New art materials are inspiring!! Learning a new technique can bring to surface a multitude of ideas and possibilities. When I discovered Jasper Johns in university I was fascinated by the texture achieved in his paintings using encaustic.
At that time, I understood encaustic paint to be a mixture of wax and pigment so I started to melt sculpting wax with oil paint and started to paint and even sculpt with it. Later, I began to use beeswax.
In 2007, I took a class with encaustic and mixed media artist, Andrea Bird who helped to kickstart a new love for this medium. I now know that encaustic paint is a mixture of beeswax, dammar resin and pigment. Other waxes can be used but sculpting wax usually isn’t one of them.
Seven years later encaustic continues to inspire me. Here are five reasons why:
1. It is an ancient technique. The Fayum Portraits were painted in the Greco-Roman Egyptian period in first and second centuries AD. I am inspired by this connection to an artist or artists that some describe as a master(s) equivalent to those of the Renaissance. Knowing this technique has been here for so long brings a sense of trust in its longevity.
2. I love texture. Before encaustic I would build the surface with paper, string, found objects…and then start painting. I can still do that but the paint comes with the potential for creating its own vibrantly textured surface.
3. As a mixed media artist I love the things that you can combine with encaustic. You can dip almost anything into it…fabric, paper, wood. You can embed objects, collage paper, transfer photocopied images, add gold leaf, paint on it with India ink. It works well with any porous surface. The possibilities are endless.
4. I love the luminous quality of the paint. When I shifted to encaustic someone described the change as looking at my paintings from underwater. I think of my imagery as coming from dreams or just behind the veil of our everyday perception. I like to shift people’s awareness into their inner world and this medium lends itself to that change of focus.
5. Fusing is fun. The one rule in encaustic is that after the application of a layer of melted paint you must fuse the surface with a torch (I currently use propane) or a heat gun. Heat is applied until the wax glistens. Often there is a shift that occurs requires one to go with the flow. Over time you get better at knowing the outcome but sometimes the transformation is welcome and unexpected. Check out this mini video of painting and fusing encaustic paint.
I often schedule encaustic workshops at my studio. Check out my workshops page for more information.
What art materials have you loved in your lifetime? My first experience with thick tempera paint in kindergarten is incredibly memorable. Feel free to leave a comment in the section below.