WIP, the before

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This will be my attempt at documenting my work in progress, in various stages of development. Above, is what I started out with; a cradled birch board. A rigid support like this is ideal for encaustic work. Some people prime this board with encaustic compatible gesso; a traditional gesso made of rabbit skin glue and chalk/gypsum or a modern version made by R and F. The R and F version is apparently still a type of acrylic with more absorbent material added in. This is kind of surprising because the readily available acrylic gesso is not suitable. Acrylic is too slippery for encaustic, I’ve heard of an artist who had a painting slide right off at an exhibit. Basically, encaustics need something to ‘grab onto’. Another method is to just coat the substrate in encaustic medium. This is what I do if the surface is suitable. In this case, the raw wood absorbs the heated wax quite well. After a couple of coats of wax medium have dried and cooled, you can start ‘painting’. Subsequent layers have to be fused with the previous layer; this is very important for the structural integrity of the piece.

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I’ve tried but I missed a couple of images to document progress this far. It’s really difficult when you’re in the middle of working on a piece and stopping to take pictures – my bad. The above piece was primed with couple of coats of medium. Then a layer of bisque colour was added on and cooled a bit. On top of the coloured encaustic, a photo transfer image was burnished onto it. Then the piece was heated with a heat gun to fuse the image and further heated to abstract the transferred image (the greyish pattern in the background). Afterwards, white encaustic paint was brushed on.

By the way, this piece is totally intuitive. I’m just working and experimenting on it and seeing what happens. Not all my work is like this, sometimes I have a clear idea of what I’m going to portray. But mostly, whether you have an idea or not, it’s usually a process of pushing back, bringing forward, clarifying until you get it just right.

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Another encaustic piece

Right now I have so many ideas/projects waiting to happen. Most of the time I want to do something and am missing a tool, colour, etc..,usually I can’t get whatever it is where I live. Sometimes I can get it here but have to pay insane prices, so I end up ordering online which means, I have to wait. Everyone in my family knows I am terribly impatient; it’s even more so with art, I don’t want to lose the momentum or the inspiration I have at the time. So while I wait, I’m trying to do useful things. Right now, I’m trying to prep other substrates and make pieces that go into other works.

For now, I’ll leave you with another encaustic piece with something floral:

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Proper Encaustic

On my last post you saw my first encaustic piece with unsuitable wax. Here is a piece I did by making the encaustic medium myself. It’s the traditional recipe with beeswax and Damar resin. The original substrate was pre-primed canvas so I had to glue paper onto canvas in order to make it more receptive to the wax (the wax will only have good adhesion to porous surfaces). Generally, a good substrate has to be porous and rigid.

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Above, you can see a vague ‘sea’ image. I forgot to mention that encaustics are notoriously hard to photograph, because of the texture and sheen. I don’t know if you can see the layers apparent to me, especially the white of the waves. They seem to float on top the other layers.

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In the side shot above you can see that I chose to cover the canvas sides with coloured wax. This is just my choice as some choose to varnish the wood, paint it with acrylic or just seal it with clear wax. The other great thing about encaustics is the way they feel, they’re so smooth and textured at the same time but not as cold as stone – does that make any sense?

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Encaustic revisited

A while ago, I was really into encaustic paintings. For those of you who have never heard of encaustic painting, it’s a really old form of wax painting dating back to around 100 A.D. Typically, beeswax is blended with resin to form a medium to which pigment is added. The whole thing needs to be heated and applied onto suitable substrates and fused together to form a good bond. I don’t want to go into details as there are different formulas, techniques and so on (you can always google it).

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The above piece is the first encaustic painting that I made. Without proper wax on hand, I used regular paraffin wax. It looks ok but you can really see the difference in that the wax is more crystalline and the texture is slightly tacky, even after a few years.

Since I am interested in many different mediums, talking about encaustic now allows me make a gentle segue into the rekindling of my interest in encaustics lately. Encaustic paintings are beautiful in their vast array of texture and translucency. They are usually buffed to a beautiful sheen and layers are visible underneath. This is the reason I originally fell in love with them. Expect more waxy things to come…

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Cacti, a group shot

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Here’s some needle-felted potted cacti I’ve been working on. They are decorative but also functional; they are pincushions so the pot is entirely filled with 100% wool. Just so you know, wool is expensive and needle-felting is time-consuming. The details on the third cactus from the left, are embroidered coral glass beads and felted pebbles.

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Microscale Lego

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A while back, my younger son was really into Lego. One day, I got fed up of the mess of Lego and Megablocks all over his room. I resolved to tidy, sort and organize every piece with him. It took a few weekends but in the end, I really appreciated the quality of the bricks compared to other brands. And needless to say, I really liked the microscale building style. I wanted to display them in my house and ended up designing a wall space in my foyer next to the powder room. I am happy with the final configuration; it’s the size of a painting/artwork that would have gone in that place. It is also changeable should I wish to display new pieces.

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