When I first saw encaustic artwork years ago, I was immediately infatuated. I love the way the layers of wax bring depth and texture, and you can embed almost any multimedia object in it. However, it seemed too complex and cost-prohibitive to even consider trying. There was also the space-planning issue. At the time, my “studio” consisted of a table in the corner of our master bedroom, and it would have required some drastic changes to make room for all the encaustics materials. There were only two items left in the room that could be exchanged for more art workspace; since I was fairly accustomed to sleeping in a bed and also pretty attached to my husband, I opted to put my adventures in wax painting on hold.
Fast forward eight years, and a lot has changed. (not on the husband front — I mean space-wise :) I actually have my own room in the house devoted to creating art, and the price of encaustic art supplies has decreased as the medium’s popularity has grown. When I realized that I could use an electric griddle in place of a more specialized (read: expensive) heated palette to melt the wax/resin mixture, I decided to take the leap.
If you’ve read more than a post or two on this blog, then I bet you can guess my next step: I went looking for a book to find out more. Patricia Seggebruch is one of the first wax artists I encountered years ago, and her newest book, Encaustic Mixed Media: Innovative Techniques and Surfaces for Working With Wax, was a great starting point. Over the past few years, she experimented with a variety of techniques and media beyond traditional applications, and her enthusiasm about her discoveries is definitely contagious.
I decided to start small, a 4″-square collage with watercolor, paper, wax, and tiny beads. “A thousand sugar stars” felt like the perfect title for a piece of art created on the heels of weeks of late-night holiday baking. I scattered coarse salt over the wet watercolor sky to create crystalline stars, then added a paper landscape in the foreground. Next I painted on a few layers of wax and sprinkled on some royal blue and pale pearl glass seed beads.
Although I find encaustics a generally peaceful pursuit, I have to admit there is something slightly invigorating about holding a paintbrush full of molten wax in one hand and a heat gun in the other. ;) Fortunately I have asbestos hands from years of cooking and baking. I’ve started experimenting with the addition of fabric pieces to the background collages, and I love the saturated, translucent quality the wax gives to textiles. Stay tuned. :)
(North Light Books: 2011; ISBN 978-1440308703)