Encaustic PaintSmash: Basic Scraping Methods

After my last PaintSmash How-To explaining application of encaustic paint with your flashing brushes, you likely think I’ve gone completely mad, creating hot mess paintings with no rhyme or reason….maybe…but my madness is only temporary. Now I’m going to show you how to reel it back in, gain control of the madness and pull an interesting composition out of those colorful layers using several tools and methods.

After my last PaintSmash How-To explaining application of encaustic paint with your flashing brushes, you likely think I’ve gone completely mad, creating hot mess paintings with no rhyme or reason….maybe…but my madness is only temporary. Now I’m going to show you how to reel it back in, gain control of the madness and pull an interesting composition out of those colorful layers using several tools and methods. For a little review, visit this post for a How-To to making an alternative encaustic brush from flashing material and this post for a How-To and video link on how to use it. Also, visit this post for my favorite tools in which some of the tools I mention in this article are highlighted.

Follow the methods below to pull out, reveal and carve a composition. Use a combination of all of the methods and tools described below. Look for contrasts; solid, quieter areas of color next to busier areas, complimentary color combinations, grays, whites and earth tones next to brighter areas of color. Stay tuned for my next blog post in which I delve into composition a bit further.

What You Need (Visit this post for a comprehensive explanation of the razor blade, clay scraper and double-sided scraper tool)

  • Razor Blade
  • Clay Scraper
  • Double Sided Scraper Tool
  • An Encaustic Painting Preferably on wood with at least 8-15 layers of paint.
  • Iwatani Torch and/or heat gun
  • Time & Patience Yoga breathing, Zen

Methods (Go to my IGTV channel or to my new YouTube Channel to watch me begin to transform a chunky hot mess, PaintSmashed painting using the techniques below) Watch this video to see me demonstrate scraping using all three tools I discuss in the last blog post.

  1. Cold Scrape Best done at the start of your studio day before heating the board and by using the razor blade as your main tool. Scrape slowly without digging or gauging, taking off thin layers, little by little. Observe the subtle changes taking place on the surface of your painting. This method requires lots of patience, do not rush the process, you will be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
  2. Warm Scrape Your surface should be warm, tepid, NOT HOT, which may cause unwanted smearing and smushing. Slightly warm the surface with your heat gun or torch and scrape slowly without digging using the clay scraper or razor blade.
  3. Soft Scrape Self explanatory, but must be mentioned and must be practiced. Most people start scraping way too aggressively and way too hot. Make sure you’re not overheating and if you find you’re taking too much off or gauging, practice lightening up your pressure.
  4. Hard Scrape This method is to be used only in the event that you want to remove lots of layers at once using the loop or Sculpture House tools. I usually do this in only one section of a painting when things get a bit too busy and I want to add a chunk of a solid color. This method can also be used when you want to completely scrape back or ‘murder’ one of your paintings.
  5. Carve Use the double sided scraper tool, needles and other pointy tools to incise and carve shapes into the layers. There is no limit to the fun you will have revealing the layers and shaping a composition by digging out lines, marks and carving shapes. Watch me carve out a form (short version) OR (long version) using the double sided scraper tool.

Encaustic PaintSmash: 3 Must-Have Scraping Tools

If you aren’t scraping your encaustic paint layers, you’re missing out! The first of two parts on encaustic scraping, this article covers 3 basic must-have tools for scraping and revealing amazingness under your encaustic layers. Also included, are some luscious eye candy inspiration images.

If you’re working in layers of encaustic paint and not utilizing scraping as part of painting, you are missing a tremendous amount of creative opportunities. Encaustic is unmatched by any other medium for many reasons; luminosity, depth, translucency, tactile qualities, just to name a few. Certainly, other mediums offer these qualities, but to my knowledge, encaustic is the ONLY medium that offers painters the ability to work in layers with the option of scraping them back to reveal hidden treasures. Once you begin doing this, you won’t want to stop, it’s absolutely addicting! Depending on how you have applied the paint, the amount of texture and the colors used, you will reveal layers resembling geologic forms, water bodies, aerial and satellite views of earth. Or moving toward the smaller end of things, you will find forms resembling layers of skin cells, bodily forms, rocks and minerals, etc. I’ve included a small sampling of inspiration eye candy images below that resemble scraped encaustic paintings painted with the PaintSmash method. The images are from my Aerial, Micro-Stuff, Rocks and Layered Pinterest Boards. To see each individual board, follow the links with the images below. Also, see this related post for more Texture and Layers inspiration.

Stay tuned for my next post which is a Basic Scraping How-To, complete with videos and images of various scraping methods. I show you how to use the tools mentioned in this article as well as discuss a bit about what it is you’re looking for under the layers and how to carve out a fabulous composition from your PaintSmash hot mess!

Please note that this post is an introduction to basic scraping tools, there is much more to learn and many other tools to experiment with to find your favorites. If you try the tools mentioned here and the methods for using them I discuss in my next post, you might want to delve deeper by taking one of my upcoming encaustic workshops. I discuss scraping in all of my encaustic workshops, but dig deeper into the subject (no pun) in my advanced Beyond the Basics workshop.

The Tools

  • Razor Blade With Holder When you are using a razor blade, you definitely need one of these holders. Make sure you buy one like this and not one of the bulky versions. This smaller does the job to keep your hand from cramping as well as keeps your hand close enough to the surface to ‘feel’ it. Also, if you’ve been avoiding razor blades because of those unwanted marks the corners cause, invest in a metal file and take a few seconds to round out those edges. Razor blades definitely serve a purpose and shouldn’t be left at the bottom of the tool box because of those marks.
  • Clay Scraper My favorite is the Loop Tool  and/or the Sculpture House Scraper-read about it here. We all have our favorites, but I would advise avoiding the triangular shaped scrapers with very angular corners because like the razor blade, they tend to leave undesirable marks but are difficult to file down. Not mentioned in my previous favorite tools article is a Loop Tool (#510) I just discovered from Dolan Tools. It’s compatible to the Sculpture House Scraper in quality, but it’s easier to find and is slightly less expensive.
  • Double Sided Scraper Tool (A MUST have…Read more about and where to get it here) There is no limit to the fun you can have with this tool, making lines, marks and carving shapes. See a sneak peek of me using this tool to carve out some shapes on my Instagram Feed @lorraineglessner1. The complete video is included in my next post.

Aerial/Satellite Images

Layered Images

Microscopic

Rocks/Minerals

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.

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)

 

 

5 Encaustic Tools I Can’t Do Without

Since the start of the year, I have slowly been purging my studio of materials I have acquired over the years. Each time I pick up an item, I ask myself if I really need this thing, will I ever do anything with it? As I make my way around the studio to my encaustic table, I can’t bear to rid myself of any of my encaustic supplies, so I’m working backwards..isolating the items that I can’t seem to do without, the things that I reach for all the time, everyday. Of course, there are a lot more than five tools I use, but if I were stranded on a deserted encaustic island, these are the things I would want with me. I use all of these tools in my encaustic workshops, explain the techniques and bring extras for students to try out. So if you haven’t signed up to take a workshop with me this summer and fall, do so now because they are filling fast!

  1. Clover Mini Iron

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This tool is one of the first tools I ever used when I started working with encaustic in 2001. At that time, there were very few tools available and very little information about encaustic until Joanne Mattera’s The Art of Encaustic Painting came out a year or so later and changed my life. Until that time, I muddled through on my own, learning this difficult medium with snippets of information from the internet and materials I already had in my studio. In my former artist life, I was an art quilter and has this little piecing iron that I used to iron the seams of my quilts, so I tried it as an alternative to the heat gun and fell in love. Not only is the Clover Mini Iron an excellent little detail iron, but it is the ONLY tool I use to fuse collage and my horsehair drawings. When I first started teaching encaustic workshops in 2005, those who hired me as well as workshop participants would laugh when they saw the irons because no one was using them at the time. One of the things about my work that people respond to is the craftsmanship and how the collage seems to merge seamlessly into the painting rather than being a separate inclusion. This is wholly because of this iron. Those of you who have taken my workshops know that I do not recommend the torch for collage for safety reasons-often the medium is blown off of the paper collage during the fusing process and it ignites. Most importantly, both the torch and the heat gun introduce air and most of the time the collage piece pops up a bit and does not lay flat on the surface. For a lot of artists, efforts to remedy this annoyance often ends in frustration or giving up encaustic collage for good. Once learning to use this and other small irons for collage, the work will drastically improve, guaranteed!
I’ve had mixed reactions with workshop participants who have tried this iron during my workshops, some find it awkward. I recommend The Dritz Petite Press as an alternative just for fusing, but I find it difficult to use for collage. If you use collage in your encaustic work and have experienced frustration, I encourage you to take one of my workshops this summer and fall to learn my technique.
Two more amazing things about this iron is that it has it’s own temperature gauge and it can also be used as a heated palette knife.
This iron is available online and in-store at most craft and hobby stores that sell fabric related craft supplies as well as online at Amazon here, where I have always found the best prices.
NOTE: If you do a google search for the clover mini iron, make sure it the one you purchase looks like the one pictured, don’t confuse it for the Clover Mini Iron II which is red and white, not mint green and white.

2. Double Sided Detail Scraper
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Other than my Clover Mini Iron, double sided detail scraper is the tool I use the most. I have purchased dental tools, wax carving tools, Kemper clay shapers, wood carving tools, etc. and I rarely use them. This tool is extremely versatile and supplants most of the tools of it’s kind. First and foremost, it is an excellent detail scraper for those hard to reach areas. The two sizes, pointed tip and the curved nature of the blade allow for almost any kind of scraping in any kind of area. I also love it for carving complex lines and shapes. The attributes I previously mentioned also allow for carving any shape-small or large or for any line, thick or thin. The use of the blade’s wider area and narrower pointed tip enable me to make my incised calligraphic lines in the wax, making it the closest thing to real drawing in wax. In some of my older work, the complex raised areas shown in the image below are only made  using this tool. It is also the only tool I use to place the hair for my hair drawings. The blade is wide and the curve is gentle (almost flat) giving it enough surface area to press the hair down without gauging the surface. I also use it to clean up the clingy wax from the edges of the stenciled areas of my paintings. Last, it’s also excellent for removing dust and those weird little hairs that always seem to find their way into the wax.
I have seen Kemper tools with one side shaped like this scraper, but never the double sided tool I have described here. I have only seen this particular tool sold by Enkaustikos here.

3. Sculpture House Encaustic Loop Tool

Sculpture-House-Encaustic-Loop-Tool-0

Possibly the best scraper ever invented, it works like a combination razor blade and the average clay scraper. I still love my razor blade for taking off little bits and my other scrapers for their specialties, but this scraper is the one I reach for again and again, especially when I need to really cut into the surface and remove some wax. Hand-made with a carbon steel blade, it is extremely sharp and makes scraping so easy, with less residue and annoying ‘gum up’ on the blade. It removes the wax in a long, fine ribbon, which I have never seen in any other scraper. I love these scrapings so much, I have started collaging them back into the work in places where I want a multi-colored, textured effect. After the scrapings are fused, they can be left as-is for raised texture or scraped back further for an interesting ribbon of color. The corners of this tool are also great for making wide incised lines.
I first purchased this tool from Enkaustikos here, but it is also available directly from the Sculpture House web site here. I recently emailed SH because I hadn’t seen the tool on their web site for quite some time, but it has just been re-listed. Get them while they’re hot!

4. Ball Stylus

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Many of you probably use this tool, but I’m always amazed at how many people have never seen it or know what it is when I use it in my workshops. Originally designed for embossing into soft metal or paper, this tool is useful for many art projects. I love it for incising in the wax because it’s rounded end doesn’t cut into my board surface and chop it up like pointy tools do. It’s also great for using on transfer papers, again, because it doesn’t rip into the paper like a pointed tool does. These tools come in a variety of sizes and sets, which make it easy to carve various line weights as well as make different kinds and sizes of marks using transfer papers.
This tool is available online and in-store from most craft stores and online at Amazon here. There are also many variety sets available for purchase online here.


5. Apollon Elephant Painting Panels

apollon-elephant-painting-panels-standard

Just plain, old raw birch painting panels, they are cheap, well made, sturdy and most importantly, they are lightweight. I use about 15-20 layers of wax on my paintings and many artists use much more. With the weight of that much wax combined with the weight of a wooden painting panel, the finished painting feels like lead. Imagine hanging a show with 10-20 lead panels by yourself! So lightweight, but durable, is key for me. Also, for a starving artist on a budget, the price can’t be beat. I have tried and just can’t find a comparable, quality painting panel even close to the price of these. Also, they scorch to a lovely caramel or dark brown/black. For those of you who don’t know, I always begin my paintings with a gridded pattern of scorched brands. My newer work utilizes much more paint and for the most part, the brands are concealed…but I still begin the painting that way, it just feels incomplete without.
These panels are sold with a 1.5 inch cradle (deep) as well as uncradled (standard) with a 1 inch depth. Also very useful are the quarter inch panels I’ve seen only in the store. I use these for samples in workshops, for color tests or brush tests in the studio and anytime I need a wooden surface, but don’t want to use a whole panel.
The painting panels and birch panels are sold exclusively at Artist & Craftsman Supply, both online (with sizes up to 24×24) here and in store for all painting panel sizes up to 60×60.

 

***Stay tuned for the next blog post on my favorite encaustic paint colors.