Encaustic painting, Act 1, Scene 2

Last Monday I coated 4 Homasote and gesso panels with a thin coat of wax medium. On Thursday I had a chance to mix some colors and experiment with actual paint.

Thug life bird

My experience so far:

  • The base coat of wax medium should be thinner and less textured. It really is startling how quickly the wax hardens on the brush. I need to use shorter strokes and not try to “rebrush” into the hardened surface.
  • Fusing the wax medium to the board with a heat gun is efficient and makes a slick, hard painting surface. The process does not do as much as I thought it would to smooth out the bumps, however. You’d think the wax would melt flat to the surface, but no. Perhaps I’m not heating it long enough – time for another experiment.
  • Wow, the wax hardens quickly. I am learning to hold the brush in the small pot of pigment and wax (heated to molten on the griddle) until I am mentally ready to place that mark on the board. It’s a wonderful disciplinary exercise.
  • The painting is always dry – that is, the surface of the drawing is always ready for a new mark to be added. It was also very easy to scrape the wax away. This is a wet media with all the advantages of a dry media – cool.
  • Fusing the paint layers to each other is an additional, separate skill set. Too little and the layers stay dry and adjacent to each other. Too much and the pigmented wax blurs as it all slags together. Somewhere in the middle is a chance to overlap translucent layers with distinct edges to really show off the medium.
  • Blue jays are noisy thugs, but very entertaining to draw.


New work

Summer is bad for finished work. Company, traffic, software installations, The Garden, family (as opposed to company), and longer days to be outside all conspire to keep me from the easel. Finally, we’ve reached Fall!

Fallen Peony, 18 x 24 inches, pastel on board

New work

Sometimes I have down time, and when I do I pick up a book by Andrew Loomis entitled Fun with a Pencil. Most of the book consists of page after page of looney, retro figures: cartoons, facial expressions, activity poses, and types of people: laborers, bikini babes, infants, and old men. Right about the time you just can’t stand to draw another fat man with a bulbous nose the middle of the book changes course to perspective drawings.

Loomis begins with the artificial horizon and pretty soon has it filled in with trees and houses set along curvy roads, and another bikini girl posed on a set of stairs. From there the book moves indoors and explains how to lay out a room in 2D.

And that’s how I came to spend the weekend drawing the front room.

New work

It’s snowing. Snow has been falling continuously since noon and is predicted to continue until late tomorrow night with accumulations of a foot or more. When I was in college in Philadelphia I met a woman who had only recently left her home in Tallahassee and had only seen snow in pictures. She had assumed each six-pointed snowflake to be the size of a dinner plate (just like they appeared in the encyclopedia) otherwise how would they pile up into drifts of ten feet or more in Buffalo? She was very disappointed the first time it snowed in Philly and the small, tired piles on the sidewalks never resolved themselves into crystals visible to the naked eye.

It has been a blessing these past few weeks to be working on images from the summer months while the wood stove sends warmth up the stairwell to my upper room. Trudy would have liked this drawing, I think, and been impressed with sheer multitude of tiny flakes outside.

Old work

We’re between snow storms on the island, with about 3′ on the ground and more coming Wednesday. The paths are shoveled and the birds are fed and the inside of the house is warm and bright so, cleaning! We’re planning to rearrange the first floor of the house now that The Boy is living in another city so cleaning in this sense means “cleaning out”.

I’ve surrounded myself with piles of old recipe cards from my mother and her sisters to be sent to one of my nieces, boxes of Irish crochet pieces to be assembled into something I can wear or given away, a satisfyingly large bag of trash, and some old paintings.

I gave up on oils nearly five years ago. The switch to dry media was driven by time and method considerations that haven’t changed so I won’t be going back any time soon, but it’s interesting (for me) to see what I was doing with a brush and liquid. This small painting of grapes in a bowl purchased with Morton salt coupons in the 40’s was done about 10 years ago.

Now, back to editing my life. We’ll see what else turns up. . .