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.

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