Thursday, February 25, 2016

Rewind: Fun with fire, or delving into encaustics!

NOTE: I am vacationing this week in a warmer climate! so thought this a good time to "re-run" some of my earlier blog posts. 

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…

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A new Direction-Little Houses

So Valentine's Day is over, And I've gotten all those magentas, fuchsias, pinks and purples out of my system for now. Moving on.  Starting something new! My favorite thing…

Whenever I begin something new, I allow myself some "Couch time" to regroup, refocus. 


 I go back and look at my sketchbooks, and all the plans that I've made for future pieces (always more plans than time to make them), images I've collected, and the things that have been floating through my head. I put them all in front of me and settle into my cozy spot next to Bear on the couch with my sketchbook, pastels, art books, and perhaps some wine and chocolate:) While I was making Valentines blocks for the last couple weeks, I'm kept having this urge to cut the rectangles into house shapes. I look back in my sketchbook, and this” House urge" has been around for over a year maybe two. Time to do something about it. So quickest path to getting rolling was by using some panels I had and chopping off their tops at various angles to create a couple little houses.

I haven't done encaustic since before Christmas, and my torch was calling me! So thought these should be encaustic.  However I wanted to incorporate a couple different materials that I'm not sure would work well with wax. And although I love sculpture, and have always worked my pieces on all sides not just the front as a lot of painters do, this time I just wrapped the encaustic around the two sides, leaving top and bottom unfinished. So I taped them off and jumped into priming a couple of them, not sure exactly where they were going to go, but I had some ideas. 

The first one I tackled was very symmetrical roofline that I worked in a subtle blue-sky background but then faded down to a yellow/ochre -the color of Prairie grass. Dug through my image file for some birds in flight, played around scale and positioning, auditioned them with a piece of transparency, made a copy and transferred them on. This is one of the aspects that I love about encaustic!! If I wanted to do a transfer in acrylic, it would require a special paper, both layers to be coated with at least three layers of acrylic, and basically taking an hour and a half or so before I get to see the image I want on the surface. Immediate gratification! Amen! Or pretty close to it.

Any rate next up was to add some prairie grasses. This is where I love encaustic’s flexibility as well. This process in an acrylic painting could take days to a week, easily. With encaustic I just make sure I have a warm soft layer of encaustic medium, press this grass into the surface. Let cool, trim any stragglers, and cover with another layer of medium, fusing gently so as not to ignite grass on fire:-) 

Of course I had to address the sides too, so repeated the same sequence for the sides.

Now for the top/roof. I used the tacking iron to carefully peel off the painters tape I used to mask it, and wasn't sure how I was going to finish the roof.  Once I had it off, I knew I wanted to keep it rather minimal like a prairie sky. 

So I went into the back room, and dug around my wood piles and collections of bark and twigs to see if I could find a good fit. I came upon two pieces of a gorgeous sandy colored wood, I think I pulled them out of someone's fire kindling bin, but they are gorgeous, match the prairie grasses perfectly, and require no additional treatment. Played around with getting the miter for the top just right, then glued just the two parts of the roof together so that seam was secure. 

Let it dry overnight, then came back the next day to attach to the house. Used my handy dandy sandbags as usual to make sure it had good contact. 

I was considering perhaps some pine bark for the bottom or something else, but I think I may just paint the bottom and keep this one rather minimal. His neighbors in the series we'll have more going on in that area. You’ll see some of them next week!


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Creating Valentines: Accidental Monoprints and more....

So as I was working, thought I needed a heart here or there- so cut a simple stencil.
I sprayed it with magenta and purple, then immediately scratched back into it to get the heart below. 

Then i looked at the stencil itself and thought- I like the stencil image as much or more than the heart itself! so I hurried and placed a piece of tag board on it to take a monoprint, or a one time print. 

Inspired/rewarded by this, I hurried up and slapped a piece of tag on the heart I just stenciled in my journal, and got this lovely slightly lighter ghost print!  

Although not much was needed to finish this one, I screened on love, and spray painted a background to set it off. 

The two below were also done using the same concept- but a bit more layering! The monoprint almost acted like a cropping tool in itself.  


The following ones involved a bit more cropping and removing, keeping the lovely parts of the compositions, and cutting out the more boring or blotted parts! Of course- the shape I removed was a heart! I layered it on top of a peach piece of unryu, or a type of very thin rice paper.  Although I liked the combo- I thought it needed more, so filled an ink marker with one of the colors that were sprayed in the center square and wrote "happy valentines day" around the edge, and highlighted some of the edges with some dots. 

 A similar treatment here, with a more geometric composition.  I layered a nice chunk of paper with some regular tissue, but again- didn't feel quite done, and some extra line work balanced it out nicely.

I have lots of friends who share my passion for music, so this was made for them.  The library was giving away books so old the paper was brittle- but worked for my needs! Did some pouring and spraying, cutting/gluing, and have a music themed valentine! 

I invited a friend to play in the studio with me, and she wanted a paw print (we are both dog people!) so we cut this stencil to use.  This one is going to puppy Izzy, a friends long awaited new addition to the family! 
I know, valentine crazy !

Well- I hope you all enjoy an artful happy valentine day! 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Creating Valentine Card Compositions

So now that 2016 edition of blocks old love are done, it's time to move on to some mail art-Valentines! 

    Mail art (also known as postal art and correspondence art) is a populist artistic movement centered on sending small scale works through the postal service. It initially developed out of the Fluxus movement in the 1950s and 60s, though it has since developed into a global movement that continues to the present.

While I was creating the blocks, I threw out some papers, tag board that the print shop below me was recycling, and pages of text saying "love you" in different languages. I  had some fun pouring/ splashing/ spraying on them to use as collage fodder.

When I started screening on text and hearts on the blocks, if I had any extra ink on the screen,  I turned to one of the papers and added it where it seemed best.

this is the poem "how do i love thee?"by Elizabeth Barrett Browning screen in white

This one layers the poem over the pours, then the word love in a different font and color.

Once I had a nice assortment of papers, it was time to turn them into card size collage

My favorite ways to do this is to use cropping tools. Even to an experienced eye, it can be overwhelming to select what portions of the piece to work with. I really love creating this way because it allows a very freeing start where you are not necessarily concerned with the overall piece, and are able to totally focus and react to what is going on in the surface. Later you'll evaluate and take what works, and either throw out or rework what did not. I do this on a bigger scale on clay-board and boards sometime. However, it's much easier to work with paper and just cut or tear rather than saw and sand before nailing, gluing and assembling.

At any rate some compositions were very easy-All I had to do was tear out a rectangle, sometimes adding text or a heart, because i had already considered the compositions as i was layering on screens of text,  Others involved a bit of layering and stacking of hearts, and re-working- Il'l go into those next week! 

Meanwhile, you of course want them to arrive in an artful envelope as well- so did a simple spray resist to liven them up. Got some fabulous stamps so just need to address and pop in the mail! 

So here are a smattering of the first batch....