Monday, July 28, 2014

"What can I set on fire today?" or- further explorations into encaustic mixed media….

Today I just had to try some new experiments out of “Encaustic Mixed Media” by Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch.  She feels like a kindred spirit- willing to try any new medium or material!

So who knew? Spread directly on wood panel, then set it on fire even before it dries.  The wood portions that aren’t covered turn a lovely burnt sienna/umber color… Fun! But stinky. I probably went a little too thick; cause still wasn’t completely dry when I left 5 hours later…. will have to wait to continue that one…but have some lovely organic shapes and tones to work with….

This makes me very happy! I love inks, and of course have a gazillion acrylic inks- but as far as I understand it, I can’t use them with wax.  BUT apparently alcohol inks are kosher. So- I googled what brands are alcohol based, and lo and behold, after digging in the back room, I unearthed some jacquard piñata paints. I used them for painting ornaments- who knew they come in handy this way? See- I can rationalize buying and keeping forever any art supply purchase…so here’s how I played with them…

Poured and splattered first on clapboard

Then covered everything with amber shellac.

And –yes, you guessed it- set it on fire! 
You get this lovely bubbled and speckled surface.
detail shows you a bit better….

This isn’t, of course, done- but allows so many lovely entry points to continue working ….

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fun with Fire! Delving into Encaustics...

It is inevitable. I can’t go more than a year or two without adding another technique to my arsenal of processes!! Discovering the new possibilities is exhilarating for me, and fuels a whole new chapter of work. 

 Recently I want to open studio night at the fabulous Starline factory open studios, and fell in love with Carol Hamilton’s encaustic work. .  I brought a piece home, and signed up for a workshop! I had worked with beeswax in the early 90s as a covering for the natural porous materials I was using, and loved the creamy, dreamy matte surface.  However- I remember sitting at an art fair on a 95 degree day and watching the wax start to melt.  I’m sure I did not add enough dammar varnish (or any at all?)  I can’t recall, so anyhow wrote it off as too fragile a medium to endure sitting in an aluminum trailer in Chicago’s hot or freezing weather.  Now, 20 or more years later, I am no longer sitting at art fairs every weeknd, so thought it was time to revisit this again. 

Hers a pictorial trek thru my latest dive into encaustics:

Carol gave us the basics, and then we to to play.  Was also good to look at her range of work (love the 3D aspect- still to be pursued) and seeing how she set up her studio to accommodate the heat and fumes encaustics make. (Great- another toxin. :(  )
I just LOVE how fire moves the wax paints around, creating fluid organic shapes and patterns. It reminded me of pouring ink-but you use fire instead of water to push things around. AND –big bonus- you don’t have to babysit them and monitor them for hours as they dry and change.  These set up pretty quickly- perfect for a manic impatient artist! I was hooked.   So the last couple weeks have been spent scouring resale shops for heating elements, begging for art supply coupons form friends, and setting up an encaustic set up in the studio.  It is growing…

Then the best part- experimenting when it’s all fresh and new. Just like at the beginning of a brand new relationship when everything is exciting and new… remember that?  So I am relishing that!

So here’s what I’ve tried:


LOVE this! Paint it on, place it in my beverage metal bucket, and set it on fire!! The resulting amber patterns that occur are so lovely I want to put everything in the bucket and set it on fire. Don't visit me right now.
What i set on fire today....


So I love drawing back into my work- bit with acrylic, you had a small window to do that before things go too….plasticy.  Here- I can use a needle tool to stipple, scribble and write into the piece until the very end.  Then stain it- (LOVE staining too) to get an almost etching like mark.


Can embed papers, leaves, rocks, pods and…..??

Pan pastels: 

So while impatiently waiting for the beeswax to melt, I pulled out the pan pastels and tried them on the luan. FUN! Erased back in…. then read later that they could also be applied to the surface of wax!! Finding more ways of folding this into what I already do…

SO darn easy to transfer images!!  Been looking for this my whole life. Don’t have to make a screen, or endlessly coat papers – just make a toner copy and burnish on to warm surface. Scrub off back and – damn! Right there.  Bonus- if you torch it- it will break up and move about (at least I think that's a bonus.)

Ok- I confess I DO have some pyro tendencies, apparently…

So- to be continued. Right now- I am working small and experimenting. I’m sure working larger will bring it’s own challenges, but for now, I am vey happy with making small “tests”.  I dream about it, wake up thinking “I’ve got to try incising with a linoleum cutter next…”  or something like that…

Here are some of my test babies: 


1. I don’t have to clean brushes!!
2. No waste- turn off the skillet, and everything is there waiting for you tomorrow without having to cover it up.
3. Transfer process is a dream!
4. Collage and mixed media capabilities are endless!

1. Beeswax taxes my patience waiting for it to melt-or I need better equipment.
2. Toxins- need to look into some better ventilation.
3. Fire risk- the fire dept. every year has told me to move my fire extinguisher out of the back room.  It is now very close to where I work!
4. Cost- pricey to start, at least…