Tag Archives: encaustic painting

A Piece of Me #48, encaustic on panel over collage. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #48, encaustic

A Piece of Me #48, encaustic on panel over collage. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #48, encaustic on panel over collage. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #48, underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #48, underdrawing in pen and ink.

An abstract floor tile composition. Should be easy, right? Wrong. This was one of the most difficult ones yet.

Why? Well, the panel prep called for collage, so I had glued on some fairly heavy squares of cloth to represent the dark, grey-blue tiles on the bottom half. I liked the collage level. It was heavily textured. But as I began laying in the encaustic I found the coarseness of the technique (using a bristle brush) along with the coarseness of the collage made the drawing in of fine, thin grouting lines next to impossible(!). It was an ugly mess.

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.

Also, I discovered that my collage was somewhat inaccurate, so I had to correct some of those grouting lines. What to do? Bring in the troops! I brought out my handy-dandy-super-duper encaustic craft tool, the electrified pen, pictured to the right. I had picked one of these up about 10 years ago. Cost, maybe 25 Euros? I inserted the pen nib attachment, plugged it in and began drawing in my grouting lines. It took some time but in the end that level of detail worked out fairly well.

Along the way there were two other nice surprises. One, while using the big household iron/cheesecloth method to melt the paint partially off on the two large lighter value upper planes, different colours began to emerge in places, along with the india ink underdrawing. Nice. Two, during the “burning-in” phase, the heavily built-up levels of blue-grey paint on the lower tiles began to fuse, creating a dreamy, creamy mottled look. Again, nice nice.

I am happy to put this one aside for awhile, wondering how well it will integrate into the larger piece? Grey balance can be notoriously difficult, but at the same time, that’s precisely where the chromatic vibrations can be so interesting. We’ll just have to wait and see. 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.