Encaustic Triptych – Surrealist Landscape

Last week I talked about learning from my mistakes and this week I feel that last weeks mistakes paid off. I started with the one cradled board that was a mess last week. I cleaned it off to start over and decided that I would use all three I had for a triptych I had been sketching about all week. My sketching is all about free flow and what ever comes to my mind I will draw and color in, whether it’s from my memories or what I see outside or just a bunch of doodles. Last week someone gave me 25 copic markers and so I spent all week drawing with them. They were not my color choice so I decided to think and draw outside the “color box”. To draw and sketch with just the sketching in mind and not the colors so much. It was quite difficult because I am very drawn to certain colors and definitely have my favorites. It was really good for me to go outside my color comfort zone and doodle, draw and sketch with colors I don’t normally use. It really made me sketch from feelings and from my memories instead of just sketching with color. I strive to do things artistically and with my life that take me outside my comfort zone, not all the time mind you but quite often. It’s there where I really and truly learn what I am made of. Last week was one of those experiences for me, trying new tools and new techniques.  I could have gotten mad; I could have pretended like it didn’t happen at all but my nature is to learn and I sure did learn a lot from all I did last week. This week I am very happy with the results of my work and my experiences from the past weeks of trial and error. This week was a success for me. Using colors I don’t normally use and doodling with copic markers not of my choosing. The encaustic painting was a success not only because it turned out compositionally and with the colors I used but because I chose to go outside my comfort zone last week and this week and take what I learned and put it into my painting. It felt really good to accomplish something really good this week.

triptych in blue

Above is a picture of before the painting began but after I put on the base layers of my medium.I first put 6 layers of clear medium onto each of the three boards. I put equal parts of damar resin crystals and wax medium into my pots to melt. While the wax was melting I went through my other wax colors and brought out the ones I felt would be the best for the this landscape. I really like the wax pots I have; I found them at Daniel Smith on-line. They are empty printers ink cans and they hold a really good amount of wax. The first color I added to the boards along the bottom was Celedon Green; I put about 30% damar resin, 20% pigment and 50% medium. I like how this color is pretty opaque. The next color I used along the top of the boards was turquoise blue and again it was about the same percentage of pigment, damar resin and wax medium. I put a small strip about 2/3 of the way down the board with a green gold pigment but with this color I used 40% damar resin, 50% wax medium and only 10% pigment. I wanted this color to be more transparent than the rest because I wanted a lot of contrast between the green gold and the thick heavy line below in Cadmium Orange. I painted layer upon layer of the Cad Orange to get it so raised up off the board. I made this color with 40% wax medium, and 50% damar resin and 10% Cadmium Orange Pigment; this pigment is so strong that one only needs a small amount to get the opacity you see in the picture below.

triptych in blue triptych in blue

The next thing I did was incise through the wax with a ceramic tool. The one I used has a wooden handle and a metal tip on the end, it’s used for trimming the tops of pots while throwing on a wheel. I had decided to do a type of landscape based on my sketches and the encaustic painting that I had started last week. I filled the lines with R&F Titanium White Pigment Sticks and let it sit for an hour or so. One of the problems I had last week was my impatience to complete a piece, so this week I decided to take my time and slow down. I really was getting excited about this piece and didn’t want my impatience to ruin it. While I was waiting for the oil paint to settle, I cleaned off the sides of my boards. I typically use my heat gun to warm the wax that has dripped over the sides and a metal ceramic rib to scrape off the excess wax. They work really good and get the boards really clean. I have included pictures of all the ceramic and sculpture tools that I like to use with my encaustic painting.

After cleaning the sides of my boards of wax, I put a thin coat of clear medium over the whole board. Enough to cover the white pigment I had pushed into the the incised areas of the painting. I then put 3 more layers of cadmium orange to heighten the layers between the depth of the white and the height of the orange because I wanted more dimension between all the layers of wax. My next step was to add the balls of red (Alizarin Crimson); last week I heated up a sculpture tool and melted holes into the wax and filled them in and then scraped back to get it smooth. That really didn’t work out very well,  so this week I painted with the wax to make balls on top instead. I used the same percentage of wax, damar and medium as the Cadmium Orange and really liked how it turned out. I did some different tests to see what I like best and what was best suited for what I was doing and I like having the red high up off the boards along with the orange stripes. I am very pleased with the result of all my hard work, I really do love working with wax and the fluidity of it all. When it is all said and done; life is ever changing and fluid. Being open to what life has to offer is the best part of living.

Suminagashi Marbling & Encaustic Painting

I have been playing around with different papers and backgrounds for my encaustic painting and thought I would try my hand at Suminagashi. It is the traditional Japanese water based marbling technique. I got the ink set at Dick Blick Art Supplies on Market Street in San Francisco California. I used white Strathmore cards and envelopes in my studio so before I got too deep in this process I thought I would just use what I had.

These inks are not ordinary dyes. They are pigment inks made by blending high-grade cosmetic pigments with PVA via a special process. They have a good adhesion to materials and do not run or blot in water. Furthermore, they have an opacity not found in dyes, and can be mixed according to standard color rules like paints. The inks can also be applied in layers when the undercoat is dry. Virtually all ordinary materials that soak up water (paper, cloth, hide, wood, etc) can be marbled with these inks. The inks are made from high-grade pigments and so are non-toxic. Even small children (ages 6 and up) can use them without worry.

I will glue them onto the Ampersand Clay Boards before I begin my encaustic painting. I even tried FW Acrylic Inks and was happy with the colors and how they turned out. I will definitely be doing more of this marbling and will post more pictures when I have completed my encaustic painting with one. I was so excited about this and just wanted to share these pictures with you. 

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Encaustic Painting and My Life

I recently went through some old boxes of mine and found art work that I did when I was 3 years old. My Mom was so great to think ahead and date each and every piece of my art work. I was amazed at what a little kid can do; in fact what I did between the ages of 3 and 10. Apparently that is when I stopped doing any art work which make me a tad bit sad but I think I feel lucky to still have these paintings. One of the most vivid childhood memories I have is me finger painting outside with one of my Dad’s old shirts on and how full my heart-felt. It was such a strong memory that I went back to that same preschool as an adult and even though it was smaller it looked exactly same and it made me smile. I can still smell the paint, my Dad’s cologne and the way the newsprint felt under my little 3-year-old fingers.

Jumping ahead to about 2 months ago, I decided that I wanted to learn how to paint with wax. I had gone to art school and wanted to learn while in school but they didn’t allow that type of painting due to its toxicity and the fact that you have to heat wax. I have been reading numerous books and watching YouTube videos and trying learn all I needed to be able to paint with wax.  Two weeks ago I felt I was ready to start encaustic painting. I had purchased all the wax, a few boards and paint brushes and set out to become an encaustic painter. It was a disaster; the first 2 paintings I did were a big mess, they reminded me of what my painting first looked like when I began oil painting. I put down my brushes and reread a book that I have on the subject. The next day I was back out in my studio at it again; I am nothing if not driven to succeed. I wasn’t going to let the WAX win! My third painting wasn’t bad, It wasn’t great either. It helped me to have my childhood paintings around hanging up in my studio. I could feel my enthusiasm building like when I was three and tried again and lo and behold my 4th painting was great.

The reason I decided to try encaustic painting stemmed from a love of 3 dimensional painting, a love of paper and found objects. It is the perfect medium to express myself. The first painting I completed that I was happy with is called 3 squared and I painted it for my brother-in-law as a thank you. I found some really cool paper and these old bingo wooden numbers that I incorporated into the piece. I cut out the letter J and put it on the bottom left hand corner of the triptych. The boards were glued together after I painted them. There is the number 3 in all the pieces, along with 3 pieces of 5×5″ clay boards. I have done 4 more paintings in the past few weeks and it’s beginning to feel like it’s becoming a part of me as an artist. I carve into the paintings & do a lot of rubbing of oil paint into the work which feels similar to how it felt when I was 3 years old connecting my art through the paint with my hands. Painting with encaustic feels like coming home; now all I need is an old shirt of my Father’s, some Old Spice and I will be 3 years old again.