Summer is a busy time. There have been weekends off-island (sometimes on another island), hours spent in the garden, long days spent at work, and lots and lots of holiday traffic. Somehow, I eked out enough studio time to complete the Blackberry Branches painting, and it’s probably my largest and most complex piece to date: 36 x 24 inches, oil on panel.
And some details:
Now, on to a landscape from a sketching trip down to Bernard, on the very tip of MDI. Looking forward to a little more focal length in this one!
So much is happening in the garden: two new hives of bees, new bee fodder (phacelia!), new green manure mixtures, and a foray into next-gen gardening with Bio-Char. I want to write about all of it but there’s still life material growing out there too. The Ruby-Gold ornamental quince put out flowering branches for the first time this year; combined with a new thrift store tablecloth it made an excellent color study.
Quince in a Tan Vase, 24 x 18, oil on panel
Three weeks ago I looked out on the ocean of yellow “lion’s-tooth” flowers in our front yard and thought, I ought to paint some of those. This is the study, but there will be more (MANY MORE) coming soon.
Dandelions in a Blue Glass, oil on panel, 20 x 16
I think this is my last work done from drawings and site photos during summer 2014. I have months to go until the 2015 crop of glads comes in, but will spend that time doing studies of new glassware acquisitions and prepping for new varieties of cosmos as raw material. Meanwhile:
Glads in a Green Jar, oil on panel, 36 x 24
Posted in haste, there’s a lot to do today now that the sun is out! Time to unearth the gladiola bulbs from winter storage down cellar, clean them of last year’s soil and roots, and decide on a color planting arrangement for Garden 2015. I’m thinking those red ones, var. Palm Beach, should go near the front.
Glads in a Blue Jar, 36 x 24, oil on panel, and a detail:
Quince from the College of the Atlantic garden, and sage leaves from my plot there this summer, oil on panel, 24 x 36:
I’ve been slowly working up to larger paintings since we moved into the new studio last winter. The larger space is helpful but there are other factors as well, such as brush size, paint consistency, and composition. Fortunately all those very disparate things seem to be growing together. This new painting is the next standard size up: 24″ x 36″ and seemed like a whole new country after working on 18″ x 24″ panels for years. Now that I’m working on a few pieces this size I can hardly wait to move up to 48 x 72!
Apples on a Yellow Cloth, 24 x 36, oil on panel
A still life of all the flowers that grow along the paths and roadways on the island: mallow, borage, goatsbeard (Aruncus), echinecea, sage, and thistle. I’ve made myself a note not to try borage again for a while – it was incredibly difficult to make sense of in the drawing!
Acadian Bouquet, 24 x 18 inches, oil on panel
New encaustic on the easel:
On Sundays I have time to heat the wax and really think through the layers I need to produce complex colors in layers of wax. Encaustic bears a great resemblance to printmaking media, in that each mark is finite and permanent; there is no moving the color around after that first brushstroke. Of course, our winter days are so short I don’t have enough daylight to take a photo of the finished piece until the following Saturday, but I’ll try to post these on a weekly schedule. Next up, a small white vase with a pink spider mum against a gray sky and an entirely new vocabulary of colors to learn.
Ecaustic paint is a mixture of pigment and beeswax, tempered with damar varnish and kept molten on a hot plate or griddle. Now that the temperature is dropping and snow is piling up on the studio stairs the thought of a cold November day spent leaning over warm dishes of fragrant wax is very tempting. My set-up consists of an electric pancake griddle, metal condiment dishes purchased in bulk from a restaurant supply store, and hog bristle brushes.
I use a 1:10 part mix of bagged damar crystals melted into plain, unfiltered beeswax. The damar is available from most art supply stores – don’t use damar varnish because it contains solvents. Filtered, bleached, and cleaned beeswax is also available. I use wax from my beehives and it’s VERY unfiltered so I do pick bees, sticks, and flower parts out of it occasionally.
You can purchase special encaustic painting surfaces but any sturdy, stable surface will do. Canvas and other fabric mounts will crack and peel when the wax hardens. This is an ancient technique and extremely durable when the surface is stable. Special paint and brushes are available, but honestly oil pigment (not more than 1:20) and regular bristle brushes work just as well. Make a place to rest your brushes on the heat source to melt the wax coating. Keep your fingers away from the metal ferrules – they will be very hot!
There are many detailed tutorials on the web on encaustic media. Most are very good on the basic steps but I’ve been disappointed in the imagery. Don’t assume that the wax somehow demands soft colors and undefined contours! This is the first in a series of bouquet paintings from Thuya Lodge, part of the Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve on Mount Desert island. This piece will be available at their auction in 2015: Nasturtium in a Brown Vase, 16 x 12, encaustic media.