An Ode to the Palette Knife |
An Ode to the Palette Knife

An Ode to the Palette Knife

Ann Marie Coolick discusses her impasto style and artistic journey

Isobel McKenzie
Written by –
Isobel McKenzie
on October 11th 2018
Originally from London, Isobel is enthralled by the curves and lines that make up a city. It's fascinating to see how modern skyscrapers and historic landmarks muddle together. Her Instagram feed @Isobel_McKenzie is usually full of spiral staircases and tall buildings. Can also be found on Twitter.. sometimes.

With a palette knife in hand, Ann Marie Coolick creates strikingly bold paintings with plenty of color and fluidity. The painting technique she employs, known as impasto, is all about using a thick application of paint — it’s almost like frosting the canvas. This style lends itself to a three-dimensional quality, with a sense of liveliness and movement that captures your attention.


Working from her studio in a renovated World War 2 era bungalow, Coolick creates her colorful geometric pattern canvases, seascapes, and a series of impressionist florals inspired by her hometown neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia. Read more to find out about Ann Marie Coolick’s artistic journey.

Ann Marie Coolick's impasto art style |

“I grew up in Manassas, Virginia, a then-small suburb about 45 minutes from DC,” details Ann Marie Coolick. “The home I grew up in had a creek in the front yard, a tree house, garden, and perfect sledding hills.” While she “absolutely loved” growing up in this small suburb, after completing her degrees at Virginia Tech focusing on Studio Art and Marketing Management, in 2003 Coolick moved to Arlington and has been there ever since. She started with an arts residency at Arlington Arts Center, and her artwork has since been featured in several exhibitions, as well in Creative Digest UK, L’Officiel Australia and Elan Magazine. In 2016 Coolick founded the East Coast Art Collective, a curated group of artists from Philadelphia right across to Illinois.

Sky sea and waves impasto painting by Ann Marie Coolick |

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I started playing piano at age 5 and for a while thought I might study piano in college, but I didn’t want to be a teacher and I certainly didn’t want to be a performer. I also remember picturing myself wearing a skirt suit, in a big conference room with big windows overlooking New York City, talking about a some sort of important line graph. I think I wanted to be Elizabeth Perkins from the 80’s movie Big. It wasn’t until late in high school that I realized all I wanted to do was create art.


Where did your artistic journey begin?

My artistic journey began in high school. The only exposure I had to the arts, aside from piano, was in public school. I was given a choice to take either band, choir, or art. I don’t sing and the only instrument I enjoyed playing was piano, so I selected art almost by default. What I didn’t know was that art would be my favorite class throughout high school. I had phenomenal, inspiring teachers, whose encouragement led me to pursue art in college.


How do you describe your artwork?

My work is all about texture and color. It is often described as luscious and frosting-like. It really is a celebration of the paint itself. I’ve painted exclusively with palette knives for over a decade and have lately been experimenting with a minimalist approach to texture in my polka dot AKA Polka Daub series.

“My work is all about texture and color. It is often described as luscious and frosting-like.” — Ann Marie Coolick

Ann Marie Coolick's landscape painting made in impasto paint style, hangs in family room |

Working from her loft studio at home has been convenient for Coolick, as she balances work life with raising her three boys. It has also been integral to the shift in her style as she found time to paint in spurts throughout the day, building on layers of acrylic over the sessions.


Tell us about your home.

I live in a craftsman WW2 bungalow in Arlington. We completely gutted and renovated our home right after we had kids. It’s very open, comfortable, and best of all now I have a cozy studio loft space. We have three boys ages 4, 6, and 8 so our design aesthetic is definitely functional at this point, aside from a few special focal points. Two of my largest paintings are part of our private collection. One is a 48″x 48″ landscape of Arikok Lagoon in Aruba where we honeymooned, and the other is the view of DC at twilight on the evening we were married from the top level of our reception hotel in Arlington. I also have a small collection of works by my favorite artists. I started swapping paintings and have loved growing a small collection of pieces that I can one day pass on to my children.

Ann Marie Coolick's art studio with range of colorful abstract impasto paintings |

Is there anything at home you have a special attachment to?

The most sentimental item to me in my house is my baby grand piano. My parents bought in 1995 and recently gifted it to me when they retired to a condo. My other favorite item is a stained glass transom window that was salvaged from a 100 year old Victorian home in Pennsylvania. When we renovated I knew I wanted a little bit of historic stained glass somewhere, so I did a quick Ebay search and serendipitously one of the first windows that came up had our exact address! I knew it was meant to be. It is now installed in the front of our home.

Acrylic dots create colorful blue painting, by Ann Marie Coolick |

What are you working on now?

I have multiple projects going on right now. I started working on a series of hydrangea paintings and am also experimenting with Polka Daubs on wood panels. I find that working on multiple pieces at a time on a rotating basis keeps me excited and also gives me a fresher view when I start something new.

Work hanging by impasto artist Ann Marie Coolick |
Ann Marie Coolick's abstract art done in impasto style |

From moody seascapes to colorful polka daubs, Coolick shows that with palette knife in hand, the canvas is a space for sculptural creativity.


*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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