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.
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.