I’ve been working on this series for a couple of years now, and have done over 50 of these small, 6×6″ paintings on cradled panels. When I first began the series, I wanted to use this small format to try out ideas, techniques, new materials, etc. If there is a painting which really appeals to me, I may do a larger piece or work in a series to further explore these small scale ideas. Working small is a very different process technique-wise in this medium, so without the technical challenges of working on a larger work, I have the freedom to try just about anything.
Enamored with so many amazing colors of luscious melted wax, it is easy to become very familiar with certain colors and combinations which easily become “go to”, “tried and true” or simply, “easy” and habitual shoulders to lean on. In my experimental series, rather than repeat myself with colors I know, I try and mix things up, trying odd, weird, crazy color combinations just for fun. What often happens is I create something that is not very well unified; perhaps there is a lot of discord due to colors that have nothing in common. This creates an interesting challenge or problem which of course requires a solution. I enjoy this process because it is fun to know multiple ways to solve color disharmonies; opacity, transparency, warm and cool; lots to play with here to find viable solutions.
Color is only one of the many design elements to experiment with. Texture in the encaustic (or any process) is important to me, and one I enjoy trying to discover new ways to achieve very smooth, or very rough, or somewhere in between, surfaces. When I work in mixed media, I often work with collage materials to create an activated ground; it is a satisfying way to begin a new painting, and by putting collage paper down first, it isn’t quite so “white” or inhibiting/intimidating. In order to experiment with texture in the encaustic studio, it sometimes mean scouting around the house for an unusual tool or wire or really anything which, when pressed or scraped against the waxy surface, will result in a new mark. My “junk” pile is growing and consists of everything from watch bands to large metal springs and rods.
SIZE, SHAPE, LINE
Size, shape and line are an endless area to experiment with, and allow me to quickly change the composition. Line is often achieved through digging with a razor blade or pointed tool, but lines and marks can also be made by using Saral transfer papers.
What I enjoy about the encaustic medium is the ability to have many, many layers of wax which can, at any time, be scraped back to an earlier layer to reveal a great color or needed value, whether light or dark. Or, playing with glazes is a lot of fun, just seeing what happens to highly saturated colors when glazed over with a warm or cool is kind of mesmerizing, and yields subtle value changes.
Having played with metals a bit, I’ve often thought it would be interesting to find a way of combining encaustic with metals. Sometimes, I try various papers under the wax but for the most part, this has not been very satisfying. However, I have combined photography with encaustic and really liked some of the results, even though very little of the actual photograph was visible in the end result!
Here are just a few paintings from my ongoing (and never ending) experimental series.