Tag Archives: abstract encaustic painting

A Piece of Me #63, encaustic on gessoed panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #63, encaustic

A Piece of Me #63, encaustic on gessoed panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #63, encaustic on gessoed panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #63, underdrawing in india ink.

A Piece of Me #63, underdrawing in india ink.

A very abstract floor tile piece. Foreground, right. So I allowed myself to use undiluted mars black for the final accent touches (how daring!). Compositionally then, there were two parts, a dark upper quarter and a light, bottom three quarters. I tried to be sure to bring touches of each into the other chromatically, to assist in the  creation of an overall unity within the painting.

Also, I used a lot of different tips and tricks to enhance texture and workability of the paint: the iron/cheesecloth trick and the loaded toothbrush-splatter trick. But one of the most interesting effects occurred during the “burning-in” phase. The surface was fairly loaded with brushwork in different tonalities. Some areas were thicker than others. So when I held the heating lamp over the panel to burn-in the paint and seal it to the panel, some areas began to pool more quickly than others. No problem. I watched and waited. Then because some pigments are naturally heavier than others, as they remelted on this flat surface, a mottled look began to appear which enhanced the original mottled look of the tiles. Nice, like clouds drifting in the sky. Fluid. And as they cooled – cast into stone.

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

A Piece of Me #03 encaustic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in

A Piece of Me #03, encaustic

A Piece of Me #03 encaustic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in

A Piece of Me #03 encaustic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in

The newly revised higher contrast pen and ink underdrawing.

The newly revised higher contrast pen and ink underdrawing.

OK, today I completed the second of the encaustic series for the A Piece of Me project. Seen here on the left. Like yesterday’s it was another fairly abstract panel but this time the composition included more detailed shapes, forms and contrasts of light and dark. So after my experience with the first panel, I quickly decided to move away from an underdrawing done in light washes of india ink to a pen and ink drawing which has more contrast. I had already seen yesterday that whatever underdrawing there was (which in that first case was not much) the thick opacity of the encaustic paint quickly obliterated it, rendering it superfluous So, either you forgo the underdrawing altogether or you increase its intensity. I decided to go for the latter. Here to the right then is a photograph of the revised pen and ink underdrawing (completed over the original india ink wash). There are a lot of details which I know will not be seen in the completed painting, but, like the whiskers on a man’s cheek in a painting by Memling or Holbein, these strokes will still have a role to play in the final painting.

So I began my approach as I did yesterday, slapping on coats of white and yellow ochre. I quickly had a mess of nothing. Using paper towels and a hot iron I melted it all off and started over again. (This is common in encaustic.) Still, this melting left an overall tint of yellow to the panel. I mixed up a light tint of white and yellow ochre, which I began applying in small strokes to mimic the architectural forms of bricks, panels and arches. This allowed some of the underdrawing to show through in strategic places. Nice, this was going better now. Then I melted up a tint of burnt umber for the shadowed forms. Using a small brush I lay the shadows in. Again, nice. Taking up the infra red heat lamp I burned it all in. I stopped, satisfied, at least for the moment.

Technical write up of using encaustic for an indirect painting technique here.

A Piece of Me #33, encaustic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #33, encaustic

My super-duper thrift store find. Maybe originally intended for fondue? Temperature adjustment dial on the right. The metal and marble plates just above the burner radiate. The little black trays work great for keeping the colours warm above and below.

My super-duper thrift store find. Maybe originally intended for fondue? Temperature adjustment dial on the right. The metal and marble plates just above the burner radiate. The little black trays work great for keeping the colours warm above and below.

I’ve finally been able to return to an old mud-pie love: encaustic. It’s a really visceral hands on technique. Melted beeswax and damar varnish are melted together, then dry pigments are added to this molten medium. The pallet then consists of a metal plate suspended over a two burner electrical hot plate. In order to manipulate the paint, you have to keep it in this molten state. You can spend up to $500 buying fancy equipment but I’ve always managed with $5 finds from my local thrift store. See the image to the right.

All painting, that is the brush strokes, dry within a matter of seconds. So it’s really coarse and textural. You have to like that (I do). In comparison to many other media, encaustic is the mother of the “happy accident”. Additionally, or rather in contrast, it’s also quite difficult to manage, to control, to manipulate. There are many unhappy accidents. Realistic subject matter then, is possible, but if so, it’s never refined, which is also OK, as long as you are comfortable with that (I am).

A Piece of Me #33, encaustic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #33, encaustic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.

I began this series of encaustic panels for the A Piece of Me project with a purely abstract background composition. I reasoned that, for starters, this would be an easy subject matter, good for getting my feet re-wet. And it was. Swift strokes of titanium white to start, then a layer of yellow ochre, covered by another layer of titanium. After the burning in, where you hold a heat lamp (another $5 thrift store find) over the panel for a number of seconds to gently remelt the wax and fuse it to the panel, I decided to add some graphical contrast. I melted a tint of some burnt sienna and applied a quick spray of dots using a tooth brush. Eh voila!

Scale it up, 10 or 20 times and hang it on the wall. There’s your contemporary piece of art. Technical write up of using encaustic for an indirect painting technique here.