Last summer, in Paris I secretly photographed this gentleman and his faithful companion, waiting patiently in line at a boulangerie. Wonder what a day is like for them and does one season melt into the next? Does their year begin after the Summer Soldes?
When does your year begin? September is often a marker for many of us. The first day of school: new clothes, new supplies, new friends and new experiences. January is a logical starting point as well. My August birthday has always been my “beginning.” And while celebrating my birthday always brings up many emotions, mostly positive (I’m starting another trip around the sun!) and a few negative (my dad, Merrill May died four days before my 11th birthday (quite some time ago – obviously – but still the memory is bittersweet), I use this yearly marker to assess where I’ve been and where I’m going.
Art wise I’m becoming more confident in my processes and mediums – encaustics are more or less turning out as I envision them – working with hot wax, while still challenging, is more predictable.
Cold wax, not so much. Learning to mix oil paints and create abstract interpretations of my inner visions is still a struggle. Work is often put aside until I can figure out where it needs to go, as in the piece below, “In the Distance.” Can’t begin to tell you how many variations this work went through (or how many layers of wax and paint exist under the topmost one). It’s like an archeological dig – scrape the surface and surprises await!
When not in the studio, the rest of my life continues on a pretty even keel. I travel, eat great meals and share good times with family and friends. At a recent event I took many photographs of these lovely koi – gracefully swimming under and around lily pads. I love how they shared their beauty and were unaware of what was above them or where their lives were going. Totally blissful.
This wall exists here in Portland and I love textures and peeling paint. It’s old and still hanging in there. Nuff said.
Working with cold wax and oil paint is challenging me daily. As someone who likes getting stuff completed in a timely fashion, oil paint demands that I play by its “slow down” rules. When I put paint to board, layer upon layer, I have to wait for stuff to dry and patience has never been my strong suit. Until recently I’d had no experience with this medium and it sucked me in just like hot wax (encaustic). Damn (and thank you to) those bees! This piece was started in early March. The birch panel was first covered with gesso and then a layer of Venetian plaster was laid down. The size alone was intimidating – it’s the biggest board I’ve used to date (18 x 28 inches). Using colors generally not in my color palette made me uncomfortable but I wanted to push myself. Subsequently, I was overwhelmed and put it aside for a month.
In April it went back on the easel and I attacked the surface with more paint, cold wax and lots of scraping and scratching. I kinda thought it was done, but wasn’t crazy about the result, so back in the closet it went.
Upon my return the East Coast (and the 11th International Encaustic Convention) I felt renewed and wanted to see what I could now do to this large panel. More layers and mark-making, a new color-way and finally a sense where this work is headed. And, while not done yet, the end is near (or so I think).
Another work that I thought was “done” and it wasn’t . . .
Thought it was done again but wait . . .
Now I think so.
Saturday, February 25 from 12-2 pm, I’ll be demonstrating how to use cold wax and oil paints (on both paper and board) at Artist and Craftsman Supply in North Portland – 2906 N. Lombard Street. Drop by, check out the store (it is artists’ heaven) and learn about this way-cool medium. Additionally, I’ll be answering questions about the 2017 Portland Open Studios Tour – the Call to Artists is open now with an entry the deadline of March 3rd.
Beeswax! It’s amazing. When combined with Demar resin and heated you end up with encaustic medium, which is used hot. When encaustic medium is combined with Gamsol, heated and then cooled you end up with cold wax medium, a paste-like substance which is used cold.
Until recently, I focused on creating encaustic artworks, having taken several excellent classes from Portland artist Linda Robertson. I love utilizing iPhone photos, pan pastels and colored encaustic oil pigments, using a heat gun and pancake griddle to heat things up. After spending two days working with the talented artist and teacher, Serena Barton, learning about cold wax, oil paint, Venetian plaster and more, I am totally smitten with this method of using beeswax.
This encaustic piece combines three iPhone photos (the clouds, the house/field and the crow). All three images are inkjet printed on archival card stock and collaged the cradled birch panel with PVA glue. Warm encaustic medium (both clear and tinted) is applied via a natural bristle brush and then heated with an embossing gun between layers, pan pastels and encaustic pigments are used as embellishments. Again, every time something is laid onto the surface, heat is used to melt the layer into the one below. Having the chance to use my photographs, create imaginary landscapes AND the added bonus of warm beeswax scenting my studio is divine! These pieces do require a certain amount of planning and preparation – what layers go down first, what photos need to be cut, what paper should I print on? How much more wax should be added? My graphic design background comes in quite handy.
Encaustic medium cools so fast – brushing hot wax from one side of a board to the other – it’s cool. Working with cold wax is TOTALLY different and I’m in uncharted territory. Never having used oil paints before (yes, they are used in a diluted form in encaustic), I was unprepared for the ‘drying’ time issue.
Layers of cold wax and oil paint (mixed at a 50/50 ratio) can take several days to dry, especially in our rather damp Oregon climate. These three abstract works are all painted on cradled birch panels with a base layer of acrylic gesso and a thin coat of Venetian plaster.
Needless-to-say, they are QUITE different from the encaustic medium works! Layering and scraping away, incising the paint with various tools – bamboo skewers, Starbucks® cardboard jackets, forks, paper-towels, a palette knife – whatever I can grab that makes a mark. Even with the element of waiting for stuff to dry, the process is very spontaneous. Inspired by “true life” images and then creating abstract compositions with depth and movement is both challenging and rewarding and so much fun!
A BIG SHOUT OUT to the bees for making such a wonderful product that, whether used hot or cold, allows me not only to expand my knowledge but also adds to the joy of my continuing artistic practice!
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Pablo PicassoToday everything is HARD. Focusing on tasks that need to be completed–HARD. Anticipating tasks that need to be started–HARD. Tearing myself away from daily news about our nation’s upended political climate–EXTREMELY HARD. Right now all that’s keeping me somewhat sane is making art. It isn’t required to be good, it doesn’t need to be finished – it just needs to be made. Embracing a new medium – cold wax and oil paint – has been a lifesaver. When I’m immersed in the process “the dust of everyday life” settles and all that matters is the board, the paint, the palette knife, the color, the lines, the smell…the silence of the studio. I can breathe–anger and fear are momentarily replaced with happiness and wonder. It’s only temporary, but it’s enough – a brief pause to recharge my soul before I’m once again covered and ready to deal with life’s dust. Engaging in my life-long practice of embroidery, by creating original samplers is soothing and joyful as well.
Hibernating has been my modus operandi for the last eight days as we weathered eleven-plus inches of snow here in the Rose City. It was both a blessing and a curse. My knitting skills have greatly improved thanks to the weather – with 11 “pussyhats” completed and soon-to-be on friend’s and family’s noggins for this Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington in D.C., San Francisco, Boston, NYC, Eugene and here in Portland. Unfortunately my studio time has been almost nonexistant – reading, drinking tea, walks in the neighborhood, going to movies and general lolling about have occupied my days. Yesterday I walked to Collage – supporting local small businesses is especially important when inclament weather strikes – and purchased gouache and some brushes. This sketchbook piece had been started at the beach, during a break in the Portland Open Studios board retreat, using this recently purchased book – Masterpieces of the Metropolitan Museum of Art . Van Gogh’s painting, La Berceuse (Woman Rocking a Cradle; Augustine-Alix Pellicot Roulin) was inspiring. Playing around with colored pencils and gouache today was too much fun and I’m looking forward to more experimentation!Speaking of Portland Open Studios – the Call to Artists is now open. Here’s the postcard I designed, along with the new logo. I’m looking forward to working with my fellow board members this year – this organization’s 19th – to create a wonderful event for participating artists and the public!
Portland Open Studios (PDXOS) features 106 artists who open their studios, showing their art and work spaces to visitors. This past weekend over 100 guests learned a bit about encaustic collage, hand embroidery and my art practice. Additionally, everyone was given the opportunity to create their own small piece – working with beeswax, demar resin, oil pastels and encaustic colors. They had a blast and so did I! Monday evening I visited 8 of the studios in my artist community (Community #2). Betsy Levine #11, (her meticulous oil paintings of flowers are delightful) organized this private tour – since we’re all booked during the two weekends of the event. The studios and artworks I saw were amazing and getting to know these artists was a treat. David Friedman’s, #17 paper cutting must be seen in person – photos just can’t capture it’s depth and beauty. Kamala Dolphin-Kingsley’s #20, watercolors and acrylics are wonderful – scientific and whimsical at the same time. Dan Pillers #16, heart-felt mixed media/reclaimed wood sculptures tell stories and share his visions. Mona Cordell’s #19, bi-level studio was full of her powerful figure paintings, sumi brush drawings and more. Would so love to see her body painting on the NW Dance Project performers this weekend! Mandy Stigant’s #18, sturdy wood-fired stoneware would be a great to use. Scott Conary’s #13, masterful oil paintings tell stories of places, people and more. Hilary Pfeiffer’s #12, works embrace several mediums: wood, metal and book publishing. Her painted wood birds and animals are truly delightful. Three hours later I came home visually sated, feeling very honored to be included with this talented group of working artists. I’m gearing up for this weekend’s tour (October 15/16, 10am – 5pm), creating some small encaustic pieces (3.5 x 3.5) on the left-over pine blocks that my sweet husband so graciously cut and sanded for me. Sharing what I love to do, having people appreciate my work and also enjoy trying their hand at making is the best! Here are some the Little Art Works (L.A.W.) that will be available this weekend – $25 each and ready to hang. Today’s lovely sun is giving way to a weekend of rain, rain, rain. So please do drop by, have some tea and chocolate, play with wax and see my work – I look forward to sharing it with you. Portland Open Studios guides are available at New Seasons, Collage, Dick Blick, Artist and Craftsman Supply as well as other local businesses and there’s a free app, too!