Bird photo transfer in encaustic

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I hope everyone had a good weekend, for those of us in Canada we’re still having a good long weekend!

I had some mini cradle boards so I ended up experimenting with them. I decided to use a photo transfer of a bird. This time I used different method: instead of using plain paper, I used parchment paper and the image came out much cleaner. Normally, I would do more to it but I just liked the image with a few thin coats of encaustic and gold rub (Inka Gold – I love this stuff). Inka Gold is a brand of water-based coloured beeswax paste. I don’t know of any other thing like it; it’s odorless, easy to rub in, made for porous surfaces and dries fast. The only drawback is that it only comes in metallic colours.

For those of you who are interested, the red background is my silicone mat that I work on; it’s great, nothing sticks to it and it’s also heat-resistant, ideal for encaustics.

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A tree…

In my last post we left off with the progress of my encaustic piece as a ‘wintry’ looking backdrop of some sort. It had some organic motifs with transparent beads that added to the ‘icy’ look. Since I’m working intuitively, I never know what I’m going to end up with. I’ve painted the center white and added a photo transfer of a tree. It was then covered with encaustic medium and fused lightly:

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Below you can see the piece after the wax had cooled off from fusing, after which oil sticks were used to add more colour. I think it’s looking quite different from before but it’s definitely looking warmer. I think it would be interesting to see how it finally ends up.

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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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