Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Encaustic Painting

Something that I haven’t talked much about since I have started this blog is that I really enjoy creating art. I actually have a BFA in printmaking from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. I haven’t been doing nearly as much as I want or should, I have even wondered if I “still got it”. Lately, I have had the need or urge to get in my make shift studio (if you can even really call it that) and do something.
A couple of years ago, I decided that I wanted to use beeswax in one of my paintings for our living room (which is still unfinished by the way) so while I was visiting my uncle he mentioned that he had some old wax left over from when his father-in-law had bees. So I jumped on the opportunity to grab it, it was probably close to 5 pounds of wax.

Well for some reason a couple weeks ago, I got a bug up my butt to start Encaustic Painting. I have never even dabbled in using melted wax in my work; well I have dripped a little candle wax on a mixed media piece. Anyway, so I started to save and collect tin cans like tuna and cat food cans, joined my local Freecycle group and requested an electric griddle. I picked the griddle up the other day and started breaking up the wax.

So to back track real quick and let you know what it is exactly (from Wikipedia)…

Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. The liquid/paste is then applied to a surface—usually prepared wood, though canvas and other materials are often used.

The simplest encaustic mixture can be made from adding pigments to beeswax, but there are several other recipes that can be used — some containing other types of waxes, damar resin, linseed oil, or other ingredients. Pure, powdered pigments can be purchased and used, though some mixtures use oil paints or other forms of pigment.

Metal tools and special brushes can be used to shape the paint before it cools, or heated metal tools can be used to manipulate the wax once it has cooled onto the surface. Today, tools such as heat lamps, heat guns, and other methods of applying heat allow artists to extend the amount of time they have to work with the material. Because wax is used as the pigment binder, encaustics can be sculpted as well as painted. Other materials can be encased or collaged into the surface, or layered, using the encaustic medium to adhere it to the surface.

This technique was notably used in the Fayum mummy portraits from Egypt around 100-300 AD, in the Blachernitissa and other early icons, as well as in many works of 20th-century American artists, including Jasper Johns.
Ok, back to me…Once I broke up the beeswax, I added color using broken crayons. I had them on hand and I know they should mix in fairly well. I let the wax melt down and using a stick I stirred to make sure the color was incorporated. I chose to start with just some basic colors; I want to use the natural wax as much as possible. This is straight from the source and is a golden color and even has a little organic matter mixed in.

My wax set up
Above is the unmelted wax (starting to melt) on my griddle, the small cans are cat food cans the large in the middle is straight raw beeswax.  I played around and basically experimented with brushes, dry times, heated objects, etc.  I didn't have an iron that I could use or a heat gun, so I used a piece of copper tubing that I let sit on the griddle to heat up, then just rolled/rubbed in on the surface to smooth and bind the wax. 

Experiment #1
Above is the 'finished' piece.  It was a lot of fun to create but the hardest part is knowing when to stop and walk away.  I thought at one point that I should have stopped but I just kept going.  I finally had to pull away, and this was the result. 

I can't wait to do some more...this is definitely going to be a new medium!