I had always been curious to try encaustic art. It has a very long history and I always liked all of the possibilities of layering/collage aspects that are available with this form of art. So when I saw a local art workshop that was offered on-line, I jumped at the chance. Even better, it was a low cost art workshop where I would take home 3 finished pieces; or so it advertised on-line.
|Photo: The Indian Creek Nature Center, which is situated in southwest Cedar Rapids, IA.|
The workshop was held out the local Indian Creek Nature Center; which is near a Sac & Fox Trail that I enjoy frequenting with Mr. Motorhead’s dog. It’s a wonderful place to go out and enjoy nature. I arrived last sunny Saturday afternoon, paid for workshop fee in the main barn and then walked a short distance to the “Sugar Hut”. I went in to find several people huddling around the wood burning stove that was the heat source for the hut.
There was hot wax warming in a couple of places. One place was a griddle with several small tuna cans filled with colored wax. Another place was a large electric frying pan where the teacher for the workshop was stirring the wax with a resin. It looked terribly sticky like hardened caramelized sugar. She scraped the bottom of the frying pan and would mix and stir it around with a metal paint scraper.
|Photo: Colored wax, implements to apply, carving tools, resin in a bag, paper towels, |
vegetable oil and a block of beeswax too.
As everyone, arrived she started to explain some things about the wax. She explained that it was Darmar Resin that she was mixing with the beeswax and that it is used to make the wax more of a solid form when it cooled at room temperature. She said that the electric frying pan needed to stay below 200 degrees. At the 200 degree mark the wax would start to boil and give off noxious fumes. Not a good thing; she explained.
The beeswax she used was from a local bee keeper and she ordered it by the 3lb. brick from them. She showed us how the brick looked. It has a natural yellowish color she said that you learn to design your artwork around. She then explained that she used oil paints to pigment her wax. You can buy wax that is already colored but she liked to have more control over her colors. She also said that you can generally get all of the colors from the three primary colors; yellow, red, and blue. But she made a batch of green for us too; to make mixing a little simpler.
We used cut up matte board that she had pre-cut into 4” x 6” squares. She took a natural bristled brush, dipped it in the frying pan wax, and brushed it evenly across the matte board. Then, she used a heat gun lightly over the waxed matte board to make it shine but not too close to make it run off the matte board. This is how to make it seal and adhere to the matte board. She repeated the process of using the natural bristled brush to put another thin layer of wax over the matte board. “This is how you form your strata base”, she explained as she lightly ran an iron across the surface.
The iron had no holes in its surface; and either it or the heat gun could be used to seal the surface. She explained that this sealing needed to take place each time between layers or the whole of the wax surface could slide off or crack. Also, the layers needed to be done fairly thinly too.
|Photo: "Encaustic #1"; 4" x 6"|
Then, we were invited to make our own strata base. It was not as easy as she made it look, but I managed through. Next, she took us through all of the different possible ways of applying the colored wax. She had quite a few brushes and other implements to choose from. She also explained that if we did not like what we made that it was easy to just scrape off the wax and start again. For most of the 12 in the workshop, this was our first time ever doing encaustic art. Also, there was only handfuls that were artists in the group.
Next she took us through the process of transferring and also explained how to carve and apply oil paint into the carved out areas of the wax. We played for a bit more and some of the participants started a second piece of matte board to form the strata base. About half way through the workshop she invited us to take a break, go outside and perhaps, take a small piece of nature to use in our piece of artwork.
|Photo: "Encaustic #2; 4" x 6"-- An attempt at a girl on a bicycle.|
I went for a short hike and then came back to the hut. I started applying color wax to my second piece and just playing with the different ways in which to apply the wax. I also carved out a girl on a bicycle and applied oil paint into the carved out crevices. The detail was lost when I applied the last layer of sealing wax. Darn it! I guess there's some learning curve with this new stuff.
Next, I started the third piece and decided after a layer of colored wax that I would try a transfer of a barn scene. I placed the ink side down of the black and white copy against the top of the wax surface; then, rubbed with a large metal spoon, over the surface while applying pressure. Next, I poured a little water over the paper and started to rub lightly with my fingers. Eventually, the paper came away but the black ink from the copy stayed on the waxed surface. Ooooo, cool I thought as the last bit of paper washed away. I think I'm going to frame this one!
I had a little more time yet, and decided to go back to my first encaustic piece and apply a transfer to the top of that one too. Overall, it was a fun workshop and it was nice top broaden out into a new form of art. I may decide to dabble in this new form in the future but I definitely would need an area where I would not be concerned about getting hot wax mess on the floor, walls, and etc. This is when a heated garage would come in handy…. Hmmmm, maybe I could see if Mr. Motorhead has a bit of garage space available?