Tag Archives: using encaustic to describe form

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.

A Piece of Me #18, encaustic over pastiglia on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #18, encaustic

Finally I am able to return to finish off the encaustic series. I had to stop for two intertwined reasons. First and foremost, I realized the the N95 mask I had been using may be good against covid-19 but it was not protecting me from the encaustic fumes. So I stopped and ordered a 3M certified vapour mask. Also, at that time it was the end of July and the studio was pretty hot even though I had a fan running and a door open to the garden. It seemed best to set it all aside until I got the right equipment and the temperature was a little kinder.

A Piece of Me #18, underdrawing

A Piece of Me #18, underdrawing

A Piece of Me #18, encaustic over pastiglia on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #18, encaustic over pastiglia on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

The panel composition for this one was mostly green sweater, with a bit of a hand, leg, wall and floor tile  thrown in for grounding spice. The preparation of the substrate included pastiglia, so the shapes were in light relief. I had laid in the design with india ink but before I began working with the melted wax I realized I had neglected to specify that the sweater shape also included the man’s forearm. So I added that to my drawing (not illustrated here) and set to work.

The delight in this panel consisted mostly in using the strokes of the melted wax to define the form. I had recently done another sweater panel in acrylics which had been quite successful in using the strokes to follow the flow of the form. Here I added some shadow chiaroscuro and the belly began to bulge.

Me in my new 3M vapour mask.

Me in my new 3M vapour mask.

Then came the man’s pant’s leg in the middle ground with its shadows, plus the hand, wall and floor tiles. That proceeded fairly quickly. In fact, I had already done those areas first before approaching the sweater (because it’s always best to work from background to foreground) but during the process of working on the sweater I had gotten a little too enthusiastic with the iron-cheesecloth method and had accidentally melted everything back off. Oops. Start over. So I did and this is the result.

Oh yes, and here to the right is a selfie of me in my new mask. An alien invader crashing the studio? Perhaps.

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