Thursday, June 30, 2011


That in-between stage:  
sometimes lovingly (ahem) referred to as LIMBO.

Today I began my day by gathering all of my materials that I had prepped and headed out to school to begin the encaustic phase.  I'm so grateful to be working at a school where I am encouraged to create my own artwork, and given the space to do so.   From this point forth, I will call school... "my studio."  Ahhh. This feels like I'm back to being an artist again (if at least for a short moment in time).  As many of you know, I used to have the second bedroom of my condo set up as my studio space.  I was able to paint,  create, and store in that tiny bedroom.  Alas, Meara came along, and it was a very hard transition for me to say goodbye to my studio space as I welcomed the nursery.  Don't get me wrong- I was very excited to Meara to enjoy the space as much as I have, but it was a very grim few months as I slowly and grudgingly packed up my supplies (No wait!  I might NEED that!) and the artist half of me slipped into a coma for an unknown period of time.  Ok, melodrama aside, I did keep a few items around for just the occasion which did pop up here and again (I'm so glad I kept my exacto knives, cutting mat, metal ruler, and bone folder which came in very handy when printing out my own thank you notes, and of course when I decided to create this lovely project... er, blog.).  

I digress.  You wanted to hear about this encaustic stuff; next time you stop over, I'll give you a harp and whine the night away.  

Artistic Limbo and the energy that goes with it.
So now that I've gotten out that studio/life limbo on the page, let me talk about that place that I am in right now.  HELL!  No, just kidding... close, though:  Encaustic Purgatory.  When I was in undergrad, I took a few creative writing courses.  My professor, Heather Sellers, once discussed the idea of artistic energies, and I couldn't agree more.  Let me share that with you:  

There are three different kinds of energies when it comes to art (writing).  There is the beginning (or creating) energy.  This is when you feel like starting something new.  You have some fantastic new ideas and you need to share them. Sometimes you have so many exciting thoughts that it is almost impossible to connect them, though you do feel like a genius!  Then there is the middle energy.  This is the time when you have all of your ideas together and you're in it for the long haul.  You feel like working and reworking and problem solving and moving things around and editing and reediting and then editing some more.  Some people get stuck in this middle ground.  They are total control freaks (aren't all artists?), and can never seem to be finished, nit picking for eternity.  And then lastly, there is the finishing energy.  This is when you just have that moment of clarity (again, you are a genius!) and everything that you've been mulling over for a while just seems to fit into that box nice and neatly and you feel great about tying that last little bow on top.  TA-DA!  Look at how amazing I am! 

A few things to note about these energies is that 1. it is not all that often that the energies you need align with the timeline of your project.  Sometimes you just really need to finish something up and you just don't have that mojo ("I don't know, this just doesn't seem right here.  That color isn't quite right yet.  This looks like a mess!").  This is why it is so difficult for artists to finish projects on a deadline, and why you hear so often, "I'm just not inspired!"  While it almost always sounds like a flower child cop-out, there is (I believe) some truth to that.  And 2. this is exactly the reason why it is of utmost importance to have several projects going at one time.  Each project will be at a different stage at any one time, and thus you can create (or rework or complete) depending on that energy wave that you are riding.  

Back to me and the artwork! (of course, me me me!)
So, you may have already guessed that I have "completed" the beginning energy phase of at least ONE of my current projects (though I am at a completed and a reworking phase on other such projects currently as well).  In my case, the beginning phase has been in my mind for quite some time now, and I have recently collected all of my materials (as mentioned previously).  Today, I began creating.  Or rather, encaustic-ing.  Because I had a fairly set plan to begin with, I was able to jump right into developing the encaustic version of my collage.  Remember to give yourself a break when you plan ahead.  Your new version of the same artwork may not look anything like your original idea.  Go with it and let it be the new art.  Okay, even I kept telling myself that ("This is just not working the way I envisioned!!!" "It's okay!  It's got a life of it's own."), or rather convincing myself of that. 

My goal for the day:  "I will not set the school on fire."
If you remember, I only purchased the minimum supplies as that is what I could get away with without my husband falling dead on the floor when he saw the bill.  
I used an ancient hot plate we had at school (in my 'studio') and a stainless steel film tank (I know, I know) to heat my encaustic wax medium.  The wax beads came in handy as I could portion a small amount at a time and they melted quite quickly.  I used a cheep chip brush to apply the wax to my images/encausticbord.  I was thrilled to have a heat gun at my disposal which really helped to adhere each subsequent layer and smooth the wax.  I tried pouring the wax, brushing and melting the wax, and paletting the wax (I used pieces of plexi to palette, and plastic palette knives).  When the wax was slightly warm, I was able to use a palette knife to scrape and move the wax in different areas.  I used the colored wax to areas to create more interest.  The colors are very saturated and very opaque.  I added some of the color to the medium for a translucent "wash" effect, but the colors are still very strong, and I plan to build up layers or wax on top to soften that effect.  The heat gun was also great because I could heat up areas of wax and move the color around like a hair dryer with watercolors.  I can now see why you would want a regulated hot palette to work with the wax.  It was great having the medium at the liquid state at all times in a tin.  However, because I was using an old hot plate, even the low setting became too hot.  Annnnd... because there were no witnesses, I will say that I MAY... or MAY NOT have set the wax in the steel cup on fire.  I have to add that I did only burn myself once and it was very minimal, so that's a good score so far (unless you count the fire, that may not have happened anyway... but hey, at least I didn't set the school on fire, right?)  

At the end of the day, it's not just about the finished product.  It's really about the process.
All in all it was an interesting process through trial and error.  I found that my cheap chipbrushes and my plastic palette knives gummed up quite fast, which frustrated me.  Maybe I need some sort of solvent as in oil painting?  I also found that I could really use some small tins to tint my medium more evenly, as opposed to attempting to palette everything using a heat gun.  I found that some of my images morphed into something a little bit different than originally intended because of the wax, and the working/reworking of wax.  

I am about half way finished with the piece, and it is in that spot that most everyone understands... that spot when someone looks at your work and pauses and squints one eye and you say, "What??!  It's not finished yet!!!"  So, thank you to Pat Sanchez, who was present on many levels throughout this process, and who very kindly reminded me that my work is just in that in-between stage.  I've been working with it and I'm just not 100% sure it is going the direction I'm wanting it to go in, but still... it isn't finished yet.  I need to step back, step away, and take a few days to brainstorm some more and give it that fresh eye that all artwork deserves while in artistic purgatory:  work, work, rework, edit, work some more... and then maybe some forgiveness.  I'd love to show you some in-process shots, but as I am working on it as a gift, it will have to wait.  (I'm such a jerk!)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Hunters and Gatherers:
As I begin translating my "digital plan" (as I like to call it) into physical texturized artwork, I drove out to Dick Blick to hopefully find a few materials I wanted to play with- mainly encaustic.

View PAAD in a larger map
On a "funny" side note, I did find myself driving past my turn off to Dick Blick (aptly marked with the dollar sign) landing just a few blocks from my old job (marked with the flag)! That's what you get when your brain goes into autopilot. I did turn off down Cherry to Calumet (marked by the camera icon, though could also be denoted by a $ as I always hear ca-ching, ca-ching as I walk out of that store, too!), another previous and current stomping ground- this made me feel a teensy bit better about my mistake. Once I was roaming around Dick Blick for all of my various items, however, it really did make me miss the availability of tools and materials via my previous career. The grass is always greener...
What I DID find, as anticipated, was a rather large bill (not withstanding that itty bitty teacher discount). Alas, art supplies are never cheap. It is, however, a particularly large jagged chicken bone to swallow when you don't have the money to spend especially with a material you don't have much experience with. I posted on Facebook (that's right, I do do the facebook- though if my students ask I always deny deny deny even knowing what that word means):
Janet Taylor:
"I might have to take out a loan to purchase art supplies- good grief!"
And thankfully, and old friend responded:
"I know, they are so expensive...but with the beautiful art you create, it is all worth it :)"
(Thanks Beens!)

Ok, now that I've tooted my own horn as an attempt to diminish the gaping whole in my daughter's college fund and my own personal financial guilt, I will move on.

Waxy Matters:

Today, I purchased encaustic wax.
I purchased a bar of translucent wax medium, a 1lb bag of translucent wax "beads," a small bar of Impasto/modeling wax (for those excellent textures- this apparently has a higher melting point, and therefore retains shape when applying
other encaustic layers over), a few small bars of encaustic paints in various
colors, a few plastic oil paint palette knives (I realize that I was encouraged to purchase an
electric spatula with all the numerous attachments, but I just don't think I need that for what I'm doing), and I'll be using some of my own brushes and a heat gun. I also purchased my ground/canvas. I am using "Cradled Encaustic boards." This is kind of a silly term, because really they are just gessoed MDF boards precut and adhered to 1 by.

This should be interesting! Here is a quick little video I found from Dick Blick that shows how encaustic can be used.

Also, today, I am printing out and gathering my materials for the collage(s). Again, what has been great about the digital application is that I can plan out my "wax filter layers" and print out more translucent images on velum or transparencies, or other various types of papers.

I will let you all know how it goes!