Monday, November 2, 2015

More From The Encaustic Studio

It's been a busy few weeks, but it's been both fun and productive!

Some good work is coming out of the encaustic studio and I'm pleased with my progress for the last twelve months on this new (to me) medium.

This piece resolved itself quite nicely after hanging, unadorned, on the wall for a few weeks. A deep clean of the studio unearthed the small cardboard squares you see running down the left side of the piece. I had painted and cut them years and years ago and then held onto them because I just loved the way they looked. They finally found a home, and a frustratingly unfinished work was completed. This piece is layers of encaustic paint, plus the little cardboard embellishments, and measures 12"x24". 

Other work of various sizes and themes has been completed, as well. This 6"x6" canvas panel is a study in lines that will be carried through soon in a much larger piece.

Friends came by for the International Quilt Festival (more on that in another post), and we spent a few happy days dying fabric and paper in indigo vats. This piece, a 10"x10"x2" cradleboard took some of the paper I dyed, as well as a small, wooden blank that was used to create pattern in fabric.

Finally, this little work, which has gone to its new home, was created on a 6"x5" maple block using encaustic paint and plaster or Paris fabric (gauzy fabric embedded with plaster... think: medical cast when you break an arm).

You'll hear from me again soon, because I've been gifted with an amazing collection of wooden printing blocks from my sweet friend, Judy Gula, owner of Artistic Artifacts, and I can't wait to play with them and then talk about it here.

In the meantime, get melty with wax!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Last Week

I spent a pretty productive week in the studio, still exploring encaustic wax and paints.

I'm experimenting with color and moving the wax, seeing what kinds of effects I can achieve with the application of heat.

Trying out inks underneath and on top of the wax.

Layering Stacked Journaling by painting it and then burying it under layers of encaustic medium (clear wax.)

All of my encaustic work lately has been on cradled wooden boards, which I absolutely love. Some are more perfect than others, however. Recently, I scored a huge box full of unfinished maple blocks of wood that are normally used to mount rubber stamps. My neighbor had them (and many more that I didn't buy) for 5.00.

I've found them to be incredibly smooth and receptive to the wax, with a beautiful grain running through them, and lovely curved edges.

They are all small, meant to be hand-held, and should make for some interesting modular paintings. They're going to be a blast to work with, which will be this week's task.

Until next time, create with fun!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ver. 2.0

Last year, I sold this piece.

A 12"x24" painting on paper, mounted on a wooden cradleboard, painted with acrylics. I loved it. So did my husband, who- while happy for me- was a little crushed that it would be leaving us. It was also a fan favorite, and inquired about frequently. I loved having it in my collection, but what's the point of making art if you're not going to let anyone else own it?

I had sold it to a local gentleman though my blog. He sent his wife to pay me and collect the work. On the day she arrived, I had my studio thrown wide open and my husband and I were both puttering around the space. The woman pulled up in front, got out of her truck, and stomped up to the studio, 5-year-old ankle biter in tow. She didn't look happy. In her hand was a wad of cash.

My husband and I, tireless curators and referees of my work, looked at each other, and yellow flags started flying onto the field between us: she looked like she was arriving at a garage sale.

I took her over to where the painting hung, and she frowned at it- not exactly the reaction an artist hopes to get, but it happens from time to time.

"It's so small," she said. Her frown deepened. Her brat, meanwhile, was all over the studio, touching everything and spreading his little boy germs everywhere.

"I didn't expect it to be so small!" She turned to me like I'd kicked her. I could see her thoughts as if they were flashing in neon, nailed to her forehead: 'Why does something so small cost so much??' This was not an art lover- this was a bargain hunter, proud of her ability to suss out a good deal from a bad one. This, in her mind, was clearly a bad deal.

"I told your husband the dimensions when I sold it to him." I refused to apologize for one of the coolest, and most popular, paintings I'd done all year.

She just kept frowning, looking at it. Frowning.

My husband and I exchanged glances again. Red flags now, all over the field.

Hoping she would take the chance to flee, I asked her if she'd like to think about it. Maybe talk to her husband again.

Snatching up her sprog's hand, she stomped back to her truck and got in. Minutes passed. More. More. My hopes began to rise that she would just start her vehicle and drive off in it. I was really beginning to regret selling my work to these people.

Maybe 15 minutes later, she got out of the truck, stomped back to me, shoved the money into my hand and grabbed the painting off the wall.

Desperate, I said to her retreating back, "If you ever decide you don't want it anymore, PLEASE don't throw it away, call me and I will buy it back from you!" And she was gone. I've never heard another word from either she or her husband but I suspect that one day soon, my painting will wind up in a garage sale. She'll feel fortunate to get 2.00 for it.

After that nasty episode, I decided I wanted to recreate the work- maybe not exactly, but certainly I hoped to make a piece of art that evoked the original. Only, I wanted this one to be bigger.

Enter this massive bad boy.

All 48"x60"x2.5" of it. I'd started it, worked on it, hated it, abandoned it. Every time I had to move it out of the way, I hated it a little more. Finally, I reached critical mass on the hatred, and back up onto the painting wall it went.

I lightly washed it with gesso, not wanting to totally obliterate what was underneath. (My color palette? Yes! My Stacked Journaling? Yes! What's not to like?) Then I began applying color.

(I love the way the text keeps insisting on peeking through.)

I began applying the bold strokes of color with a large paint brush and then refined the edges by dabbing paint onto damp baby wipes and buffing that into the canvas. That allowed me to get soft color transitions, as well as to mix the paint directly onto the canvas. I was both removing and adding paint at the same time. The whole piece got several layers of paint in this way, building up texture and interest.

Then, using a photo of the original work as a reference, I began creating bold line work.

I didn't want an exact replica of the smaller piece, but again, I wanted to evoke the same feeling. I'm not gonna lie to you- on this scale, it got a little tedious and my arms became achy and tired (the painting hung on the wall the entire time I was painting it.)

Finally, the black line work was complete.

I could have left it at that, and certainly my arms and shoulders voted for that, too, but I wasn't satisfied. I wanted to pop both the line work and the color palette with white accents.

If you're wondering if I flipped the painting upside down, you're perceptive- I did, several times. With a canvas this large, it tends to hang almost to the floor and physically becomes awkward to paint on. I often paint for a while, turn the canvas, paint for a while longer, and so on.

Finally, to give the canvas a little finesse, I added smaller line work in black.

("Ver. 2.0", acrylic paint on stretched canvas, 48"x60"x2.5")

Here are a couple of close-ups so you can see the detail.

I've had my nose pressed up against this painting for days and I still love it. It was a lot of fun seeing and highlighting the way the colors combined on the canvas- acrylic paint is always a surprise to me, no matter how many years I work with it.

This piece is for sale, and I'm willing to ship it within the US (I'm sorry, the shipping overseas would cost as much as the painting alone would!) Please contact me privately, if interested.

And no, I haven't forgotten or abandoned encaustics! Here is a piece I've recently completed. Encaustic paint on wooden cradled hardboard, 12"x24".

It's time to take the rest of the week and the weekend off! Until next time, create with large fun!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Family By The Numbers

Last week and this week, I've been working on a bunch of 12"x12" cradled panels.

When my father died, I inherited some documentation that my grandmother saved- a bunch of deeds and old hand-written letters, tax records, and accounting books she kept when she was a grocer back in the 40's-50's-60's.

I began collaging bits and pieces of the financial documents into clear encaustic medium, building up layers and letting the old paper become transparent with the application of heated wax. I spent a lot of time thinking about these documents as I worked with them, wondering why my grandmother had kept them for so many decades. Was it pride? A sense of the need to preserve family history? Was it simply that she believed they may be important to some government agency in the future? And why give them to my father, the one son she raised who couldn't hold onto a dime long enough to put it in the bank? Was she sending a message to him or was it mere coincidence that he wound up with them and not one of his brothers?

I'll never know the answer to any of these questions, but building work around them was fascinating and something I will continue to do.

This is the first piece in what will probably become a small series. In it, I finished off the work with a hand-written letter from to my daughter, as well as a replica of schematics from my husband's profession. This is meant to be a present for our daughter and her husband to hang in their new home.

Truthfully, though, I'm not crazy about the composition or the color, which masks too much of the lovely patina of the original documents.

So I tightened up the composition on the next piece, cutting the accounting pages into narrow strips and adhering them to a piece of painted printmaker's paper. I then adhered the collage to a cradled birch board, and began applying layers of encaustic medium (clear). I'm much happier with this piece.

I love that the collage has so much of my grandmother's handwriting captured in it.

I also played some with trying to create imagery with alcohol inks buried inside of, and laying on top of, encaustic paintings.

Ever critical of my own work (and no, I don't think that's a bad thing- I give myself constructive criticism, something I feel is important), this piece is a little busy... while I love the top motif, the encaustic wax didn't bury the background imagery nearly as deeply as I'd hoped. Something to work on in the future!

Lastly, an experiment in a new (for me) medium, called Crack!

This is a super-hard encaustic medium by Evans Encaustics that will form cracks and crevasses on the surface of an encaustic painting.  It is meant to be the last layer of wax applied to a given piece of art. In this piece, I used rusted tissue and glazes of encaustic paint to create my substrate, and then applied a lightly colored layer of Crack! before fusing the whole thing and letting it cool to allow the cracks to form. Then I buffed phthalo turquoise pigment stick into the surface to make the cracks pop.


I'm pleased with the result. 

Hopefully, I'll have more completed work to show you next week! In the meantime, paint your history! 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Working, Waiting, Wishing

It's only July and I can tell you with full authority that it's been a long year. That's partially the reason for my absence from my much-beloved blogging, but there are other, more artistic reasons for my silence, as well.

(Note: if you're only interested in the artsy eye candy, I totally get you... feel free to scroll down!)

In early May, we hosted a large party for our daughter, one that we had been planning for many, many months. Fun, food, family and friendship, all in one happy package.

Losing my dad on January 1 was the end of a long journey of caring for him and worrying about his future. We concluded our responsibility to him in May: we took him back to his home state of Pennsylvania and buried him in a small, remote, family cemetery.

We returned home and I took up my yearly watch for spring, which came very late in Texas. I revitalize in spring and summer. I need the sunshine and fresh air and bright colors of summer to pull me through the gray, wet winters, and like a watched pot that refuses to boil, spring waited me out. Finally, several weeks ago, bypassing spring altogether, the weather went directly into hot, sultry summer and I rejoiced by spending time in the pool and having fun with my hubby on the weekends.

And then a couple of weeks ago, I sprung a leak. So to speak. I've developed a large umbilical hernia which needs surgery to repair. It's not a big, scary kind of surgery, the complications are almost non-existent even with someone my age (51) and weight (none of yer damned business!) but it's still abdominal surgery and I'll have a long recovery afterwards.

All of that leads me to the fun stuff... the art! As I've discussed before, back at the beginning of the year, I received my Christmas present to myself: a whole new medium to try out and a new way of looking at art through encaustic (melted, pigmented wax) and oil paint.

This is a deep learning curve for me (as evidenced by the three bad burns I've already given myself since January!) and that is my main reason for not posting much on my blog anymore: I really just want time to learn and play and make without having to spend too much time talking about it. At some point when I start to feel comfortable with the medium, I will talk more about it, show process photos, and maybe even offer a basic tutorial or two, but in the meantime, I'm just working and enjoying the process.

A few weeks back (maybe the beginnings of my hernia problems? Hmm...) I finally put aside all the acrylic paints and tools and gave encaustics and oils my full attention. The studio conversion took a couple of days but was a badly needed step to committing to this new medium.

Before... crowded and not very functional...

After... wide open, well organized spaces!

The work itself has been fun, refreshing, and inspiring. I've been testing out all kinds of techniques and using new tools to achieve pattern, texture, and movement. Here are some of the pieces I've completed.

A few works on small canvas panels that experiment with tissue collage, India inks, and oil pastels, as well as encaustic paint. 

A black and white series, again on the small canvas substrates.

Bringing my beloved color palette back with alcohol ink and jumbo-sized Stacked Journaling...

And finally, some larger work on cradled birch panels incorporating oil sticks and pages from my grandmother's accounting journals (she was a grocer back in the 50's)...

In preparation for my surgery and recovery, I've ordered quite a lot of supplies to tide me over... more cradled panels, a pack of "patina" paints I hope to incorporate, an encaustic "crackle" medium, and some new carving tools for making stencils. I'm really looking forward to having time to spend playing and learning, and I appreciate everyone's patience (and your continued interest in this mostly quiet blog!) as I explore this new passion.

Happy painting!