When it comes to painting tools, Paula McInerny will almost always choose a palette knife over a paintbrush. She’s in good company — masters like Cézanne, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh were also known for using palette knives, which can layer paint thickly on a canvas and create broad, bold strokes. “I like how it makes me looser, freer,” McInerny says. “Things happen with a palette knife that don’t happen with a paintbrush.” McInerny’s oil paintings are impressionistic and soothing, treating traditional subjects — people, flowers — with a strong use of color. “Oil paint is messy, expressive,” she says. “It always surprises you.”

McInerny moved to Charleston from Atlanta in April and has had a studio at Redux Contemporary Art Center since day one. She found Redux through local artist Sally King Benedict, who’s the daughter of one of McInerny’s friends. “She suggested it might be a good environment for me,” says McInerny. That’s proven to be true, which is lucky for McInerny since painting is her full-time job.

She didn’t start out as a painter though. For 25 years, McInerny was a professional photographer who left the business when everything started going digital. “I realized that my love was not the camera, but what happened in the darkroom,” she says. “Film was phasing out more and more, and it became clear that I was probably going to have to give that up.”

That was 11 years ago, and she’s been painting ever since. She’s mainly self-taught, but has taken classes at places like the Penland School in North Carolina and the Savannah College of Art and Design. “I enjoy the process of creating something, and if people connect to it, that’s wonderful. But that’s not why I paint. I paint because I love it.”

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