Playing with encaustics

A few years back I went to see a talk + demo by the local artist Tim Schouten at the WAG (Winnipeg Art Gallery) with my friend and fellow artist Charlene Brown. We had both seen Tim’s encaustic paintings and were interested in learning more about his work and about encaustic in general. Seeing him work was fascinating and the following summer I made sure to visit his studio (http://www.watchthewave.ca/). I was intrigued and scared by this ancient medium and wanted to try it out so badly. I ordered some pre-made encaustic paints and started exploring. It was a lot of trial and error and a lot of playing with different tools – and playing is the key word here, as it truly feels like playing. I instantly fell in love with this medium. I have taken a workshop and have learned how to make my own encaustic paints from bees wax and damar resin. I don’t have proper ventilation in my studio so I decided to set up my encaustic studio on our deck. Painting outside solved the ventilation issue and I have to say it intensified the sense of playing as it reminded me even more of being a kid playing outside. I started working on my next solo show (March 2015 at cre8ery gallery) exploring the theme of dreams and illusions. 6 of my encaustic pieces will be exhibited at cre8ery gallery Nov. 5 to Dec. 10, 2013. Gallery hours are Tuesday & Thursday 12-8pm, Wednesday & Friday, 12-5pm and Saturday 12-4pm.

encaustic set up anja studer encaustic

Here is a bit more information about encaustic:

The word encaustic comes from Greek and means to “burn in”, which refers to the process of fusing the paint. Encaustic is a paint composed of beeswax, damar resin and pigments. The term “encaustic” is often used to describe both the paint itself, and the method for using it. Encaustic paint is applied molten to an absorbent surface, and then fused, (or re-melted), to create a variety of effects. Unlike other paints, encaustic is never wet or dry – it goes from a liquid to solid state and back again in seconds, which means additional layers can be added immediately, without disrupting your composition. Once the surface has cooled, the paint has reached a permanent finish, but the painting can be revised and reworked with heat at any time – minutes or years later.

Encaustic paint was first used over 5,000 years ago in Greece when it was used wax to seal their ships. Eventually they added pigment to decorate the boats.

The oldest surviving encaustic works are 2000 years old. These are the beautiful and realistic Fayum funeral portraits from Egypt. These were painted in colored waxes on wood and w.ere attached to mummy cases to commemorate the deceased and transport them to the afterlife. The wax has preserved them in near perfect condition.

Encaustic eventually fell out of favor because it was so cumbersome to use. Imagine melting wax paint over a wood fire by candlelight! The medium was replaced by tempera painting, fresco, and eventually oil painting. Still, it was kept alive over the centuries by small groups of dedicated artists. Many Impressionists and Symbolist artists experimented with wax. Some of the artists known to use wax in their paintings include Paul Gauguin and George Seurat.

My motto for this week: Try something new that scares you!

Ciao

Anja

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Encaustic painting

A while back I had gone to the WAG to see a local artist talk about encaustic painting. The presentation was fascinating and I couldn’t wait to try it out. I went ahead and ordered the materials I needed and for the last 8 months or so they have been staring at me in my studio. I have been feeling guilty about not having tried it out. Last Sunday I finally decided to give it a try. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, but I did enjoy the process. I am not happy with my first piece but I guess I should give myself a break and realize that the first piece isn’t going to turn out perfectly. I will make sure to give it another try sometime soon. Due to the fumes that you deal with while doing encaustic I decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and I set myself up in my backyard on the deck. It was really nice to be outside on such a beautiful day and play with paint or I guess wax in this case.

I thought I would share a bit of information about encaustic. Encaustic is also known as hot wax painting. The term Encaustic is derived from the Greek word enkaien and means to burn into. This procedure of applying molten, coloured wax to various surfaces was already used by the old Egyptians more than 3000 years ago – the resulting paintings of the mummy portraits are there for us to admire in the British Museum in London or in the National Museum in Cairo.  The technique was lost for hundreds of years, but rediscovered in the 18th century and has also had a resurgence in popularity since the 1990s.

The liquid wax can be applied to wood panels or also canvas and other materials, and metal tools and brushes be used to shape the paint before it cools, you can also use heated metal tools to manipulate the wax once it has cooled onto the surface. You use a heat gun in-between wax layers to ensure that the new layer bonds to the existing ones.

Not as easy as I thought it would be but for sure fun!

Ciao!