Friday, May 01, 2009

Sailing on the Hudson Luminist Encaustic Painting

The next issue of Palette Paper my free, monthly e-newsletter is about to be sent out. Don't miss out. Subscribe in the green box in the side bar, and be sure to confirm your subscription by clicking the link in the welcome e-mail you will receive shortly after signing up.

Sailing on the Hudson Luminist Encaustic Painting, painting by Jan Blencowe

About This Painting:
Another in a series of paintings for the Daily Painters of the Hudson Valley Group Show in Rhinebeck, NY June 5-July 15. Celebrating the Hundson River Quadricentennial.

Title: Sailing on the Hudson
Media: encaustic
Size: 12 in X 9 in (30.5 cm X 22.9 cm)

send me an email

I hope you took a good look at the painting in the last post. You know, the one with the tree and the composition I was thinking about re-working, because it no longer exists, it has morphed into today's painting LOL. Yup this is what it looks like now. No tree, a different point of view, a cooler color palette, greater distance and the addition of sail boats.

This was a great learning experience since I am new to encaustics as a medium. A major re-working of a painting really let me see what I can do in terms of scraping off, adding layers, softening texture, and removing elements. I am happy to report that all those things are pretty easy with encaustics.

The one thing that I am absolutely enchanted with is the textures that you can get with encaustics. The hair dryer is my most used tool and I'm getting pretty good a judging the time needed for the wax to get to different stages of fluidity to soften edges, pool, swirl, blend and move around. The process has the excitement of pouring watercolor or fluid acrylics onto a wet paper surface. There are many chances for spontaneous happy accidents to occur and opportunity to develop techniques to carefully control the chaos. Very exciting!


In case you've just joined in here and are wondering what in the world I'm talking about here's a brief definition. Encaustic (from the Greek, literally meaning to "burn in") is a type of paint made from bees wax, damar resin and pigment. Very simple natural ingredients. Encaustic paints have been used since the 5th century BC, and some stunning examples of Roman funerary portraits from the 1st century AD are in the Metropolitian Museum of Art in NY and they are luminous, fresh, life like and gorgeous two milennia later.

Paintings are created by heating the paints until they melt and then using a variety of tools. I use plain old bristle brushes. Each layer of paint must be heated to fuse it to the layer beneath.

Because the bees wax is both a paint and sculptural medium, can be translucent with the ommission of pigment and also acts as a glue the possibilities for the medium are broad and varied. At the moment I am using it to create traditional landscapes, but so much more is open to exploration, including some interesting printmaking techniques.

One of the big questions everyone seems to have is Do the paintings melt?

The short answer is: Yes, if your house is on fire!

After a good deal of research here's what I've found. The bees wax, which has added strength and a higher melting point because of the addition of the resin will begin to become pliable at 150 degrees and will begin to melt at 175 degrees, much hotter than any environment it's likely to be in. The biggest threat would be leaving it in a car in the sun and heat, a big NO NO (for any fine art painting). Very cold temperatures, can cloud the wax and possibly cause cracking. Again, it's not likely that your home would be that cold.

I have a Christmas tree ornament made from molded bees wax a friend made and gave to me over 15 years ago. It is wrapped and stored in the ornament box in my attic which gets unbearably hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter. The beautiful molded bees wax bell is still as beautiful today as it was when I received it all those years ago, a testament to the durability of bees wax.

1 comment:

Jane Hunt said...

These encaustic pieces you're doing are wonderful! I try to create a similar effect with my layers of texture - but there is nothing like a genuine encaustic painting. Can't wait to see where you go with these!