Saturday, June 30, 2012

Technique-a-aplooza Part 1

After a day spent working alongside one of my favorite local artists in her studio, I'm starting to understand that my fledging encaustic practice is actually a little further along than I thought. I've had in my head for awhile what I wanted my encaustic work to look like, but kept thinking I didn't have enough knowledge or had never found the right technique for it or even, possibly, that I just didn't possess the necessary talent (and I just heard every other artist reading this go "eeeeeEEEEEEEEE...").

As it turns out, none of those things are true. And doing a survey of my encaustic work to date, there are quite a few pieces I'm very happy with (including the three that now live in other people's homes) that show a reasonable ability to execute a wide variety of techniques; some of these early pieces are almost purely about the techniques themselves. Here are a few for your enjoyment!

Western Starshower
6 x 4 inches
wax and oil paint on wood



Possibly the most straightforward of the techniques is just the application of layered wax, creation of marks in the wax and then infilling with contrasting paint or wax. Western Starshower started as something else entirely. I've always been vaguely dissatisfied with the piece, until one day I turned it upside down and suddenly it made sense. I like the texture and sort of 3D quality of the black hills in the foreground. At the same time, though, I don't think this is one that will ever make it to the sale table; it's just a little bit too rough.

Bengali
3 x 5 inches
wax and oil on canvas panel
Bengali is another piece that began as one thing and became another. There are so many techniques in this tiny piece I almost don't know where to begin talking about it. It's got layered overpainting, scraping away, "buttering" with the tacking iron, and a final layer of gold oilbar highlight. I have to say the addition of the gold is what kind of turned it from "nothing" into "something." I'll probably frame this one and put it up in my house somewhere. I haven't been able to make a photo of it that did it justice.

Buttery
5 x 7 inches
wax on encaustic board
Misty Garden
8 x 8 inches
wax on wood panel
Speaking of buttering, Buttery is tacking-iron process run a little bit amok. This is purely overpainting and then pulling back the wax to varying depths with the tacking iron, revealing the different colors beneath. Again, I'm a fan of texture that implies 3D rather than 2D--the wax "sits up" in waves, the colors surprise, the form feels at once chaotic and elegant. In the same style is the much larger Misty Garden. It's less tactile, a little bit more glassy, but still with the technique of using the tacking iron to butter back layers of color to reveal unexpected layers of color underneath. On this one, though, I've also used the tacking iron to "style" the wax colors into patterns and waves.

Winter Trees
3 x 5 inches
wax and inkjet print
on encaustic board
Leaf
3 x 5 inches
wax and pastel rubbings
on encaustic board
I'm not a big fan of image transfer processes in encaustic; most of the work I've seen that uses image transfer feels too much like a graphic design or collage project to me, and I've never had any illusions about being interested in working in either of those styles. But there can be something magically about the inclusion of printed images in this work if handled with a slightly different point of view. My two favorites in this style are Winter Trees and Leaf. Each uses a very different technique. Winter Trees involved embedding an inkjet print on rice paper into the wax; Leaf also features embedded designs on rice paper, but instead of an inkjet print, I made  multiple pastel rubbings of the leaf in different colors and carefully layered those to make the final piece. A little bit of oil paint was used to emphasize highlights and details.

untitled
9 x 12 inches
wax on clay board
I had the good fortune to know a number of extraordinary painters in grad school, and what they did seemed like magic to me; I've never painted and felt pretty confident that I couldn't ever create anything that looked like it had come off the end of a brush held by Lisa or Gail or Elise or Jenn, Mo or Anastasia or Nora. These artists still amaze me, and I'm not shy about saying they are all my inspirations when it comes to encaustic. This last piece is the closest to what I want to be as an encaustic artist, and rather than my previous assumption that I just probably didn't have the ability to create work like that, it turns out it was just another technique, combined with a tool problem. Some thought, some luck and the proper tool are what helped me produce this piece, which doesn't have a title yet. But creating this was so satisfying (and surprising), it defies description.

I have in my head now what I need to do to continue to produce work like this, the trick will be to keep working and be willing to fail. That's a good lesson both for art and life in general.

3 comments:

ann tracy said...

I'm glad that you're still working the wax! I like the last piece the best too...

ann tracy said...
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E. Marie said...

I'm glad you like it, Ann. But I like all of them "the best," they represent different techniques and a journey. :)