Encaustic Paint Smash 101: A How-To Using Alternative Brushes

Whether you consider yourself a professional artist or not, you still need to loosen up and get back to your inner infant artist–this is how I arrived at Paint Smash. This is the first of a series of tutorials on the subject and covers the use of alternative brushes for encaustic painting.

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I have been developing a new method of encaustic painting called Paint Smash–the method is not so unlike the same term used to reference infants playing with paint–but I’m a real artist, you see ; ) Real artist or not, I still need to loosen up and get back to my inner infant artist and this is how I came to Paint Smash. In my last post I confessed that I have slowly been giving up the use of traditional brushes for DIY alternatives when painting in encaustic. I shared with you one of my brush making techniques using flashing to form any brush shape and size your waxy heart desires. Using tools like my flashing brushes in conjunction with other tools like mallets, brayers, rolling pins, fists, fingers and whatever else you can find, I’m pushing, smearing, slathering, punching, modeling the paint onto the substrate instead. Encaustic is a unique painting medium in that it can be worked as a liquid, solid and semi-solid, which lends itself fantastically to paint smashing. This tutorial is the start of a series of Paint Smash techniques that I will share with you in subsequent blog posts.

Please stayed tuned for my next post, another segment of Paint Smashing in which I show you the amazing things that are revealed when you scrape back your Paint Smash. Super fun!

But before we discuss scraping, you have to learn how to use your new amazing flashing brushes, it’s truly deceptively simple.

What you need

  • A variety of DIY flashing brushes and/or metal clay scrapers and/or Venetian Plaster applicators (see this post for how to make flashing brushes and/or prepare clay scrapers for encaustic painting)
  • Encaustic paint in a variety of contrasting colors AND lots of white-a variety of whites is best.
  • A variety of traditional encaustic painting brushes-hog’s bristle or hake.
  • A torch or heat gun for fusing (torch is best for this technique)
  • 2-6 painting panels prepared for encaustic painting

 

How To Do (Scroll down for video links)

  1. Line up your traditional and alternative brushes on your griddle like you normally would for encaustic painting.
  2. The griddle should be nice and hot (up to 200-215 degrees, check your surface temp) the paint should be swimmingly melty.
  3. Line up your boards (at least 2-4) side by side or in a grid. Prepare them with a few solid areas of color that you can apply using any brush you like, but this part is easier with a traditional encaustic brushes. You can also pour the paint instead of painting and not use a brush at all.
  4. I always begin with a patchwork of blocks or a loose grid of overlapping strips of color in a variety of sizes, but you can paint anything you want. Whatever you paint, make sure you are painting over all of your boards with continuity and not making a distinction between separate boards.
  5. Fuse with a torch. Your painting surface should be nice and hot (but not smeary) after this fuse.
  6.  Using one of your alternative brushes, scoop/lift the paint from the griddle surface-you can use one or both sides of the brush. Your brush should bend/flex a little as you pick up the paint.
  7. Transfer the paint to your painting surface by slowly slathering it on sort of like frosting a cake. Flip your brush from front to back as you transfer the paint. Again, your brush should flex a little as you paint. These early layers will go on relatively flat, but subsequent layers will cling and this is where it gets interesting.
  8. Change to a contrasting color and repeat the alternative brush painting process several times.
  9. Fuse every 2-3 layers.
  10. After a few uses of your alternative brush, add some areas of solid color with your traditional brushes. Preferred colors at this stage are white or lighter colors or very dark colors that will contrast and visually ‘clean up’ the chaotic mess you’ve seemingly made.
  11. Continue painting in this way until you’ve built up 10-20 layers–10 being at the lowest points (the valleys) and 20 being the the highest points (the hills). In other words, your paintings should be highly textured and multi-dimensional, ready for their first scrape.

Want to see a video demonstration of these techniques?

To see a video of scooping the paint from the griddle and applying it to the substrate, go to my new IGTV (InstagramTV) channel (@lorraineglessner1)

 

 

Exploring Landscape Through Encaustic & The Mark: A Hawaiian Artist Retreat

Jeff Juhlin & Lorraine Glessner take their collaborative teaching venture to Maui! Register now for this exciting opportunity!

Other things leave me, but it abides; other things change, but it remains the same. For me the balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surfbeat is in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud wrack; I can feel the spirit of its wildland solitudes, I can hear the splash of its brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.

Mark Twain, (Written after his stay in Maui)

What
Exploring Landscape Through Encaustic & The Mark: A Hawaiian Artist Retreat
Limited to 12 participants!
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
$1200 includes most materials (see below)
For Registration, Please Contact: Lorraine Glessner, lorraineglessnerstudio@gmail.com

Payment Payment of 50% of the workshop fee + materials ($600) is due at the time of registration with the remaining 50% ($600) due on the first day of the workshop. Please contact Lorraine for payment details.

When
October 21-25, 2019, 10am-4pm each day

Workshop Description
The mark of nature combined with encaustic painting creates timeless works which reference memory, change and time. Utilizing the natural luminosity, textural and layering possibilities of encaustic, participants will experiment with innovative materials, drawing and marks to depict the spirit and essence of the land. Easy to moderate hikes exploring the lush, verdant coastal areas of the North Shore, Maui are led by Jeff and Lorraine. Along with daily journaling, meditation, readings and expressive mark-making exercises, these immersive hikes will provide the inspiration for which to develop ideas and provide areas of focus for series based work while also developing your personal artistic voice. Considerations of our body’s connection and it’s direct relationship to landscape will also be discussed. Optional individual critiques with both instructors will be offered to all participants.

SCROLL DOWN TO SEE images of student work and fun scenes from hikes and studio time during Lorraine and Jeff’s 2016 and 2017 Artist Retreats in Torrey, Utah. Additional blog posts related to other artist retreats co-taught by Jeff and Lorraine are here, here and here..

Where  The Uaoa Art Barn located on Carla and Steve Thistle’s lush, rugged paradise on Maui’s North Shore. (pictured above: Uaoa Art Barn and surrounding property)

What Else?

  • Color relationships, composition, application, content, proportion, scale as an effective foundation for other painterly information.
  • Learn how to use encaustic’s strengths (layering, transparency, luminosity) to tell your story.
  • Mark-making exercises geared toward making simple or complex marks to generate a personal language.
  • The option of an Individual Consultation/Critique discussion with each instructor. Bring a piece of work, a question, a concern, a problem and discuss it with Jeff and Lorraine.
  • Some guided meditation time, planned hiking and beach walks will relax and open your mind and spirit to the ocean and land, helping to support and nurture your unique creative voice.
  • A slide talk with examples of contemporary artists whose work applies the ideas and concepts discussed in the workshop is offered for inspiration.
  • Lots of open studio time to explore and interpret the inspiration gained from the meditations and hikes.
Images of the Maui, North Shore and areas near The Uaoa Art Barn

Who A collaborative teaching venture with Jeff Juhlin & Lorraine Glessner

Jeffjuhlin.com
Jeff Juhlin’s work references his experience of time and place. He explores the horizontal line and the layers and strata of things substantive and imagined. HIs work alludes to the vast space and geology of the western landscape where he lives. There, time makes itself present in horizontal layers evidencing the past, both building up and wearing away in a continuous process. Jeff’s methodology typically includes many layers of translucent strata composed of pigmented wax, oil, paper and other media, that are built up and worn away similarly in a compressed period of creative time. He accumulates layers of material, images and color that make up the whole of a painting, then goes back in to explore, excavate, expose and obscure. The end result is a non-literal visual form, a translation of that experience and process.
Jeff uses various materials and mediums to create these works however encaustic incorporated with mixed media including paper, ink and oil paint are most often the primary mediums. Encaustic’s luscious luminosity; physical presence and translucent quality seem the ideal medium to explore this process.
Jeff has completed Residency/Fellowships at the Virginia Center for the Arts and VCCA, Moulin Au Neuf, Auvillar France. He has been Artist in Residence 2010-2017 at the Hui Art Center in Maui, Hawaii. His work can be found in numerous private, corporate and public collections as well several public art commissions. Jeff holds a BFA degree from the San Francisco Art Institute. He maintains studios in Salt Lake City and Torrey Utah. He teaches Regularly at the Hui Art Center in Maui, Hawaii, the Kimball Art Center in Park City Utah and at his Studio in Salt Lake City.

lorraineglessner.net
Lorraine Glessner’s love of surface, pattern, markmaking, image and landscape has led her to combine disparate materials and processes such as silk, wood, wax, pyrography, rust, paper and more in her work. Lorraine is a former Assistant Professor at Tyler School of Art, Temple University, a workshop instructor and an award-winning artist. She holds an MFA from Tyler School of Art, Temple University, a BS from Philadelphia University, and an AAS in Computer Graphics from Moore College of Art & Design. She has a diverse art background with skills that include painting, sculpture, graphic design, interior design, textile design, photography, digital imaging and much more. Among her most recent professional achievements is a Second Place award in Sculpture from Art of the State at the State Museum in Harrisburg, PA, a recently completed artist residency at Jentel Foundation and an acquisition by Kelsey-Seybold Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Lorraine’s work is included in the recently released Encaustic Art in the 21st Century by Ashley Rooney and Nuance, a curated book by artist, Michelle Stuart. Lorraine frequently lectures and participates on academic panels at various Conferences including The International Encaustic Conference, SECAC and The College Art Association Annual Conference. Her work is exhibited locally and nationally in galleries, museums, craft centers, schools, libraries, universities, and more. Like her work, Lorraine brings to her teaching a strong interdisciplinary approach, mixed with a balance of concept, process, history, experimentation, problem solving and discovery.

 

Student work and other fun stuff from Torrey Retreat, 2016-2017

Materials Included: the following list of materials is provided for the student

  • All encaustic paints, encaustic medium, tools and equipment
  • a variety of pigment sticks
  • Sumi ink & other misc. drawing media
  • Misc. drawing papers
  • Paper towels/rags
  • Extra encaustic brushes
  • 8×8 & 10×10 1″ cradle birch painting panels for sale

What to bring: the following is a list of materials for the student to bring to the workshop

  • Sketchbook/notebook, pencil or pen for note taking
  • 1-2 drawing media of your choice (pencil, pastel, conte charcoal, oil pastel, Crayon, graphite, felt pen, etc.)
  • Closed toe shoes for safety in the studio
  • Lunch and beverage each day
  • 6-10 wooden painting panels (your preference of 8×8 or 10×10, but no larger or smaller, please) Other suggested substrates are: masonite (coated with encaustic gesso), Ampersand Encausticbord, 3-ply matt board, whatever you bring, it must be rigid, but nothing coated in acrylic or acrylic gesso!! NOTE: There will be 8×8 and 10×10 1″ cradled panels for sale in the studio, so it is not necessary to bring panels if this presents a hardship due to travel.
  • 2-4 actual OR images of your work, digital prints or phone/iPad sharing is fine
  • 5-10 hake or hog’s bristle natural hair brushes in 1-2 inch sizes for encaustic painting (1 brush will be designated your medium brush, so it must be free of color if you are bringing used brushes)
  • Optional Materials Smock, any encaustic paint color or pigment stick color you favor, iwatani torch with extra butane, any tool or material for any technique that you normally employ while working with encaustic, textured objects and/or sharp ended tool for pressing into/incising/writing/drawing into wax, 1-2 inspiring books to share with the class.
  • For a helpful list of portable art materials for traveling and hiking, read this recent blog post. 

 Hiking Equipment Recommendations

  • Sturdy hiking shoes/boots
  • butt pack or small backpack
  • comfortable clothing
  • light rainwear
  • Hat
  • water bottle
  • Digital Camera or smart phone or point and shoot camera or DSLR
  • bag for collecting found materials

Cancellation In the event that you need to cancel your workshop, please notify Lorraine at least 45 days prior to the start of the workshop and your deposit will be refunded. No refunds will be available for cancellations occurring less than 45 days from the start of the workshop.

Accommodations  This web site offers a full list of air B&B’s along the North Shore in Haiku. Book early, they fill up quickly!

Two Within walking distance…

  1. Holomakai   Look at images on the Airbnb site, but email Carla Thistle for discount info-DO NOT USE THE AIRBNB SITE.
  2. Queen bed, small kitchen, bathroom, beautiful ocean view, clean and safe:
    100.00 cash a nite, 7 day minimum, 2 persons only. Email Jen Shannon for details and mention Carla Thistle.


Food
Filtered water will be available for drinking and tea, however, you may want to bring other preferred beverages. There will be no food served during the workshop, you must bring lunch and snacks each day. There are a number of eateries, cafes, restaurants and markets nearby. A full list will be provided to registrants a few weeks before the start of the workshop.

For Registration, Please Contact: Lorraine Glessner, lorraineglessnerstudio@gmail.com

Essential Encaustic Paint Colors for the Beginner

Going to the encaustic Conference this week? Before you enter the wonder of the vendor room, be sure to read this post. This list is a great start for the beginning encaustic painter as well as advanced to find the color combination of your dreams.

Last year, I wrote a popular post listing the Encaustic Paint Colors I Can’t Do Without and as a result a reader requested I write a post listing some colors for the beginner. The International Encaustic Conference is starting this week with it’s overwhelmingly wonderful vendor room, so now is a perfect time for this post.

There are only a handful of colors one really needs in order to mix all colors; magenta, yellow, cyan, black and white or the primary colors Red, Yellow, Blue, Black and White…actually, you don’t even need black, you can mix that by mixing all the colors in equal proportions. But who has time for that, it’s just easier to have some colors at the ready and I developed this list with that thought in mind. I also thought about some colors that are just so luscious you might want them all the time without having to mix them. I started with a varied color wheel and branched off with a few oddballs you might find interesting. As a beginner, it’s important to start small and purchase some, rather than all. Buy the small sizes instead of the mega size, find what’s right for you and go from there. When I first started painting with encaustic, I only used 4 colors and slowly added more. This list is a good place to start for the beginner as well as advanced and I hope it helps you find the color combination of your dreams.

Other things I mentioned in the first post that I would like to reiterate. I never use colors ‘straight out of the tube’, all of my colors are mixed with 2-5 colors and yours should be as well. It creates a more personalized palette when you do this as well as a more interesting painting. Once again, this list is in no particular order and I photographed the paints on top of an in progress painting just as they are…messy, mushy, splashed with other colors, alluding a little to my process and looking like colorful little sculptures. If you’d like to see the paints pretty and clean, just click on the links to the paint distributor’s sites. If you’d like to learn more about encaustic color mixing, take a workshop with me, I discuss paint mixing in a all of my workshops.

If this post was helpful to you, please let me know, I invite your comments questions and suggestions in the comments section now located in the upper left sidebar of this post.

Stay tuned for my next post, Part Two of my Evolution of a Mark series of posts in which I trace back to my beginnings as an artist to where I am today. If you haven’t done so, make sure you read Part One so it all makes sense.

Enjoy the lovely flowers blooming everywhere.

R&F Paints

  • Alizarin Orange I LOVE this color, it will be on any list I make regarding paint colors. Bright and versatile, it can go from a light gold to a rich rusty orange in one swipe. When mixed with white or any other color, it retains it’s richness.
  • Payne’s Grey  Like Alizarin Orange, this color will be on any encaustic paint color list I make. I use this instead of black to darken any color. For me, black tends to deaden the color as it darkens, while this one allows the original color to retain it’s voice.
  • Warm Pink Like neutral white, I have used this color since I started painting in encaustic. It brightens any color and when mixed with a little and painted next to or on top of earthy blues, grays or greens, the eyes vibrate!
  • Brilliant Yellow Extra Pale I love to use this color instead of white as it not only lightens, it adds just a touch of yellow and whimsy as it brightens as well. 
  • Cobalt Blue A bright, clear blue, I use it more than any other blue.
  • Malachite Green I use this color way too much. It’s one of those colors that changes as it’s painted next to different colors. It makes any color and any painting sing.
  • Phthalo Turquoise Another color that looks dead in the package and like black when it’s melted, it is actually one of the brightest and most versatile colors. Add just a touch of any white and watch the magic happen.
  • Phthalo Blue Embarrassingly I just read what Phthalo colors actually are a few years ago and now buy anything described as such because of its unmatched intensity. There is a clarity to this blue that you will find in no other for water, skies, anytime you need blue. It mixes beautifully and always retains its voice.
  • Alizarin Crimson I do not have a Cadmium Red on this list, which may be odd to some, but quite honestly I have rarely ever used it because it always reads slightly orange to me. To be clear, Cadmium Red is the purest red and I would be remiss to tell you not to have it in your collection. However, I always find myself reaching for the Alizarin Crimson instead. It’s a cross between magenta and red and leans on the darker side of both. However, when it’s mixed with only a slight amount of white, it comes alive and is quite bright. It also makes a wide range of lovely pinks when mixed any light or white color.
  • Cadmium Green Pale  Not really true green, not really yellow, its a good mix of both, but I wouldn’t call it yellow-green. This is my go-to green, it can be lightened beautifully as well as darkened.
  • Zinc White Not having Titanium White on this list may also be a color faux pas but again, I rarely ever use it because it’s so uncomfortably white and a bit too pure for my taste-kind of like a bridal gown that almost looks blue it’s so white. Zinc white is a cross between Titanium and cream. Zinc is very white, but it’s just a degree off and lightens colors just as well as Titanium, yet keeps them just a degree to the left.
  • Cadmium Yellow Medium & Light We have to have yellow, it’s the indispensable color, which is why I have two on this list. I almost always go for the Medium yellow, but sometimes I just want less and pick up the Light. R&F also offers a Deep Yellow, but I wouldn’t advise going for it just yet, it’s a bit orange and may not be needed for your palette if you have the other two.
  • Cobalt Violet Light  I don’t use purple much and frankly, when I need it I mix it myself. However, this color is unusual, is difficult to mix and works well to add just a hint of pinkish-purple-violet to any other color.

Enkaustikos I can’t link directly to each color, so this link goes to all of the colors listed below, just scroll the list to see the color.

  • Opal Aquamarine I love this color so much I buy it in huge bulk and for all of my workshops. It makes any blue or green bluer and richer, like the most amazing, clear glacier water. 
  • Indian Yellow Bright, clear, not quite yellow, not quite orange. I reach for it time and again in place of yellow and mixing it with R&F’s Alizarin Orange is magical.

Evans Encaustics

  • Manganese Black The only black you’ll ever need, I was instantly smitten when I first used it. So creamy rich, so deep and consistent. It’s a true black, no blue or brown or gray cast. You only need a teeny tiny bit to darken any color. If you use black by itself, you’ll never find grayish spots or be a bit dissatisfied with this color.

IMG_1895

 

Kama Pigments I can’t link directly to each color, so this link goes to all their colors , just scroll the list to see the color I listed.

  • Rose Hornyak/Hornyak’s Pink Again, me and pink-I’ll buy any pink. This one is so Pepto Bismol its almost gross, but it does so many things that the average pink doesn’t do! It adds just that tiny bit of purple that makes other colors vibrate. Try mixing this with Alizarin Orange and/or Warm Pink and/or Brown Pink for a pink magic fest.

IMG_2330

A Special Cyber Monday Gift for You

Hello My Dear Blog Followers & Subscribers,
I am so grateful for your support throughout the year I created a special super secret offer just for you…

Through December 4, I am offering mini paintings for sale with free shipping and a free notecard set with purchase ONLY to you, my followers and subscribers. Follow the directions below to login…

Start HERE on my web site
Click ‘login’ at the top of the menu and use Friend and MyGift to login
Visit the Holiday Gift page and start shopping for something special!

Don’t want to purchase a painting?
Purchase a workshop Instead…See my complete 2018 Workshop Schedule
Purchase My Catalog featuring essays and paintings from 2005-2017
Purchase a Notecard Set which includes 5 different unique designs

Combine Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday to purchase a truly unique gift.

The Happiest of Holidays to You!
Lorraine xo

My Encaustic Fairy Tale: 3 Lessons Learned

3 Lessons I Learned as an Artist by Lorraine Glessner

While writing my last blog post chronicling my early journey with encaustic, I realized that I learned many valuable lessons through it all. Three lessons stood out as being most important while at the same time being those lessons that I’m constantly re-learning as I go.

When I’m teaching, I always begin each day with a quote that works to set the tone for that day and almost always it’s a quote from Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. If you haven’t read it, go get it NOW, read it once and then turn around and read it again. I quote from it often because I read it often, roughly once a year since it was first introduced to me in graduate school. My copy is highlighted almost all the way through because each time I read it I find another valuable snippet that seems to speak directly to me and the struggles I may be going through at the time. All of the quotes from this book were used to write this post unless otherwise noted .

  1. Experiment often with current and new materials, make lots of samples, document and save them. What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece. the place to learn about your materials is the last use of your materials. The place to learn about your execution is in your execution. The best information about what you love is in your last contact with what you love. Put simply, your work is your guide.
    I can’t recall where I first heard the 40/60 principle or even if I’m getting the percentages right, but it’s something we all must strive to do. The principle works something like this…60% of your studio work should be spent making work you are known for and/or work you are ‘comfortable’ making using materials, processes and ideas you know well. The remaining 40% should be spent experimenting with new materials, processes and ideas which will generate new work. If you keep doing this, sooner or later the ‘new’ work begins to seep into the current body of work and eventually it becomes your current body of work. If you apply this principle, your work and you as an artist, will continuously evolve and grow. This sounds great, but many artists may find it difficult to work experimentation into their busy and sometimes, very limited, studio time. What I’ve done to keep experimentation alive in my studio is average my daily hours and experiment for a percentage of that time-usually about 30 minutes to an hour for every 6-8 hours. I call this work my warm-up drawing time and sometimes will work on the same drawing all week, applying new layers each day (see the featured image above). I have so much fun just playing around with materials in the studio that I’ve forgotten about. Many times, this experimentation has generated new bodies of work that I would have never conceived of without first experimenting.
    Vision is always ahead of execution, knowledge of materials is your contact with reality, and uncertainty is a virtue. I don’t mention this in my last post, but my first year of graduate school was very difficult for many reasons. My first review was at the end of my first semester and it was coming up fast, so fast that I was in fear of not having anything to show. One of my committee members suggested just having a wall of samples for my review. I had a few samples, but not nearly enough so I spent 3 straight weeks barely coming out of my studio to make hundreds of samples. Only having limited time as well as keeping in mind that these were just samples prevented me from being too precious and worrying about making a ‘finished’ work. Those three weeks were perhaps the most painful but most prolific of my total two year experience-more importantly I learned so much about what my materials could do and what I, as an artist, could do. I saved almost all of those samples and I still use most of them as teaching tools today, both in workshops and in my own studio.
  2. You don’t always have to know what you’re doing. This lesson could be read two-fold: a) You don’t always have to know HOW to do what you’re doing and b) You don’t always have to know what you’re going to make-what it’s going to look like.People who need certainty in their lives are less likely to make art that is risky, subversive, complicated, iffy, suggestive or spontaneous. What’s really needed is nothing more than a broad sense of what you are looking for, some strategy for how to find it and an overriding willingness to embrace mistakes and surprises along the way. Simply put, making art is chancy-it doesn’t mix well with predictability. Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all pervasive companion to your desire to make art. And tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding.
    This is likely my favorite quote of all time and I read it in every workshop. It is absolutely essential to keep experimentation, the idea of imperfect perfection and  the element of chance in the work at all times. This doesn’t mean I’m encouraging you to make sloppy or ill-conceived work, rather, allow for a symbiosis to occur between you and your materials. Allow your materials to do what they do and you to push them gently in a certain direction. Full control and technical perfection is the death-knell for any work of art. It’s in the imperfections that true art is made and is the predominant concept behind the Japanese principle of Wabi-Sabi–an awesome subject for any artist to know, but far too complicated to explain here. The best book I have read on the subject is Wabi-Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence by Andrew Juniper and Wabi-Sabi for Artist, Designers, Poets and Philosophers by Leonard Koren is also good.
    When I first started working in encaustic, there were no books to refer to, no workshops and barely any information online, so I was basically on my own. I used tools that I already had in the studio, combined encaustic with other materials, basically developed my own processes and ways of doing things with this medium. The result was that I developed a truly original body of encaustic work. I absolutely believe that if I had taken an encaustic workshop, I wouldn’t have developed this work or perhaps it would have come much later. On the other hand, taking an encaustic workshop would have saved me two years of improperly ventilating wax fumes as well as understanding the importance of fusing and the reasons why Damar resin is added to the beeswax. While it’s okay not to know too much, ALWAYS work safely and technically accurate with your materials. Once you know those things, have fun and let things happen!
    Last, a great story illustrating the woe in striving for perfection comes from Art & Fear….The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right, solely on the quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scale and weigh the work of the quantity group: fifty pounds of pots would get an ‘A’, 40, a ‘B’, etc. those being graded on quality needed to produce only one pot-albeit a perfect pot to get an A. Well, came grading time and curious fact emerged: the work of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the quantity group was busily churning out piles of work and learning from their mistakes, the quality group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end, had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay. Remember this story every time you strive for perfection and find yourself overworking a piece into oblivion.
  3. Don’t start working on a white background.  Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case. –Chuck Close
    The fear of the white canvas isn’t new, we’ve all experienced it in one way or another and have developed our own methods of fighting it.I always tell my students that art begins in the head with an idea, flows through the heart, which makes it personal and out through the hand, which makes the actual work. Too much emphasis in any one of those places creates an imbalance in the process. Whenever I have developed a finished work in my head and then tried to make it, I almost always fail due to the frustration that it isn’t coming out ‘right’. The same thing happens when I try to plan too much before beginning a piece, I get mired in the planning stage and never actually DO anything. The best method for me and one that I suggest to students is to develop a step by step process that will generate a mark, then follow or respond to that mark. The less control you have over that initial mark, the better.
    Covering a board with a stained or rust printed fabric and then responding to those marks was the process I developed in grad school. This process enabled me to create subsequent marks to generate paintings I never would have had I started with a white board. It was also important that I didn’t have total control over the initial process itself-in a sense the process controlled me and that was just fine.
    To see some of the stained fabrics and paintings I created using them, go to my last blog post. I have also presented a talk on generating process and artists who use process in their work-for artist links and a presentation outline go to this blog post.

While we’re on the subject of mistakes, learning and re-learning, be sure not to miss my next blog post listing 10 mistakes I have made as an artist.

My Fairy Tale Love With Encaustic

I confess, I am in love with the medium of encaustic. Just like any great relationship, it faithfully welcomes me as I enter the studio with it’s warmth, smell and luminescent glow. It always yields to my wishes without too much resistance and surprises me by doing things I didn’t even know I wanted it to do. Although we’ve had many tiffs and I have strayed to other mediums, I always return and our partnership gets better and better. We have a symbiotic connection, encaustic and I…yes, I am blissfully in love. But this wasn’t always so….

I confess, I am in love with the medium of encaustic. Just like any great relationship, it faithfully welcomes me as I enter the studio with it’s warmth, smell and luminescent glow. It always yields to my wishes without too much resistance and surprises me by doing things I didn’t even know I wanted it to do. Although we’ve had many tiffs and I have strayed to other mediums, I always return and our partnership gets better and better. We have a symbiotic connection, encaustic and I…yes, I am blissfully in love. But this wasn’t always so….

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there I was, a mid-thirties Fibers & Materials Studies Graduate Student at Tyler School of Art in 2001. I was working with ideas related to creation and the cyclic nature of life-imprinting, staining and marking as it relates to birth through to death and decomposition. More specifically, I was interested in the physical mark and pattern of this cycle on the earth and body. I began making visual comparisons using these kinds of patterns with images I took myself or found on the internet. Some of these were uncanny in their similarities as you can see below.

At the same time I was doing this research I was also looking for materials and processes that could replicate these patterns. Simply copying them or painting them didn’t work and looked contrived, I had to make these patterns via mark-making and process. One of my professors had taught with Christopher Leitch at the Kansas City Art Institute and recommended I look at his work combining organic printing processes and textiles. Based on the one paragraph and few images of his work that I found on the Internet, I developed my own process of rust printing and staining on textiles using decomposing organic matter and the results were more amazing than I expected. Using natural processes to depict natural processes also supported my content, it was astoundingly brilliant. I have included images of some of these fabrics below.

I came into the graduate program as an art quilter, hand dyeing my own fabrics and sewing large beaded and painted creations that included everything but the kitchen sink. I loved quilting and wanted to expand on what a quilt could be based on the simple definition, ‘three layers of material stitched together from front to back’. I used the fabrics I had created combined with papers, image transfers, mark-making, burning and lots of machine and hand embroidery. I spent the next year sewing very large, intricate quilts (which I later stretched and called paintings) for my upcoming graduate thesis show. These pieces are pictured below along with smaller quilt studies.

Even though they were a huge labor of love, I felt these quilts were just not enough. I wanted to show another side to these ideas and sculptural books were another thing that intrigued me. I wanted to work with anything skin-like. My quilts spoke very much to landscape and alluded to the body, but I wanted something luscious and something that could be touched. I experimented with melting Tyvek, plastics, crayons, layers of glue and although I liked some of these things, I didn’t find anything I could pour myself into doing. During a critique, one of my professors suggested encaustic. I had never heard of this mysterious and scary sounding thing. At the time, there were no books available yet and the images I found on the Internet of other encaustic work was done with an iron on card stock and was just not my kind of thing. I decided to experiment on my own and purchased a sampler of cheap encaustic colors, a bunch of beeswax and a pancake griddle. I also employed my Clover piecing iron that I used for quilting and I still use this versatile iron today. My first attempts were horrible, I had no idea what I was doing. I wasn’t ventilating properly, I wasn’t using Damar resin in my medium, I wasn’t fusing properly, my cheap colors were flat and muddy-I hated this crap and what I had made with it! I threw all of my paints, griddle and everything else encaustic into a closet hoping to one day sell it all on Ebay…And in that closet it sat for almost a year…

For the better part of that year, I continued sewing, making books, experimenting with materials, teaching and learning, getting ready for my thesis show. It turned out that the gallery where I was to have my show had a little room off to the side about the size of a walk in closet. Neither me or my gallery partner could figure out what to do with the space, so we tossed it between us for a few weeks. Finally, it landed in my lap and I was totally overwhelmed with what to put in there and I only a few weeks to figure it out. I started rooting through all the samples I had made to come up with an idea and I stumbled across those awful encaustic paintings…which surprisingly didn’t look so awful anymore. I attribute this change to two major turning points throughout that year.  One, was an amazing graduate level drawing course I took at the beginning of my second year. I had never drawn very well and was nervous about this course, but I was encouraged by my professors and fellow students to take it. This was not a typical drawing course, it was focused on mark-making and process-two ideas that were relatively new at the time and very new to me. This course completely changed the way I thought about drawing and making work in general. It completely changed my life in the studio and the way I taught my classes and I continue to carry those ideas into both parts of my life to this day. Two, was the writing of my thesis paper, for which researching and writing had played an integral role in marrying my content with what I was doing in the studio. For the first time in my life, my ideas and the work I was making were becoming one thing. I had grown immensely and knew myself and my ideas, I had become an artist and could look at the work I had made through that lens. The featured image at the top of this post is made up of two of the first experimental paintings that I hated. After rediscovering these two along with the other paintings, I began pairing them together and they were complete. This piece called Damage was the most successful and is now in the collection of one of my grad school friends, traded for a few glass pieces that he made.

One of the experiments I had done was to dip my stained and rust printed fabrics into encaustic medium and really liked the way it added depth and enhanced the marks on the fabric. Since I had been stretching the sewn pieces into paintings, why not do the same here. I mounted the fabrics using wax, only using minimal color and letting the stains and marks speak for themselves. I made ten of these paintings and hung them in the small room adjacent to the main gallery, which housed my large sewn pieces. The opening was in the gallery district in Philadelphia on First Friday so we had a packed house and there were so many people in that tiny room ogling my encaustic paintings, one could barely move. People were interested in the sewn paintings but it was sparse interest and they sparked no real discussion, everyone wanted to know about the luscious paintings in the tiny room. The icing on the cake was that I also sold one of the encaustic pieces to someone I didn’t know, wasn’t related to and was a museum curator. This was the first thing I had ever made that had sold, so I saw it as some kind of sign that encaustic is what I should be doing. The piece that sold is called Fulfillment, pictured below with images of some of the other paintings in the show.

I followed all the signs and immediately abandoned the sewn paintings to continue exploring the fantastic medium of encaustic which I have loved and made my own at the same time the medium itself was becoming it’s own. Over the years, I added more color, collage, image, hair, mark-making and investigated various ideas, although my core ideas have remained rooted in the earth. The rest, as they say, is history and encaustic and I continue to live happily ever after.

To see what came after this early work, visit my web site portfolio and begin with the archives here.

This post is a lot longer than I had intended so stay tuned for the next post focusing on the lessons learned in this fairy tale and some ideas that may help you in your own studio practice.

Catching Up

I’ve been having a fantastic summer teaching and traveling all over the western part of the country and I realized I skipped July’s post! This month’s post is devoted to catching up with all of the amazingly good things happening in my world this summer. Thanks so much for reading, I’ll see you in September with a post about my early work in encaustic and why it looks nothing like the work I do today.

 

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I’m so pleased to announce that I have a new catalogue of my work and writing spanning from 2005-2017. The great Tom Manzione designed the catalogue and did an amazing job integrating a recent drawings series with over 12 years of my encaustic paintings. Also, integral to the success of the catalog is the excellent design-making the story flow with those little details often overlooked by novice designers like myself. The best lesson I got out of publishing this catalogue is that it is so worth it to hire someone rather than try to do it all yourself. Tom was so patient and organized, all I had to do was upload my images and left the rest to him…too easy and worry free. If you would like to purchase a catalogue, they are available for sale on Magcloud in both hard copy and digital form.

 

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One can never have too many places to show their work, so I signed up with Saatchi and now have a site with them. Right now, I’m only listing my smaller (Mini Paintings, I call them) encaustic pieces for sale-sizes 10×10, 8×8 and 6×6 with prices starting at $500 and under. These smaller works are quite coveted and Saatchi will help me to better manage the sales and shipping of these little gifts from me to you. I will be adding many more over the next few months so check the page often. To see what’s available now, go to the page here.

 

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Did you know I have an ongoing encaustic sculpture series I started in 2011? Indeed, I do and a piece I finished last year called The Space Between just won Third Place in Sculpture at Art of the State for which I am truly grateful. I started this series at a time when I was very much in transition with my work and life and this series came about as a way to sort out my thoughts through meditative process. I secretly call these pieces ‘worry blocks’ because these pieces are the vehicles by which I deposit my worries. Through the repetitive process of burning holes and using encaustic to place my hair strand by strand in grid patterns, I think, reflect and heal. I’ve had a nervous habit since I was little of twisting my hair when I’m stressed or thinking and I keep a bag of it in the studio that I add to daily. I have been using horse as well as my own hair in my work for quite some time. It makes a beautiful line in the wax and it also speaks to the bodily connections that have always been at the core of my work.  I first showed my worry blocks at the Gallery at R & F Paints where they were very well received and this encouraged me to keep making them. I make about 1-2 of the larger ones and 5-10 of the smaller ones per year. The smaller ones make great holiday gifts for the worrier in your life and I sell out every year. I’ll be posting them on Instagram when they are finished, so keep an eye out for them in the next couple of months. To see more of the larger worry blocks go to my web site here and here to read a statement about the series.

 

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It seems like I just attended the opening, but the show, Taking Wing, at Ellsworth Gallery in Santa Fe will be coming down on August 16, 2017. I’m honored for my inclusion in this fabulous show and grateful for the opportunity to show my work in Santa Fe with amazing artists Arin Dineen and Claire McArdle. The opening was super fun, with artist talks and an exciting interpretive dance by Ingrid Zimmer. See below for installation images and images of the opening.