Saturday, April 24, 2010

Energetic Encaustic Aftermoon

My demo #1
Photo transfer, encaustic, and collage on Claybord

Today's workshop at my studio, "Mind Your Own Beeswax", was a riot of energy and creativity. Five women fused up a storm. I love how they each used encaustic in different ways and came up with such rich and lively work. Above is one of my demo pieces, done over one that didn't turn out and has been sitting in a drawer for a couple of years. I love how encaustic work can always be redeemed.

New View of Delft (Demo # 2)
Encaustic and vintage pattern paper on wood panel

This demo piece was also done over a reject from years past. I added quite a few layers of new paint and scraped away to the original painting in the central image.

The piece below is a demo that consists of clear encaustic medium over blender pen transfers. The transfers were done on the bare board panel before applying the wax.

Demo # 3
Photo transfers, encaustic medium, vintage postage stamp, teabag

Demo # 4
Homage a Manet

Encaustic on wood panel

I did the above painting earlier in the week, using beeswax mixed with microcrystalline wax. Again, I rescued an old reject and completely redid it.

Now--on to the exciting student work from today:

Kris' second piece today. She figured out how to use the wax in a very
painterly way, and we all think she should keep it just as it is!

Kris' first piece is in progress. She didn't intend to do a face
but it appeared before her eyes as the wax dried, so she
decided to go with it! She also experimented with splashing drops of water
on top of a new encaustic layer, and then fusing, which resulted in the interesting effects you see nearthe bottom of the piece and on the far right.
Cool effect!

The students found that after their first piece, they loosened up a lot. They found out how forgiving encaustic is, and how fun it is to experiment--you can always change it later, just scrape it down and wax over it.

Karen's first piece, very lovely.

For Karen's second piece, she let loose. She did a lot of incising
and added 3-D embellishments. She said she was frustrated by
the small holes that appeared in the wax. She decided to exaggerate
the effect, rather than try to eliminate it, so she added lots of little
holes in areas around the picture. This piece makes me joyful.

Jennifer's first piece is still in process. She began with a structured flower
and then loosened it up with layers of clear beeswax medium. She's
going to explore the processes of shading and layering some more. I'd say she's off to a great start here!

Jennifer relaxed a lot for her second piece, and did this
great Tuscan style view in a very short time!

K.J.'s second piece is this elegant and serene Asian style
landscape. She too, found her second piece went quickly.

We all talked about how the creative process involves entering into "the chaos" and the uncertainty. I often find that my own process goes something like, "Make it, like it, do a little, wreck it, fix it." Sometimes this is repeated many times before it the piece sings.

K. J. did the piece below as her first. After it was finished, she made a "mistake" and worried she'd ruined it. She put it aside and went back to it, ending up with a piece even better than before. (K.J. remember what I said, Don't touch it now--it's done!)

K.J.'s dreamy landscape

KC went to town and did four pieces. The above piece
she had planned, to showcase an image on papyrus
that she got in Egypt. She found that encaustic and papyrus
fight a bit, but she persevered and got this lovely image.

This piece of KC's contains blender transfers, a piece
of vintage dress pattern, vintage postage stamps,
and loose tea. The pattern lines add great movement to
the piece.

KC recently married her sweetheart (a great guy!--SB)
She was tickled by this postcard of a bride with the legend
below: "She was blissfully unaware of her peril"

KC surrounded her card with pink encaustic paint, and some
of the glittery spangles used instead of rice at her wedding. She sealed these with clear medium. When she sealed the bride card, the wax made
a nice shadow over part of the bride's face, suggesting the front of her veil, or maybe a sense of impending doom.)

KC had a blast with bright color and with using the fusing torch
as a partner in creation of this vivid landscape.

The five fiery ladies and I are planning another get-together next month--can't wait!

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Great Resource

A sweetheart from The Vintage Moth

Hey, all you collage artists and those who love vintage photographs--I just found out about an amazing site called The Vintage Moth. Abbie has 2010 (2011) if you count me, followers and you may well want to join us. In addition to showing us her own lovely art, Abbie gives away, yes gives away, a large selection of vintage photos from the 19th century and other times. What a generous spirit! Check it out!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Photos from "Living to Paint/Painting to Live" at PSU

Some images of the wonderful work created by my PSU students this weekend in "Living to Paint/Painting to Live". The students outdid themselves on their creative projects for the class!
The class covers the lives and work of Sofonisba Anguissola, Renaissance Italian painter and Artemisia Gentileschi, Baroque Italian painter.

Tammy's piece in process,
inspired by Judy Chicago's place setting
for Artemisia in The Dinner Party

Roxanne's standing piece for Sofonisba,
featuring text by Sofonisba and a burnt-out heart,
referencing the artist's marriage for love in middle age

Stephanie usually makes functional ceramics, but
today she made her first sculpture, of Sofonisba

Pam created her first pastel painting--Artemisia from the artist's self-portrait

Pamela referenced Sofonisba's black clothing and white collar, along
with Sofonisba's style of painted hands. In the center, Sofonisba
winks at us, which refers to the artist's visual wit and coded messages

Monique's collage contains symbols of the wide eyes with which
Sofonisba viewed the world, and the expressive eyes and faces
that populate her paintings. The blue waves symbolize the ocean
where Sofonisba met her future husband, whom she married for
love against familial and political pressure

Monica created these altered book pages for Artemisia, the
blue referencing Artemisia's self-portrait as "The Allegory of Inclination"

Heather painted this pastel portrait after one of Sofonisba's self-portraits

Karleah's piece combines collage and original drawings in honor
of both Artemisia and Sofonisba.

Gail painted her first picture ever for this piece to Sofonisba

DeeDee created this collaged and painted piece for
Artemisia. The painted face on the left shows Artemisia's
strength, while the prone figure on the bottom represents
Artemisia's attacker, Agostino Tassi, in the guise of Holofernes

I'm sure some of these names mean little or nothing to the readers of this blog, but my hope is that some of you may be inspired to check out the work and lives of these two remarkable women. Here are some places to start for Artemisia Gentileschi and Sofonisba Anguissola.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Medium

Encaustic Medium (beeswax and microcrystalline wax) on Wood Panel
12" square

I played around some more with this piece and am happier with the new result. I'm getting the hang of the micro wax now, and was able to get a smoother effect all over. I wanted to make the medium more wispy. I blew her hair around and added some deliberate drips. Now she looks like she is in a pleasant trance. Someone from the beyond must be giving her a positive message. (This image is digitally altered as I took the original picture under artificial light so I could post it now. Natural light will provide a better picture later on.)

Sometimes it is hard for me to tell if I like a piece once it is finished, or I think it is finished. Sometimes I try to convince myself I like it when really something is niggling me about it. That's when it's so important to put the piece aside for awhile, which is hard for me to do. I get impatient, and want it to be "right" this minute! This is one good thing about having several jobs (art-making, teaching, and counseling). It's hard to switch gears at times, but getting away from the studio sometimes saves me as much as going into it does. This painting is a case in point. Now I am happy with it, and am okay with it if others like it or not. I need to remember that when this feeling comes over me, to leave the piece alone!

Anyone have any thoughts on that age old question: How do you know when your piece is done? How about you writers out there--do you have as much struggle with this as we visual artists do?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Waxing Experimental and Poem Prompt

The Medium (large detail)
Beeswax, microcrystalline wax, pigment

I'm fascinated by the creative process and how inspiration ebbs and flows. I tend to have a low ebb during the winter. I want to make art but I feel uninspired and inept. Even though I'm always working with people to mobilize the muse, I am not exempt from roiling with frustration when she takes a vacation. As spring returns so does my inspiration, and I now have a series I'm working on and another percolating.

The above cropped images shows the newest in my series of encaustic faces. I tried something really different this time--something I've long been curious about but afraid to try. This bold move involved adding some microcrystalline wax to the beeswax I use for encaustic painting. I melted the micro wax along with the beeswax. I was relieved that the delicious beeswax smell wasn't compromised (I've heard micro by itself smells awful.) I was also relieved to have an exhaust fan in my new studio, as micro wax is more toxic than beeswax.

Why did I want to do this, you may wonder? Why make my already challenging life more difficult? (Aside from many personality quirks that could provide explanations.) For one thing, one of my favorite encaustic painters for many years, Tony Scherman, uses micro wax exclusively. He creates haunting, atmospheric portraits that I've loved for years. In one of his books he states that he is able to create more detailed work with micro wax. So, I've wanted to try it but feared the toxicity and felt disloyal to The Cult of Wax Lovers. I mean, beeswax is IT--it is the bee's knees. It smells delicious and natural. I love it. But it was interesting adding a bit of the micro. Microcrystalline wax is also less expensive than beeswax, so there's another, though lesser, consideration.

The micro was more plastic and moved around more, for want of a better way to put it. I did feel like it made the medium work more like oil paint. The micro-enhanced medium took longer to set, which took some getting used to and it set very strongly when it cooled. I'm going to try some more experiments and I'll report back!

The image above was scanned, so it shows more details than a photo. I usually like photos better, as you get a better sense of the whole that way. But, since we're focusing on technique here, it's good to see the details. The subject of the painting reflects my fascination with the Victorian's fascination with spiritualism. Hence the somewhat creepy medium shown here. And of course, I can't resist puns--something my 10 year old grandson and I have in common.


I posted this demo photo transfer piece recently in a post on my photo transfer workshop. My partner borrowed it for her blog "workshop/playroom" page where she posts writing prompts and the results her readers submit. April is National Poetry Month, so her prompts now revolve around poems. She used my piece for a visual prompt and I am pleased to share the result.

Here's what Deb wrote in response to this piece:


in those moments
of wanton want
i know you told yourself
would be transitory
and fade
behind spattered veils

so you pasted
your flesh
confused canvas

willful artist
how did you choose
which pieces
of love
to tear
and paste
which soul
to slash
and reassemble

your words
embedded fear
encaustic heat

Deb totally "got" the narrative in the collage and added layers of emotion and immediacy. I'd love to do some teaming up with writers, prompting each other with poems and stories on one hand, and art works on the other.

  • Note
I have one or possibly two spaces left in the upcoming encaustic workshop. Here are the details:

"This is your chance to fall in love with the aromatic, luminous, and versatile properties of beeswax in the form of encaustic painting! We will cover basic techniques such as building up layers, fusing the wax layers, adding color, including collage elements, and incising. We'll explore various heat tools and many design elements. No previous art experience needed, only lively curiosity and a willingness to risk addiction to painting with wax! "

April 24 1-5 PM
Tuition: 75. All supplies included.

Go here to register and here to see photos of my work and of student's work.