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.
In a previous post “Encaustic Paintings and My Life”, I spoke of my Art that I had done as a child and that I was very inspired by it. I decided to post the art and talk about my feelings about it; why is was so great to have the physical art work and why it is so inspiring to me. I chose one painting to start with. My very FIRST painting that I did as a child. I was 3 years old when this painting was done. (circa 1966) I am very proud of it. I can’t believe it has survived and it is 46 years old.
Having all my childhood pictures is very bittersweet for me. I love having them but I feel sad that it took me so long to come back to my passion. I am grateful that I have this in my life now and I know I don’t ever have to put this part of me aside. I can keep this part of me alive and thriving. I always wondered why it’s good and appropriate for young children to create art in school but the older they get the more frivolous it becomes? Why do schools always cut the creative part of the schooling before anything else? It seems like art and music are always getting the ax. Well, that was how it was in my family too when I was growing up. “Do something that is worthwhile and that will make you money”, my Mother would say to me. It was always a power struggle when I was growing up, I wanted to do what made me feel good (art) and my parents wanted me to take math and science classes. Even though I was very good at math and science, I was driven to create, I hounded them so much in high school that they allowed me to take 2 classes in high school. I had 2 free periods, so instead of leaving school early like the rest of my peers; I stayed in school and took art classes. I took a painting and a ceramics class; I adored them both and wished I could continue after high school but I was told that if they were going to pay for my education I had to take the classes they wanted me to. Needless to say I didn’t continue with my art classes.
I love art, I love the process of it and the outcome whether people think it is worthy of showing or not. I love it all, the good, the bad and the ugly. When I was older and much wiser I decided to go back to school and guess what classes I took??? ART – that’s right my friends – ART! I tried everything. Painting, ceramics, sculpture, mono-printing, intaglio, figure drawing and anything else I could cram into my 18 units. I even went to summer school. I loved both of the schools that I went to and feel that I got an outstanding education. I began taking art classes at San Francisco City College and then went on to finish my education at Parsons School of Design in Paris, France where I graduated with a BFA and began living my dream life.
A few years went by and life happened; I stopped painting and began working for a company that was “art based” but I wasn’t painting anymore. I was doing graphic design and creating invitations. It was fun and creative for me; making invitations from the inception to completion. I was making a lot of money and was extremely unhappy. I worked at this company for 15 years and then decided I needed a change so I quit. I went through a bunch of different jobs until the job I have now. I am happy, content and excited about art again. I am creating AND making money. I feel like I have the best of both worlds. I don’t think doing art is frivolous, I think it necessary and important in every child’s development to be able to express themselves in different ways. I would love it if government and families would see the necessity of art being included in the curriculum to have a well rounded education.
I am taking my original childhood art and using them as inspiration for new encaustic paintings. This will be the first of many to come!
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.