Last week, I finally realized a quest to take an encaustic painting class. (Encaustic is a painting process that uses hot beeswax and pigment to paint on a rigid surface. Think: painting with melted crayons, sort of.)
The yearning came after I saw an encaustic painting at the International Art Exhibition at Ft Mason five years ago. The encaustic process lent a quality to the landscape, which was of a view out over the ocean, that was ethereal. Like nothing I had ever seen before.
I tried the usual “self-taught” method. I bought a couple of very good books (which turned out to be the bibles), and the materials. But there is something about encaustic that you need to see it being done to “get it.” Turned out I had all the right materials, but was doing one or two critical things wrong. I was using a hair dryer instead of a heat gun to fuse the wax. I should know there is a difference, being an engineer! The hair dryer wasn’t getting the wax hot enough, and in the meantime, was blowing it all over the place.
I somehow also missed the requirement to add damar resin to the beeswax, at 20%. The damar makes the wax harden nicely.
So, thanks to Eileen Goldenberg for teaching wonderful classes in San Francisco. I took her full-day course, where we learned all about the basic techniques in the morning: making the medium, pigments and how to use them, and basic set up for tools and layering the wax. Eileen’s Tea House paintings using wax are amazing – check them out on her website.
In the afternoon, after a lovely lunch in her verdant back yard, we practiced collaging, which was the juicy part I really wanted to learn. In my self-taught pieces, my images were getting lost in the layers. With Eileen’s expert instruction, I was instantly able to correct my errors in technique and achieve the look I was after. I feel so much more confident now, and able to move ahead to experiment with colors and textures.
I am planning to attend the International Encaustic Artist’s annual meeting in Carmel in April, which will be a real treat. And, I plan to marry the encaustic technique up with my new press to make monotypes built from a waxed and inked plate.