I’ve had a break from my OCA studies for a week and been interstate to an encaustic workshop with a visiting American tutor.
We started with wax in primary colours plus a large amount of clear wax heated to the required temperature in an electric skillet.
By mid way through the second day we had purple, orange, russet, green and brown mixed and melted. Obviously because of the constant heat the brushes we used had to be natural fibres so they didn’t melt, as synthetic would have, and we used hog hair, 1″ flat brushes.
As Patricia demonstrated the techniques she started creating a few new samples of her own.
These pictures, above and left, show two of her works in progress with wax layering, written underlay, scraping, spatter, transfer printing and smooth and rough wax application.
The course started with building up surfaces and surface patterning by scraping away or pushing items into hot wax.
We then looked at creating shapes through stencils, embedding items and masking areas off. All the time we were experimenting with how much to heat the wax and for how long. We were trying to control whether we kept the initial wax brushstrokes or let the colours fuse together more organically.
We incorporated different papers, string, yarn, foil, mesh, wire and so on and successfully did some image transfer from both laser photocopies
and newspapers. Both colour and black & white worked well.
Midnight Blue has an image transfer of some fabric that I manipulated in Photoshop to give the blue/purple swirls and also some painted Lutradur strips along with tiny Colour Streams sequins within the wax. I can’t decide on the orientation of this piece yet.
Later we experimented with liberally applying shellac to the surface of a waxed artwork and setting it alight. This was exciting (even more so when two of the ladies set the shellac container on fire and we had to throw earth on it to put it out. Oops!! Not me, luckily.) . The fire pushed the shellac into unpredictable patterns as can start to be seen from the picture here.
The piece here has colour pencil drawings of squares and numbers on the base wood covered by clear wax. Newspaper images of sudoku and other puzzles have been transferred and clear wax built up in lines with string embedded. The piece was then liberally coated in shellac and set alight, giving this wonderful burnt caramelised patterning. Finally I used Shiva oil sticks to darken and ‘age’ some areas as well as the purple to add a further dimension.
Whilst creating Heat Haze I was very kindly offered the use of some R&F handmade Oil Pigment Sticks. These are very similar to Shiva (Markal) Oil Sticks but much more buttery, less sticky and (in my view) much nicer to use. However they take a lot longer to cure and, 3 days on, my pieces of work are still a little tacky. There is no question that in future I will be buying these instead of Shiva as the pigmentation level is much higher and I prefer the colour range and the feel when using them.
This final picture shows another couple of works that aren’t finished yet. In fact, most of my pieces will probably have more done to them before I float mount them. It was important to get everything to a certain stage so I could transport them home on the plane safely.
The course was an eye-opener into another medium which I had never tried and I thoroughly enjoyed the time and am happy with some of the pieces I’ve come away with. Patricia was extremely generous with both her time and materials which she shared without complaint or restraint. One interesting aspect was that she stated, right at the very beginning, that she would only be teaching techniques and no colour or design fundamentals. Those were up to participants to work out for themselves. When I heard questions to her regarding these she kept her mouth firmly closed.
Book cover shown above:
Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch, Encaustic Workshop – Artistic Techniques for Working with Wax , North Light Books, an imprint of F+W Publishing, Cincinnati, 2009.