Sunday, March 20, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Grounds for Encaustic

The term ground refers to any prepared surface for painting.  A ground is applied to a substrate, or support, that can be wood, board, stretched canvas, or an alternative.  As a general guideline, grounds for encaustic painting must be absorbent, so acrylic gessoes are not recommended.

Following is a list of ways you can prepare panels for encaustic painting:
      A brushable white ground that dries to an absorbent surface.  This is the easiest, fastest way to prepare a white ground for encaustic painting.  R&F Encaustic Ground works like a standard acrylic gesso, but it has a lower proportion of binder to solid so that it remains highly absorbent.

      You can paint directly on raw wood.  Select a nice grade of birch plywood and paint directly on it.  Birch is absorbent, smooth and a good surface to paint on.  The wood will be stained by the paint so some artists prefer to create a ground by painting a layer of encaustic paint directly on the wood, and then working from this layer.  Use either clear or white encaustic paint and  colors for this first isolating layer. Caution should be employed as the wax ground is susceptible to heat and could re-melt and change while you work.
      A white ground can be created by gluing watercolor or printmaking paper fixed to a support panel.  The heavier the paper, the more absorbent the ground.  Bear in mind that lightweight papers will be made translucent by the wax, resulting in the substrate showing through and darkening the tone of the ground.  This can be avoided by first coating the bare panel with white acrylic paint, or R&F Encaustic Gesso. Allow it to dry before gluing the paper down on top of it. White grounds are generally desired to show colors to full advantage, but any absorbent paper can be used.  Braced or cradled substrates are preferable to avoid warping.  To prepare:
          * For the cleanest presentation, use a piece of paper that is a bit larger all around than your panel, and then go back and trim the paper with a sharp blade after the glue is completely dry.
          * Use a thin coat of acrylic medium or archival white glue on the back of the paper and the face of the panel, then neatly spread it out thinly, taking care not to let any glue get on the surface of the paper (for work on photographic papers, we recommend using Matte Medium as the adhesive).
          * Once both surfaces are coated evenly, position the panel onto the paper, glue-to-glue.  Carefully flip the panel/paper unit over and smooth out any air pockets to assure even adhesion.
          * Protect the surface with a clean sheet of waxed paper, and leave the paper-mounted board under weight overnight to dry.
          * If your panels are unbraced, or uncradled, it’s a good idea to coat the back of the panel with acrylic medium to avoid warping.
      The most traditional, time-tested ground for encaustic, but it is a time-consuming and elaborate process that does not appeal to everyone.

R&F Encaustic Gesso

Monday, March 14, 2011

Encaustic Painting - A Brief History

From Wikimedia:

Encaustic Painting

This technique was notably used in the Fayum mummy portraits from Egypt around 100-300 AD, in the Blachernitissa and other early icons, as well as in many works of 20th-century American artists , including Jasper Johns and Fernando Leal Audirac. Kut-kut, a lost art of the Philippines implements sgraffito and encaustic techniques. It was practiced by the indigenous tribe of Samar island around 1600 to 1800.[1]

In the 20th century, painter Fritz Faiss (1905-1981), a student of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky at the Bauhaus, together with Dr. Hans Schmid, rediscovered the so-called "Punic wax" technique of encaustic painting. Faiss held two German patents related to the preparation of waxes for encaustic painting. One covered a method for treating beeswax so that its melting point was raised from 60 degrees Celsius to 100 degrees Celsius (from 140 to 212 °F). This occurred after boiling the wax in a solution of sea water and soda three successive times. The resulting, harder wax is the same as the Punic wax referred to in ancient Greek writings on encaustic painting.

Encaustic art has seen a resurgence in popularity since the 1990s with people using electric irons, hotplates and heated stylus on a variety of different surfaces including card, paper and even pottery. The iron makes producing a variety of artistic patterns elementary. However, the medium is not limited to just abstract designs, it can be used to create complex paintings, just as in other media such as oil and acrylic.

Gallery of Fayum Portraits

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Encaustic painting

1. ^ Pinoy artist promotes native art in Chicago

* Mayer, Ralph. The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques Viking Adult; 5th revised and updated edition, 1991. ISBN 0-670-83701-6

* Reams, Maxine. "Unique Wax Paintings by Immigrant Artist should Endure 10,000 Years." Los Angeles Times, Oct. 19, 1952

* Hildebrandt, Hans. "Fritz Faiss" Kunst der Nation, 1933

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Encaustic painting overview

Encaustic painting, involves heated beeswax colored with pigments. Wood panels are the usual surface to paint on as the wax requires a rigid base or it can crack. Paper or canvas may be mounted with acrylic medium on a panel prepared with encaustic gesso. A simple encaustic mixture can be made from adding pigments to beeswax. For variety, recipes mix different types of waxes, damar resin, linseed oil, or other ingredients. Powdered pigments or pastels can be used. Some mixtures add small amounts of oil paints to the wax. Recently, soy wax has been explored as a substitute for beeswax. Paraffin is sometimes used, but is brittle compared to beeswax. Colored wax pencils and encaustic crayons offer other possibilities which can be applied cold and heated to fuse with the painting.

An electric griddle with a thermostat may be used to mix and keep encaustic fluid either on its surface or in metal tins. Wax should not exceed 225 degrees and a candy thermometer may be used to check this.

Brushes must be natural hog bristles as nylon or synthetic brushes will melt.

Wax may be left in the brushes to be heated on the griddle or in the heated tins or they may be cleaned with a special product like "Slick Wax tm" by Enkaustikos.

Many metal tools are available for manipulating the wax paint and besides the standard palette knives and putty knives, hardware and kitchen stores have lots of possibilities. Wood burning tools with a rheostat to regulate the heat have several points that are useful and a similar encaustic heating tool has pen points and a point that draws lines. Sculpture and clay tools work fine. Serrated metal applicators for floor tiles add to the toolbox. These offer limitless potential for creativity.

These tools can work the heated wax or also may scrape the cooled wax surface revealing lower layers.

Heat lamps, heat guns, small torches, irons and other methods of applying heat allow artists to extend the amount of time they have to work with the material. The wax can be sculpted as well as painted. Endless possibilities involve layering by encasing or collaging materials into the surface, using the encaustic medium to adhere it to the painting and using heat to fuse the layers.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Encaustic Painting

This blog will explore the various aspects of painting. After painting for 55 years and teaching for 45 years I have learned much from the process and from other artists and my students. I plan to share my passion for painting in these blog entries. Since 2008, I have been working in encaustic or wax painting. Pigmented wax can be used in combination with other media and I have combined transparent watercolor and gouache (opaque watercolor) with pigmented wax working on different surfaces like translucent vellum and black vellum. By working my dark values and color on the backside of the vellum, I am able to layer the colors and place transparent colors on the front that add depth to the dark values without sullying the rich color as would have occurred had I placed the dark values on the front and added color on top of the darks. Also, truly rich dark shades are achieved by placing the darks on both sides of the vellum. Although the distance is minimal, the perception of depth is amazing and when placed over a white backing board, the colors glow as light passes through the transparent and translucent layers of wax, reflecting from the back board. The picture shows an example of my work from the Belzoni Series completed in Glastonbury England in 2008.