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!
Everything that is old can be new again . . . that’s what I’m discovering as I fall deeper into the encaustic rabbit hole. I’m mining my photo files, revisiting favorite images, ink jet printing them on Sumi rice paper and finally incorporating them into collages. Collaging onto oversized baggage tags has been obsession. The size limitations (2.5 to 3 inches x 5 to 6 inches) are right in my comfort zone. I found these tags stashed in a drawer with collages on both the front and back of each one (don’t know why I did that). I enlarged and photocopied each one onto Sumi rice paper, torn it into several pieces, “re-assembled” it and finally collaged all the parts with encaustic medium (a mixture of beeswax and damar resin) onto gessoed encaustic boards. Each board is the size of an artist trading card, 2.5 x 3.5 inches. The original tags are multilayered collages, composed of handmade and commercial papers, iPhone photos, paper ephemera and trash calligraphy (from my friend LeeAnn Clark’s studio recycle bin). The collage was glued and sewn to the tag along with a layer of transparent inks. This encaustic piece shows both the front and back of one tag. The transparency of the Sumi paper, when saturated with the encaustic medium and attached to the white background, makes the collages glow from within.
How fitting that this piece contains a rabbit (iPhone photo of a little iron bunny that I discovered hidden in a grassy curb strip on a Valentine’s Day walk with my sweetheart)as I do feel a bit like Alice embarking on a wonderful art journey.
I’m often asked what kind of camera I use and usually respond “iPhone.” It takes great snapshots and recording daily encounters of cool stuff, good friends, cats, delicious food or whatever is effortless (and inconspicuous). During our October trip to New Orleans I had my Olympus digital SLR as well. This morning I needed higher resolution images of some recent encaustic pieces and brought the SLR to the studio. After the computer download I was pleased to finally see the New Orleans pix (yes, I saw them on the camera’s digital screen, but on the MacBook Air they look so much better).Photographing with the SLR camera allows me to “focus in” and I tend to be more selective. Viewing these pictures took me back to my college photography classes – not for the process (WAY more involved with structured assignments, TriX and PlusX film, many hours in the dark room developing, printing and more) – but for the joy of seeing, looking at the world my way – and recording a moment.
For the past six months I’ve been stitching, stitching, stitching for an upcoming show – In the Moment – Self Portraits of 20 Women Artists – which opens on May 16 in Eugene, Oregon at Maude Kerns Art Center. We were asked to start work on October 18, 2013 and end on April 18, 2014. Despite some setbacks, I did complete the work on time, delivering the last two (of seven) pieces to the framer’s the morning of the 18th.
Being occupied by designing invitations, teaching classes, making crafts for an annual holiday sale, downsizing/moving, setting up a new studio and adjusting to a new city (thank heavens for Siri and Google maps!), didn’t leave much room for anything else, so it’s been awhile since I’ve created work “art.” The concept of a self-portrait depicting “where I am now” flummoxed me and for a while I just spun my jets, coming up and rejecting several concepts, finally hitting upon the idea of making “samplers” from several of my journal pages and iPhone photos. Now I’m obsessed with samplers and have purchased several books about sampler history and makers (apparently even ancient Egyptian girls sewed them!).
Making stuff and especially stitching are how I revel myself. It’s wonderful to be return to what matters most to me.