Thursday, January 13, 2011

Seduced by encaustic

I'm very proud that I taught myself encaustics. Workshops here in MI were scarce and cost prohibitive in other states.  I first saw a youtube artist doing encaustics.  I have absolutely no idea why I was drawn to that, but it seemed so easy in her video . . an Australian artist, with family and children, going to art school.  She just had no fear, and I could sense that.

I bought beeswax and damar resin crystals and used oil paint and a heat gun, not knowing the particulars about proportions . . . and I took off!  I became obsessed with getting information, as I worked, questions came up.  First I thought, "Oh, it's so easy to make an abstract" and then I came to realize how quickly, and I mean QUICKLY, I could lose control of the direction of the image. But somehow that didn't stop me.  I was committed.  It stumps me why I became driven to conquer this medium.  I do know that I like natural mediums (oil, charcoal, graphite, gouache, etc.).  Acrylic seemed like plastic to me (it is!) and dried so quickly I couldn't manipulate it.  But this encaustic medium! . . . sensual, as in "of the senses. I remember as a child in a Catholic elementary school, that we had to attend mass every day, and a strong sense memory of that ritual was being entranced by the smell of the beeswax candles and their creamy transluscency (also incense at high mass).

I began to teach myself through books (3), DVD's (5), AND the internet.  I spent dozens and dozens and dozens of hours (months) researching encaustic artists, their websites and blogs, fb, suppliers (R &F website was wonderful). A nice artist on fb began answering my questions.  And I inundated a local encaustic artist with questions . . . poor woman!  I wanted to learn how to use this medium to get the effects I wanted.  I have the tendency to want to know EVERYTHING about a subject that I am passionate about, so that I have the knowledge to use it (this happened with the piano, visual art, and spirituality) in the way that is useful to me.

Until I get my new camera, I won't post pics of my encaustic work (the very basic one I have now, not SLR, seems to distort the image and the tone and color is way off.  I have a fussy eye.  Years ago, a carpenter working on something in my home called me "eagle eye", because I could tell, by an extremely small measure, know when a vertical or horizontal surface was off.  He was replacing ironwork on the front porch of our home with pillars in Louisiana).  So here are some pics of my encaustic supplies and encaustic work area.  I am blessed to have a very large studio and I live above it.  I will also post later some pics of charcoal figure drawings.

The seduction with this medium propelled me into working daily (all day and into the night) with my art.

So now my hand is practicing to catch up with my eye.

Grinding and weighing damar crystals to mix in melted beeswax

Stacks of medium and tools

Metal work surface purchased from local welder

Japanese propane cooking torch and R&F encaustic paint

Metal work surface and jewelry bench in rear.

Cutting wood to make cradled panels

Rejected surfaces that I scraped from substrate!  Wax can be remelted and used again.


  1. What an awesome studio set up! I haven't worked in encaustic since college (I loved it back then)'s in the plan to get back to it someday...but it can't be in a room where the kitties can get into it...especially our new little guy!

  2. Thanks, Laura. It's quite a financial investment. Thought I could do it cheaply after seeing the first youtube demonstration. But it hasn't turned out that way! Now I've started to use acrylic (open), but not on canvas, and purchasing for that! Prior to encaustic I had only used oil.

    Your little kitty is so cute!