Encaustic Day in Rock Glen

Last week Sue came over to my house and we, along with Nate, dove in to my new encaustic set up. I had a starter set with 8 transparent encaustic colors, a bunch of oil paints, encaustic medium, filtered beeswax, paraffin, an electric griddle, 5×5 inch baltic birch panels, a couple of great reference books The Art of Encaustic Painting: Contemporary Expression in the Ancient Medium of Pigmented Wax and Encaustic Workshop: Artistic Techniques for Working with Wax and a bunch of cheap bristle brushes. I covered the table with an old vinyl cloth, put an exhaust fan in the window and away we went.

Apparently, encaustic with the uninitiated can be a very messy affair. It was a good thing that I had thought of using paper work space covers or else Nate’s area would be hopelessly lost to anyone else using that area in the future. Encaustic wax does not flake off hard surfaces like candle wax, it must be the damar crystals that keep it sticky and adhesive. The paraffin does peel off easily but it is used to clean the brushes.

Nate really went to town, as evidenced from his mess above, and ended up with a triptych complete with scanned and printed negatives and LOTS of texture.

Sue brought all sorts of stuff from home and made this beautiful collage using a printed image, flower bud, sonnet from Shakespeare and part of a potato bag.

My first one really bothered me because the wax kept blowing all over the board when I tried to fuse it. I would scrape the wax off and start again only to achieve the same results. Next I just started sticking stuff into the warm wax; shredded packing materials, a little bee firework and a bunch of scraped off wax globs. Then I added a final coat of medium and got this Starry Night kind of look with the fusing.

I used some of what I learned in my second one – keeping the background somewhat simple and layering a lot on top of that before fusing. I painted over Sue’s potato sack, threw in a few gouges and filled them with oil paint, stuck on a paper flower, carved out a little vase shape and sprinkled some lavender over the top.

Throughout this process we depended on two books for our how-to references and inspiration. These books were The Art of Encaustic Painting: Contemporary Expression in the Ancient Medium of Pigmented Wax by Joanne Mattera andEncaustic Workshop: Artistic Techniques for Working with Wax by Patricia B. Seggebruch. These two books really compliment one another; The Art of Encaustic Painting take a fine art approach to historical and contemporary uses of encaustic combined with technical knowhow while Encaustic Workshop is a more freeform look at one artist’s work and step-by-step instructions for achieving the numerous effects she illustrates in the book. One of us was always asking to look at one book or the other.

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