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Posts Tagged ‘Encaustic’

In my last post, I mentioned that there is a story behind the two pieces pictured.  Here’s the lowdown:

Those two pieces are from my encaustic “Midsummer” series.  Both sold very quickly; one in late 2008 and one in 2009.  I knew the purchaser of one piece (a fellow artist) and had some email correspondence with the purchaser of the other. 

So when I had the opportunity to have some of my work photographed at the 1109 Gallery in Lawrence, Kansas, I contacted the owners to ask if I might borrow the two Midsummers for an afternoon so that they could be included in the photo session.  Because both of these people are wonderfully generous, they unhesitatingly agreed. 

I assured them that I would take exemplary care of their artwork and further, on the it-will-never-happen chance that a piece was damaged, it would be covered by my professional liability insurance.  But none of us were concerned about that, because nothing like that ever really happens.  Ever.

It was a wonderful photo shoot.  (When everyone present is telling you how much they LOVE your work, it’s a good day.)  Afterward, I carefully packed the 15 pieces and returned home.  This is probably a good time to mention that this photo shoot took place in February.  And that we had ridiculous amounts of snow and ice this year. 

What happened next is so mortifying that I am reluctant to describe it.  Let’s just say that in relatively short order I was a) on the ground, howling over encaustic artwork that was cracked, broken, and in some places shattered, and b) calling my husband in near-hysteria, telling him he had to come home IMMEDIATELY, because I had done something BAD.  (Okay, it was actually full hysteria.) 

And because you, dear readers, are an intelligent and intuitive lot, you already know which two pieces received the greatest damage.  The two pieces from the Midsummer series.  The two pieces that belong to other people.  People who paid for them.  Who love them.  Who trusted me to care for them.

After my husband broke land speed records getting home and had helped me calm down, I was able to step back from my emotions and assess the damage objectively.  People who know me know that I am a particularly determined woman.  My modus operandi is to bare my teeth at a challenge and take that sucker on.  And although I had never had to repair damaged encaustic before, I was pretty certain I could restore the pieces.  Not being able to restore them was too hideous a prospect to consider.

I notified the Midsummer parents that there had been an accident, but let them know I was on the job and had every certainty that I could restore their babies to their former fabulousness.  I told them that if I didn’t restore the pieces to their satisfaction, I would repay them the full purchase price.  And I would throw in another piece of my artwork – their choice and anything they wanted.  Bless their hearts, they were super-duper gracious and showed total faith in my curative powers. 

However, as I stood looking at the two pieces on the work table in my studio, I pinballed between confidence and doubt and panic.  I considered taking photos of the damage and the repair process, but I simply could not bring myself to document the mess, even though I knew I would wish later that I had. 

It took a couple of weeks to make the repairs.  It was very wearing as I worked through trial and error, put everything I know about my process and my medium to the test, and had to take things slowly and methodically when all I wanted was to get this disaster fixed and finished.  But ultimately, the restorations were successful, and Midsummers #1 and #2 were returned to their rightful owners.

And I vowed that never, never again under any circumstances whatsoever would I ask to borrow one of my sold paintings, no matter what show I’m offered, no matter what opportunity is presented.

Unless it’s just too good to pass up.  And then I’m going for it.  No guts, no glory, people!

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A Spring in the Lilacs; Malissa Martin-Wilke; Encaustic; 16x24; 2008.

A Spring in the Lilacs; Malissa Martin-Wilke; Encaustic; 16x24; 2008.

This is one of the first pieces in which I used incision in encaustic.  I really had no idea what to expect, and initially the scraping was more likely to create gouges rather than a (relatively) smooth surface.  It was also the first time I used a heat lamp rather than a heat gun to finish the surface…something I know that other artists working in encaustic use with great success, but I wasn’t too crazy about it.  That said, I’ll  give it another chance on another piece.

This piece also sold within the first few hours of being hung at a show, which was nice, but there’s a little bit of a story behind that.  A married couple saw the piece, and the husband fell in love with it…really fell  in love with it.  The wife, however, wanted a floral still life.  They disagreed in that very silent way couples have, when nothing much is being verbalized, but there’s a lot being communicated.  They left for a while and then came back, and it was pretty clear that the man was going to have his piece of art.  I sometimes wonder about this piece…given the wife’s desire for something else, I wonder if A Spring in the Lilacs might have met with an unfortunate accident, something like the one that befell the leg lamp in A Christmas Story.

And on that note, be sure and check out a great new blog I’ve discovered.   It’s the blog of Lisa Kairos (www.lisakarios.wordpress.com).  You’ll enjoy seeing her work, and she’s got super info on encaustic and plenty else besides.

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Here are a few shots that show some of my tools and my primary work surface in my studio.  You will see that neatness is not a prerequisite for my work, although I am often compelled to clean simply to have space to work.  And in fact, this is about as “clean” as  it gets, unless I’ve recently changed the cheap shower curtains I use on my work tables.

One of the work tables in my studio - this one is used primarily for encaustic

One of the work tables in my studio - this one is used primarily for encaustic

In order to protect the surfaces of the work tables, which are my mother’s dining room table and my father’s desk, I have multiple layers of old sheets and tablecloths, and these are covered with the cheapest vinyl shower curtains I can find…usually about $2.99 each at Target.  I use them until their layer of encaustic drips is driving me crazy, then unload the surface, yank it off, put a new one on, get the equipment and supplies back in place, and then get back to painting.

From left, a heat lamp, a heat gun, a photographer's tacking iron, and an embossing heat gun.

From left, a heat lamp, a heat gun, a photographer's tacking iron, and an embossing heat gun.

I hang the heat tools that I use to work with the encaustic once it’s been applied to the support.  I learned the hard way that a hot heat gun – even turned off – can melt right through those vinyl shower curtains!

Encaustics waiting for the next round of painting

Encaustics waiting for the next round of painting

I use an old electric griddle from my kitchen as a hot plate for the encaustic.  I know that a lot of encaustic artists mix paints directly on the plate, but I always mix in my repurposed tuna cans.  The loaf pan has  unpigmented encaustic.  The encaustics in this photo are hard, not molten.

Two bins of brushes, but there are more!

Two bins of brushes, but there are more!

These are some of the brushes I use with my encaustic.  Once a brush has been used with encaustic, it can’t go back to anything else!  I use very cheap brushes, as well as older brushes that are too worn to use with acrylics.  I generally have two or three sizes in the colors I use most often and only rarely do I clean my encaustic brushes, since I use the same brush over and over in similarly pigmented encaustic.

A wall of storage...everything for encaustic, acrylic, embroidery, beading and jewelry-making, and a ton more.

A wall of storage...everything for encaustic, acrylic, embroidery, beading and jewelry-making, and a ton more.

And finally, a quick look at the storage on the wall adjacent to the work table shown above…it’s clean enough.

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October Anticipation #1; Malissa Martin-Wilke; Encaustic, handpainted paper, copper; 12x12.  2006

October Anticipation #1; Malissa Martin-Wilke; Encaustic, handpainted paper, copper; 12x12. 2006

Essentially anything can be imbedded into encaustic.  In this series of three, I used handpainted paper (painted with encaustic) and copper. 

The paper was added about midway through the process, after the background had been completed.  However, only the thinnest layer of clear encaustic was brushed on top of the paper once it was placed. 

October Anticipation #2; Malissa Martin-Wilke; Encaustic, handpainted paper, copper; 12x12; 2006.

October Anticipation #2; Malissa Martin-Wilke; Encaustic, handpainted paper, copper; 12x12; 2006.

The copper was added at the end of the work in order to preserve its shiny surface.  I originally embedded the copper ever so lightly and then glazed it with the same thin layer of clear encaustic that  I used over the paper.  The outcome, though, was that the copper completely lost its sheen and was just a dull sliver beneath the surface. 

So – and this is one of the beauties of encaustic – I dug out the copper, filled the resulting impressions with encaustic, smoothed the surface, and then relaid the copper, using a small metal tool to press the copper into the surface just enough to secure it. 

 

October Anticipation #3; Malissa Martin-Wilke; Encaustic, handpainted paper, copper; 12x12; 2008.

October Anticipation #3; Malissa Martin-Wilke; Encaustic, handpainted paper, copper; 12x12; 2006.

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Sea Anemonea #2

Sea Anemonea #2; Malissa Martin-Wilke; 12x12; 2008.

Another couple of examples of the use of incision are featured in this post.   In each, the incisions are not filled with encaustic, but are left open to create definition, texture, and detail.  Some of the incisions are  made while the wax is still warm and quite pliable, while others are done when the wax has thoroughly hardened, and more than one tool is used to incise, which provides subtle variety in the incisions.

Sea Anomonea #1; Malissa Martin-Wilke; 12x12; 2008.

Sea Anemonea #1; Malissa Martin-Wilke; 12x12; 2008.

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I generally fill incisions in encaustic with more encaustic, as I mentioned in an earlier post (Aaaah, the Studio).  I showed a piece in progress in that posting.   Here is a different piece that uses the incise/fill with encaustic/scrape technique.   (Please forgive the background…it’s lying on the floor of my studio for this shot, and I don’t have a professional photo of it yet.)

Midsummer 1; Encaustic; 12x12, 2008.  Malissa Martin-Wilke, copyrighted.

Midsummer 1; Encaustic; 12x12, 2008. Malissa Martin-Wilke, copyrighted.

Here’s a detail of the same piece.
Detail of Midsummer #1; Malissa Martin-Wilke, copyrighted.

Detail of Midsummer #1; Malissa Martin-Wilke, copyrighted.

More to come on incision later!

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Tins of Encaustic

Tins of Encaustic

First, let me say that my studio is one of the upstairs bedrooms on the northeast side of the house.  Fortunately, it’s a decent-size room, but it’s certainly not a professional studio with windows situated to take advantage of natural light and custom-built cabinetry for my particular supports of choice.  You use what you have.

So…a few shots of the materials in my studio.  The one you see above is of tins (yes, once they were tuna cans) of encaustic that I’ve already pigmented, with some already nearly empty.  If you look to the left, you’ll see a tin of brown encaustic that looks to have shavings of some sort on top, and that’s exactly what it is…shavings of brown encaustic I’ve been scraping from a work in progress.  Here’s a closer view of the same shot.

Tins of Encaustic

Tins of Encaustic

When I’m scraping only one color, I always save the shavings and put them right back into the tin.  Here’s a photo of a piece I’m working on where you can see where I’ve already scraped.

A piece in progress

A piece in progress

When I’m scraping or incising more than one color, I collect those shavings into a single tin and later use them when I’m mixing black encaustic, or if the colors work well together – blue and green, for instance – I might use them later as the base for an aqua or teal.

In the next post, I’ll show some of the tools I work with the most.

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