Thuya bouquet series: Chinese Vase with Mums

New encaustic on the easel:

Mums in a Chinese Vase

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.

Encaustics: warm work for cold days

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.

hot plate encaustic

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.

nasturiums-in-a-brown-vase

New work

It’s November, and the garden is gray and cold so it’s time to finish up all those paintings I started of roses back in July and August! This one is Königin von Danemark (Queen of Denmark), a Portland rose introduced in 1826. It blooms all season – in fact it would probably be blooming right now except that the deer got to it a few nights ago. Very sad, but stay tuned for updates on an improved electric fence mapping project.

Königin von Danemark

Roses in a Green Glass, 24 x 18, oil on panel.

New work

I have a new mantra: Wait for Everything to be Dry, and a new policy on using mediums (linseed oil, etc.) in my paint: Don’t Use Any Medium, and a new slogan written on the wall of the studio in black marker: Really, Wait for It To Dry. This is the first piece I’ve finished with all the rules in place and I’m very pleased with it.

Red Flowers, White Pitcher

Red Flowers, White Pitcher. 24 x 18, oil on panel.

Up next, and Blagden Preserve landscape using the same constraints keeps life interesting. . .

New work!

One of my shortest posts yet, because I’m on my way back to the studio to work on a new painting from the Blagden Preserve, followed by beekeeping at the Peggy Rockefeller Farm at 3, followed by a quick dinner, friends coming over for lemon bars and a tour of the garden, then more painting! Must be the longest day of the year. . .

Zinnias in a Blue Jar, 24 x 18, oil on panel

Zinnias and asters mason jar

New(ish) work

I was down in the studio on this glorious Maine morning to clean and organize, and realized I’ve never posted a photo of “Clara’s Vase with Nasturtiums”. This vase is has been very difficult to merge with the softer forms of plants and drapery in past studies. I think my current experiment with Cezanne’s shorter, exploratory brushstrokes have given me more capacity for that type of change in substance.

Claras Vase Nasturtium

Clara’s Vase with Nasturtiums, 20 x 16, oil on panel

New work

The new studio building enables my short attention span – I have a new personal best six pieces in the works. Of course, it helps to be able to tailor my activity to how much time I have available; some nights I can manage to get all the colors mixed and a dozen brushes dirty, some nights all I manage is a monochrome line. It doesn’t matter, painting is cumulative and that seems to be true for the skill as much as for the finished product.

asters zinnias green apples

White Vase with Five Apples, 24″x 18″, oil on panel.

 

Well, hmmm. . .

I hardly recognized my own (very recent) painting in this photo. My current theory, after many fruitless color and hue adjustments, is that the cold winter’s light this afternoon is not kind to the primary pigment here – Permanent Yellow Light. I’ve decided to post it as a record for myself and will document it again the next sunny day I’m home. Fair warning that, given the forecast, it may be March before that confluence of events happens again.

Crabapples and Teapot, 18 x 24 inches, oil on panel, heavy on the P. Yellow Lt.

New painting