Thursday, May 19, 2011

Artfest 2011 - Part 3 - Encaustics!

More about Artfest ... yes, I know it was in April, but I've been, well ... bizzy.

Today's image is from my encaustics class with Patricia Seggebruch. I'd tinkered with encaustics before ... even bought one of those little encaustic irons after 2 days of classes last year.

The classes I took last year were definitely a more painterly approach to encaustic wax. I struggled mightily to create things that looked like real trees and flowers with a medium that seemed spitefully determined to look like crashing sea waves, nebulae and psychedelic dream sequences in 1970's movies. I felt a certain urgency to get things right, even while the hot iron was sliding dreamily about on a cushion of hot wax which looked deliciously edible and exotic. At the end of two days I could see that if I stayed at it, I would eventually be able to do landscapes, floral arrangements and other non-psychedelic representations of reality.

The trouble was that I wanted something *deeper* ~ I wanted the wax to be absorbed into stuff, be embedded with stuff, be scratched into with tools and have pigment rubbed into it. I wanted encaustics that even the hard of seeing could enjoy ~ by running their fingers over edges and bumps. I wanted to look at the surface of the wax and feel like I was looking *through* something into something else ~ like fog, or water ~ getting hints and glimpses of what lay beneath. A kind of archaeologically sculptural experience, rather than a painterly one.

Luckily, that's exactly the kind of encaustics that Patricia was teaching at Artfest. What I've shown you here is my "warm-up" exercise ~ we were given three small boards, and then shown a whole bunch of possible ways to alter them. I decided immediately that I would make a tryptich showcasing as many techniques as I could ... the red panel has embedded pattern tissue, and surface incising with oil paint added. The center blue panel has image transfer, and scattered gold leaf crumbs embedded. The last yellow panel has texture built up by stencilling through punchinella, text made by impressing with metal letters and dotted lines made with a pattern tracing tool with red oil paint added. All three had underpainting with pigmented wax and their edges tinted with pan pastels, and then overpainted with medium again.

Our main project for the class was a book with wooden covers that we altered with encaustics, and although I tried a few more techniques, the end result was a little boring after the freedom of playing with the triptych. I think (having made more than a few books in my time) that I stayed to the tried and true in the book construction and really didn't let loose the way I had with the warm-up exercise. A shame that ... there were some really amazing books that came out of the class, mine just wasn't one of them.

So ... I have this *problem* when I make art ... I just get so *danged* attached to it that I can barely let it go. Whenever I make something, I always (yes, ALWAYS!) make two ~ so I can keep one. It makes the letting go a little easier. But I have to say ... encaustics might be the thing I can finally do where I'm not compelled to keep one of everything. I can see myself actually parting with my creations happily ... not because I don't love them just as much, but because they're so much fun to make that the sheer volume of keeping one of everything could easily overwhelm any storage space I might have. Of course, in reality, the supplies cost a fair whack, so that should help keep the volume down as well.

Since Artfest I haven't yet invested in all the accoutrements of encaustics (apart from buying the iron last year), but I know I will because it was just way too much fun. Now if I could just find a wholesale supplier of wax medium, I'd be a very happy camper ...

4 comments:

celeste said...

love the triptych. please show us the covers :)
Have you seen faux encaustics? I just took a Golden acrylic lecture and the faux encaustic is so gorgeous, and cheaper :)

see you in august.
thanks for the treat in the mail!
i'll send you a copy of my new zine soon :)

Holly said...

I've never worked with encaustics, but I want too. The third panel - the yellow one - has a honeycomb feel to it that's really beautiful.

beenebag said...

So I was talking with someone at Artfest and we were reminiscing about the old days of keylining and how we had to use a waxer to get the copy ready to paste down. Then it dawned on her that she could coated whole sheets of art or photos with thin layers of wax using said waxer!!! I need to find one now. We had one at my first design job back in 1986!! Maybe Ebay.

Shelley Whiting said...

I love the work. The textures is fascinating and gorgeous.