The Encaustic Battleground – Behind the Finished Work

Here are several stages of a painting which I will always remember because the whole process evolved over many weeks and exemplifies a great struggle.  A good month went by between the many stages shown here and the final image (at the very bottom of this post), which I must admit may not be done yet.  What made me very happy about the whole process is that I did indeed feel very uncomfortable, in an excruciating way, during many risky stages.  This happens when I am pushing new boundaries and telling myself “like” just isn’t good enough and if I’ve done it before, it’s not innovative enough.  The longer I paint, the more “like”, “ok”, “good” are not acceptable.  Yes, I probably could stop at an earlier point and call it a day, but if I haven’t felt the pain of loss then I likely haven’t pushed myself hard enough. In a strange way, I strive rather to push myself into difficult, almost disastrous territory because that is where the pain is, the risk, the fear of loss; but at the same time, this is where new things are discovered through resolution or failure.  I just know that “good” and “safe” will not last long, maybe not even until the end of the day, and most certainly not by the next morning.  Due to the nature of the encaustic medium, it is easy to make changes, but not as easy to reverse them.  Notice that in the early stage the painting rotates and there is no “top” or “bottom” until much later.

EARLY STAGES – Looks like a battleground

FAVORITE AREAS – Keep, Diminish or Lose?

It never ceases to amaze me how every time I pick up a brush, regardless of the medium, I begin to fall in love with certain areas of a painting in the early stages that are very difficult to let go of.  This painting is a good example.  Because I attempt to be bold early on, there are many areas that look like “keepers” early on.  However, as a whole, sometimes the areas I fall in love with don’t contribute well to the “whole”, and I have to begin letting go of individual areas, even the areas I “love”.  This is excruciating, because I tend to be very detail oriented and even a small triumphant area is tempting to keep. This is when I need to step away and let time pass until the level of discontentment with the whole can reach a breaking point, the “what have I got to lose–it’s not working anyway” point.  It is this high level of discontentment which gives me the courage to “risk it all”, cover up the areas I love, in pursuit of a painting which has a better design, one which will stand the test of time over the long haul, not just for the next few minutes, days or weeks.

THE PAINTING PROCESS:  SCRAPE  – ADD – SUBTRACT – repeat, repeat, repeat

Encaustic is a difficult medium, but it has many wonderful properties which I am striving to learn more about.  One of the many things which makes this medium challenging is that each layer is not crystal clear, but a little hazy because beeswax is not completely transparent.  Even darks become murky as you add more layers.  The four images above show the stages of trying to push the number of layers further, which meant many of the darks I put down early on lost much of their vitality as I added more wax. This was necessary, though, to dumb down the wild circus which had my eye moving everywhere.  Again, there were a lot of small areas I liked, but by manipulating the levels of transparency and opacity, I tried to achieve lost and found edges (particularly evident with the large black figure “8-like” mark), which ended up under a “veil” of wax, which I liked because it created a “lost and found” effect, something I always tried to achieve a long time ago when I did watercolor. 
I don’t know if this painting is finished.  Most likely I will do some more refining.  But for now, I just wanted to post this to show some of the history that is behind the painting process.  If there are significant changes, I will post them.  Thanks for visiting!  I welcome your feedback. Lost and Found, Encaustic, Mixed Media, 24x24in
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