Daddy's Christmas Angel

Monday, November 26, 2012

Falling in Love with Encaustic Painting--Where Will It Lead?

I must confess. I have a love affair with encaustic painting and have no idea where this may lead.

When artist Karen Eide first came to West Point to present an encaustics workshop for Arts Alive, I took the day-long class out of curiosity. But then something happened. I made lots of little 5" x 7" paintings. The way the paint and wax moved around beneath the heat gun absolutely intrigued me. I know of no other way to create the sparkling luminous effects with the acrylic paint I normally use. Sadly, acrylic paints are not compatible with the beautiful encaustics and bee's wax. However, with experimentation, I might figure out a way to combine the two if I don't try to overlap them.
Molten wax heating on hot plate

Representing the Virginia Museum, Karen has come back to West Point several times since my first dramatic encounter with encaustic paints. I've enrolled in her class each time and have created more small paintings that I love. She's been a wonderful teacher who demonstrates technique and materials and then allows her students to explore on their own.

In September, when she returned to present yet another workshop, I decided I wanted to work in a larger format. Karen paled when she saw the two 24" x 18" encauticbords I had ordered. Because the paints are so expensive, I couldn't work on anything that large, she told me. I was surprised and disappointed. Of course, if I had done the math, I would have realized that one 24 x 18 panel has 432 square inches of space to cover. A dozen of the 5 x7 mat board pieces would still have fewer square inches of space. Obviously, math is not my strong subject!

That day, Karen did have a 12" x 12" cradled board that I bought and used to make a painting. Moving the paint around with a heat gun on that sturdy surface was even more appealing.

Now, I really longed to paint with encaustics on the larger cradled boards I had purchased. When I learned Karen was presenting an advanced workshop in Virginia Beach in November, I was determined to attend. So matter that I was just returning from the Jan Sitts workshop in Sedona, I would somehow work in the time.

Karen shows class a custom-made board/canvas for encaustics
I'm glad that I did. The event took place at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art which I had no idea even existed before I signed up for this workshop. I was delighted to explore this lovely new facility.  Everyone in the class was experienced in encaustic painting and, except for me, worked with it on their own. That Saturday, I painted the two larger boards I'd bought and fell in love with encaustics all over again.

"Reflections in a Bright Galaxy" - encaustic painting -copyright Mary Montague Sikes
Although I have a home studio and a drawing room annex equipped for my pastels, watercolors, acrylics, and experimental mixed media art, I don't want to bring an encaustic painting setup in there. Instead, I'm thinking of working in our garage where there will be plenty of ventilation for the more toxic painting situation the heated bee's wax will bring. I also might consider working in my studio/gallery space at Petersburg Regional Arts Center.

Painting with a heat gun is a mesmerizing experience. Where will this lead with my art? That's an intriguing question.

Thank you, Karen Eide, for showing me the way to this beautiful art medium. Thank you, Arts Alive in West Point, for offering so many outstanding opportunities in creativity.

--Mary Montague Sikes

4 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Very cool! I've worked with several mediums, but never used wax. Sounds like with a little more practice, you could teach a class.

Monti said...

It's intoxicating, Alex. I'd rather paint and try to create art others will love as much as I do!

Thanks for commenting.

Marian Allen said...

Painting with wax sounds challenging! I'm surprised to hear that beeswax can form toxic fumes; I was sitting here thinking how nice it must smell. Shows what I know!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monti said...

Thanks for commenting, Marian. Lots of paints can be toxic, and I don't think any kind of smoke is really good for your lungs. It's just a good idea to ventilate. And, remember, I'm still learning!