A Piece of Me #53, encaustic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #53, encaustic

A Piece of Me #53, underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #53, underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #53, encaustic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #53, encaustic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

I’m nearing the end of the encaustic series. This panel was both interesting and challenging at the same time. I had white pants, a very light yellow wall, some skin tone and tan socks, so four different regions of highlights and quarter-tones. The subject (me) is strongly lit, which created strong shadows particularly between the two legs. How to render this in encaustic in a way that stays true to the subject matter but also creates an attractive painting?

First step (after already laying in the underdrawing see right) was to cover the surface with yellow ochre and then aggressively melt it back off. This left me with a golden imprimatura. Nice. Then I did the same thing but this time only to the skin tones by adding green to the two leg sections and melting that back off. Then I had the distinctly green underpainting that I wish for in my skin tones.

After these preparatory steps I set about painting in the various sections: the white pants with its shadows, the skin tones, the shadowed socks, the wall (with its big shadow in-between the two legs), and the shoes. When I had something that appealed to me I decided to try to gently melt it off. Principally, I was not happy with the big central shadow section. It was too dark and too opaque. So I knew I needed to lighten it up somehow. The iron/cheescloth routine beckoned. So I set about it, and as usual, took off too much. 🙂

The electrified encaustic pen with three attachments, a pen nib, a brush nib and a small iron.

The electrified encaustic pen with three attachments, a pen nib, a brush nib and a small iron.

BUT, no problem, the underdrawing began to shine through in all the places where it had become lost. I liked that. Encaustic is such a thick, impasto, opaque technique. It’s the opposite of what I have been trying to do for so long in using an indirect technique to make use of layers to build up a painting. So suddenly I had an underpainting where all the different regions, with their shadowed sections were already very well indicated. This could be something to build on. Painting backwards in encaustic(!). Some forward moving opaque touch ups to give it all body and I might be done?

I came back the next day and did just that. Some large swathe brush strokes of white on the pants leg. Some quick highlights and shadows in the socks. Skin tone modelling. Redid the light plaster wall. That worked fine for the large fields but I had to pick up the electric pen nib (see right) to add in the finer details that are otherwise so difficult in encaustic. The shoelaces and fine lines on the pants leg. This is the result. I’ll take it.

Description of the entire project here. Technical write up of using encaustic for an indirect painting technique here.

3 thoughts on “A Piece of Me #53, encaustic

  1. 2dehamel3

    So El, any chance you can reveal the ‘big picture’ so far? I am so anxious to see how it looks all together.
    I love ‘part to whole’ processes (Nils!!!!) and find myself eagerly anticipating how all the ‘pieces’ fit together!
    Paint on, El. Paint on!
    Love,
    Your fan, Kin

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    Reply
  2. ellentrezevant Post author

    Hi Kin,
    Unfortunately, I don’t have the big picture – yet. But I do have the original photograph with the write up of the project. See here:
    https://atelierartisanal.com/2019/09/12/a-piece-of-me-the-beginning/
    Also I am not painting these sequentially but rather in batches according to technique. I keep each one in a little plastic sleeve tucked vertically into a bookshelf in my studio. It’s very cramped.
    Occasionally, I can place one panel against another when I discover some familiar subject matter, for example, like the man’s dark green sweater. But the problem really is that we live in such a small house, there is not enough floor space to lay it all out. So after I finish all the panels, I will have another project of framing each little panel, putting velcro on each back, and then assembling them all physically on some big backing board. We have one space on one wall in the upstairs guest room where the final piece can hang. But that is a long ways off.
    Strangely enough, when I did Nils back in the day I was driven to reach the finish line. This time I don’t feel that way. Sure, I am curious, but I have been far more serious this time about making each panel count. Before with Nils, it was just lip service – or luck? So my pleasure rests with the footsteps now, not the destination (sounds philosophical, eh?).
    Thanks as ever for your enthusiastic support!!!
    XO,
    El

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  3. Pingback: Encaustic and indirect painting | Atelierartisanal's Blog

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