Fun with Encaustic

November 30th, 2010

I’ve been having such a nice time with encaustics.   What got me started on a kick to try this was this video. It totally jazzed out my frugal streak and I went for it.  It was a little splurge to get the starter kit from dickblick.  The real studio set up kit is an astoundingly spendy six hundred bucks but the little kit would give me enough materials to see if I liked it.   It consisted of six colors, a bag of medium, some soy wax for cleaning brushes, two brushes, two tins and three encaustiboards.  While I was waiting for it to arrive I scored an embossing tool and an electric fry pan at the Salvation Army (I’m in for seven bucks now.)  I went to the hospice shop in Bratt and got a mess of metal measuring cups and a muffin tin for another dollar.  The one thing I really wanted that I couldn’t find was an iron without steam holes.  This is a google impossibility.  The ones designed for encaustic are like sixty so I went scouring the web for a cheaper one.  In the end and after two full hours combing through pages of steam irons I found one for 13.  Score!

So I am off to make 100 pieces to start with.  Above are the first two I consider finished.  I have about 20 that are in process.  Here are some things I tried and some lessons I learned.

Use one or two of the muffin tin spaces for a changing color made from sticking all the wax that you scrape off or spill.  This both saves money and makes a beautiful mystery blackish color.

Do not put the wood piece on the hot plate to try to get the wax warm for too long.  It will melt the wax off the wood and on to the palette.

Dip and soak paper collage elements in the medium to make them semi transparent or to have them show a little of what is on the other side.

Do not leave the oil paint palette where you can lean on it ruining the nice thrift store fleece you got in lake placid.

i n t a r s i a

over fusing on writing – wax melts and moves the ink around to smudgeville.

oil paint beneath – way different dry time.  I am impatient and red dries the slowest.

Making encaustic colors with oil paint.  Tried to soak the oil out on a paper towel first but see above I am impatient.  There isn’t much  pigment in the ones I made but they are cool.  I’ll probably try this again with more paint and move this to score.

Making encaustic colors with dry pigment (yes I am wearing a mask, ventilating the studio and being careful)  Double score getting antique pigments on ebay for 12 bucks.

Fail so far
trying to do little intarsia points.  In my mind they are really cool so I will keep trying.  I think I need a tiny metal straw to cut out holes.  Maybe a piercing needle (those fancy hollow ones for eyebrows?)

All this has also had the side effect of forcing me into oil paint.  Acrylic, which I have been using for a long time, and wax don’t play well together.  People talked up the oils to me but I said they were too expensive, smelly, blah de dee blah blah.  I also remember taking an “anyone-can-do-art” class at some stupid chain outlet where they had you paint landscapes using their special techniques.  Some idiot teacher saw that I was doing the bird “wrong” and scrapped it off with a palette knife. Bitch.   I was making the gull with more detail than flying wide M’s across the sky and she swiped it off my canvas before I could say hey don’t I like that.  She really pissed me off.  I think in the end I blamed the oil paint for the bad experience.  I’m over it now.

I made this Sunday night.  The figure is from a black and white photo that was in my collage materials.  Before this I did a blue green version of the inner ear just to get the feel for my new liner brush.

The paint moves in a way that I think I will love when I get used to it.  The brush drops off paint as it picks up what was there before.  I find myself dropping color unexpectedly by not wiping the brush off enough.

I am waiting about a week before I work on this again – see what it is like with the paint more dry.

The figure was really fun.  I was jumping the gun for figure drawing which was last night.  Here is the last pose (12 minutes.)   I think it will be the base for another oil.  I love that little thing that comes from drawing from a model vs a photo.  Can you see it here?  Even though there are things not so perfectly life like it has way more of that something.  



On Studio Space and Talent

October 15th, 2010

I set myself up a studio in the basement. Although I have been saying forever that I don’t want a “studio.” I don’t want so many art supplies that take up too much space and I like to be in the common area – doing my thing with people around. But I got a bee in my bonnet to try something new and settled on encaustic. Basically this is painting with hot wax. After looking at some videos, reading up I decided this is way too messy for the living room and I carved out an area in my seldom used work area of the basement.

So working here these last few mornings is interesting apart just from the new media. I hear what is going on upstairs but am a little more absorbed in what I am doing. I feel more concentrated on what is in front of me. Additionally on the plus side my tools are easily accessible and easy to put away, the space is comfortable to stand or sit and the preparation of the space is fun to work out. The downside space is a little cold and has the feel of a basement but I think it will be good in general.
Emerging from here this morning I was chattering at Christopher about how much I am liking the wax. It is very tactile and changing, almost sensual in the way it moves and reacts. I also like the experimentation of the process: will paint markers adhere to the wax (meh), pitt pens (fail), lumocolors (yes!) I then when through the list of artistic crafty endeavors I’ve in dilettantish manner chewed through and spit out: weaving, basket weaving, candle making, painting, knitting – the list goes on and on. I don’t know how the word came up exactly but the word was talent. I basically don’t think I have much. Talent seems to be the thing that makes it easy for people.  They just sit right down and effortlessly are masterful. I am more learned and practiced.
“I’ve defended you about that you know. Someone I know said you have no talent” and I replied “well I might agree there. Mostly I have enjoyed the process, have learned techniques and have enough of an eye to know when something comes out good.” “So what about your graphic design?” he asks. Still I think that is more learned. I learned what makes an eye catching design, learned how to lay out something pleasing quickly. Still I have worked with “talented” people – those who can break all the rules and end up with something awe striking. I have even known one person who was constantly complimented on his color schemes. The big secret there – he’s color blind. I chalk that up to talent. Graphic design has the added benefit of overlapping with something where I have real talent – computers. I don’t have to think about the technical aspects, I don’t have to spend time learning. It comes in as through osmosis; an easily added skill with no effort. But still I am curious. “Who exactly says I have no talent?” CP tells me who and things become more clear. This is a person who paints beautifully. They are interesting landscapes with evidence of varying stages of decay and trains. The trains are how CP knows him. This guy has some talent.

A while ago there was a graphic design piece that CP had me look at and I told him what I thought. I gave him my assessment which he took back to the volunteer who created it. This is a certain talented painter he knows that doesn’t do graphic arts regularly. He was pretty aghast that I dared criticize the font choice or the contrast of the two greens on the cover. I forget what exactly I said but I said absolutely nothing that I thought would warrant being insulted over. There was quite a stir over this, that basically amounted to his work not being up for criticism. I backed down but feel pretty confident about the comments I made. They were practical and based on a bunch of years experience as a designer in a professional capacity. Professional capacity is one that you regularly have to take on a LOT of criticism. Some of it constructive (to me meaning that the product ends up better in the end in my opinion) and some based on individual taste and ego (that you still need to comply with if you are professional.) In the end it is both those styles of criticism one learns from.

So it is later and I decided to write about this. In part because it smarts to have heard that. I have to push down my urge to smack back. So now I am musing about the word “talent” and what does it really mean. So then of course I go to look it up.

1. A marked innate ability, as for artistic accomplishment. See Synonyms at ability.
2. a. Natural endowment or ability of a superior quality. or b. A person or group of people having such ability

So I am thinking about innate vs learned ability. It is possible that you can have a certain innate ability and because of that not be able to take in criticism that would improve it. They develop divahood and can’t go any further. That is only for some talented people I think. My friend Donna would about art school and how she figured one of its purposes was to “break people.” People would leave in tears after a critique. No divahood allowed. Donna who mostly shrugs about her art doesn’t have much of an ego about it so I doubt she was in the that bunch often. She is in another stratosphere of talent, yet I have seen her take critique. Usually it is with a hmmmm and then thoughtfully either taken or tossed with a shrug.

So tell me about talent. I’d love to hear.


September 1st, 2010


An around my birthday page.

Collage Book 5

August 30th, 2010

Book 5 Cover

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.

/ Alan Cohen

Click to embiggen

Collage Camp Menu

August 2nd, 2010

I’ve been thinking about the Collage Camp menu for a bit now.  Have one maybe two people coming that are gluten free and really only a few signed up so it is a significant percentage so I am thinking in terms of that as well.  Delicious of course is a requirement.  So here goes.

Friday Night Roll Your Own

Asian flair salad with mandarins and almonds
Miso soup
Nori rolls white or brown sushi rice,

carrots*, avocado, cucumber*, red and yellow peppers, asparagus, shitake mushrooms, sesame seeds,
wasabi, ginger w.f tamari

Melon for dessert


Corn, Chanterelle and St. Andre cheese frittata (thin sliced potato base)
or steel cut oats
bagels & cr. cheese

Black bean chili con queso
Corn on the cob
tortilla chips
guacamole if we didn’t eat all the avocados last night

Buckwheat crepes with either roasted tomato goat cheese or black trumpet mushroom ricotta (my usual ravioli filling) & sage butter
Bread and Butter

Vegan Chocolate Cake


Ginger Walnut Buckwheat Pancakes
or steel cut oats
bagels & cr. cheese

Hearty vegetable soup with bread

Provided Drinks for the weekend: Water, Honey sweetened lemonade, tea & coffee

You want to come just for the food don’t you?

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