Tag Archives: hot melted wax painting technique

A Piece of Me #43, encaustic on panel over linen. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. Final Version.

A Piece of Me #43, encaustic

A Piece of Me #43, encaustic on panel over linen. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. Final Version.

A Piece of Me #43, encaustic on panel over linen. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. Final Version.

A Piece of Me #43, encaustic on panel over linen. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. Version #1.

A Piece of Me #43, encaustic on panel over linen. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. Version #1.

Another graphical composition. This one, the tip of my linen jacket top right, against a light yellow stuccoed wall with two strong shadows left and right. The panel as substrate was not heavily textured (like collage or pastiglia) but I had glued some linen to it before coating it with gesso. I have already seen in the past that untreated panels (so plain wood) do react differently to paint than those with a covering of linen or cotton. The cloth covered ones are somehow softer, more receptive, while the wooden ones are harsher, more clinical. It’s a touchy-feely thing that comes down to the surface’s ability to absorb and respond to the paint.

All this to explain my dissatisfaction with the first version pictured above, right. Partially due to the receptivity of the substrate, the shadowed sections were just too opaque and heavy. There had been too much build up of impasto paint, especially along the inner edges, making the painted panel feel thick and overworked. So I decided to melt off the shadowy section and repaint it. I am more satisfied with the final version now, above left, as well as spotlighted above (online only). There is more light in the shadows. While I was at it, I also lightened up the yellow wall. Got a little heavy with the tooth brush speckles though, so I may need to edit a few of those out? But for now, I’ll let it sit.

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

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 #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.