not many people were practicing this technique in Miami and that needed to change. This is when she decided to found her local palette knife painting classes.
Yap’s classes take place every Thursday at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and cost $155 for the two-month course for members of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens and $185 for non-members.
A spacious classroom in the Education Building by the South entrance of the gardens holds the weekly meeting for the artists.
The mood is set by instrumental music playing from the first generation iPod placed next to the display of finished pieces.
One of the students, Lorraine Tucker, was drawn to the words “Palette Knife Painting” in the list of courses offered when an oil painting class at Fairchild was full.
“After one or two classes, I fell in love with it because of the techniques available with palette knives and the brilliance of the oils on the canvas. It was such a nice change from the traditional brush paintings,” said Tucker. “This wonderful venture has kept me feeling relaxed and energized. It's a wonderful form of therapy.”
The spring exhibition, which will be on display for the whole month of May, will showcase the work of most of Yap’s students. The pieces will be available for the visitors to buy. The pieces will range from $400 to $1100.