Encaustic Painting outside The Box

I have been doing a lot of sketching and thinking these past few weeks. Thinking of new ways to paint, new images that mean something to me. I was sitting outside one nice spring evening and watching all the birds in our back yard. I began sketching like crazy with some fun ideas.

I have been wanting to paint with encaustic for a long time and recently I have been wanting to include the sides too. I did some research and couldn’t find anything so I headed out on my own. I figured that the sides would need to be gessoed and so I bought some R&F Gesso and Golden Gesso for hardboard to see what would work the best. They both work well but the Golden lasts a lot longer; I think it’s a better value for your money. So I began painting the edges and then covering them with the wax.

The result of cover the sides was really exciting for me, I loved the way it looked. I love the way the boards look before I do any alterations to them. I typically cover my boards with 5 layers of medium mixed with damar crystals because of the amount of incising that I end up doing during the painting, I want to have a lot of wax to work with so this is what works for me. I kept wanting to touch the pieces and hold them in my hands. It felt great!

My ideas that spring evening came to fruition this past weekend when I started with covering the sides of my boards and painting with a few birds that we have visiting our yard and one bird that I saw on a walk in Muir Woods last year. I am very excited about this new series and will have a few more coming next week so stay tuned! If you would like to see what else I have going on you can check out my etsy site at : http://www.etsy.com/shop/RavensNestArt

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My Art Process from Beginning to End or my Finished Joy

I want to share with you Dear Readers my art process. How do I start an encaustic painting? What do I do in the middle and how do I know it done?

1. The first thing that happens is that I have an idea, I then break out one  of my sketch books. I always have one around me; whether I am at home or riding to work or in my studio. I typically have 3-4 sketch books going at one time. I keep them all around my house, in my purse, in my studio and next to my bed because I never know when I might have an idea and for me – “if it’s not written down it doesn’t exist”.

2. The second step in my process is to draw and sketch my idea. I typically will go through 2-10 pages of my sketch book. It is how I can bring my ideas come to life. If I am on my way to work or in bed I will keep the sketch book handy and then bring it to my studio to redraw it in my bigger sketch book that I keep there. I will use colour pencils or pens to highlight certain areas, spots that I want to concentrate on. Usually I am using a black, blue or burgundy pen for the basic part of my drawing.

3. The next step for me is to pull out all my papers, ephemera and any other goodies I have laying around that I think will go well with what I am trying to put out there. This part is typically with out colour because colour is so important to me and so important to my work. I don’t the colour to distract me from the objects I using for the painting. I want the pieces to work on their own and to look good/balanced within the whole. I will take a picture of what I have laid out and then look at it very critically away from the studio. Then I will bring the picture to my sketch book and make any changes or alterations that I feel are needed.

4. Once I am happy with the layout, I will bring in the colour for the painting. I will bring out my colour pencils or pens and do some sketching while trying to find the balance between the colours and the items I will be using for this painting. It will be very simple with large blocks of colour to give me a feeling of what I want to bring to the piece.

5. After I have added colour to my sketch book I set up my station with all the things I have laid out; but I will have more items there too because I want to leave my self open to change. Once I begin painting sometimes things look different and I’ll need to add or subtract items or change the colours. I usually stop a lot in the beginning and use all my pictures/ drawings and colors as reference. Once I am about 1/2 way through I can see what it will look like and visualize what needs to go where and what else I need to do to complete the painting.

6. After I feel the painting is completed, I will step away for a while and then come back to it make sure I feel it’s complete. During the process, I will take a lot of notes next to the painting; I have brown craft paper down underneath the painting which works great for keeping a clean surface as well as a perfect place to write down notes. I really like writing and taking a lot of notes about my paintings. Writing helps me see my work from another perspective; the teacher in me never leaves and this is the best way for me to critique my work. I try to see my work from all different angles. I  know when my work/painting is finished because I look at it and FEEL JOY! I hope you like this as much as I do.

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.