Always a learning process...
If you have ever taken a class of workshop with me, you know sometimes I refer to the not so successful paintings as “dog biscuits.” You also know I usually give the advice to sit with your work for a bit to make informed layout choices and not to rush things. I was in a mood to just get in the studio and paint. And as you will see, it means I make lots, and lots, of edits and changes to the work. I am a full believer in process of planning work out makes the studio a much more productive place.
I didn’t do that here. And I struggled with the work.
This piece has been sitting in the studio since last summer. I really loved the background eco-dyed paper I made and mounted to the background. But it was very dark and the more I added it just wasn’t speaking to me.
This very well may be a rushed dog biscuit. I will sit with this piece for a bit to see how I really feel about it. As you will see in this video, there are a number of evolutions here.
But you still get to see my process, and there is value it that.
I have to admit trying to reconcile this work while also trying to film just got me out of the right headspace to work and became a distraction. There are some steps that I did not film. Admittedly, I was getting frustrated with the progress on this piece and did not need the camera distraction in the mix. I also stopped working on this one to jump to something else as I needed break. I added another flipped version of the photo and added more encaustic and some oil. I’m still not totally happy with the end result, I need to just let this piece hang out for a bit in the studio and see I feel differently in a few weeks.
Moral of the story… not all work is successful, and that is ok and all part of the process, just keep on making work, and keep a sketchbook, it is helpful.
A peak into process
A few of the qualities of encaustic that make it so unique and special is the ability to work at a fairly quick pace (things just need to be cool or warm enough to do what you want) and the ability to build layer upon layer with translucency through not just encaustic mediums and paints- but also other materials such as paper and oil paint.
This video is midway through the building process. I admittedly forgot to take a photo at the start of filming so you could see where it kicked off. I had sized that board as normal, collaged in some papers (both batiked ones I made, as well as old book pages. I topped it off with the image transfer of the twisting mesh design. You can still see it peaking through in areas.
This video gives a peak into my layering process - adding more medium to separate elements and to get that optical depth, as well as the addition of some paint to further hide back some areas. Here is the first video:
This second video shows the process of how I finished up this piece. Layering in an image printed on tissue, as well as removal of areas of the photo, adding marks and oil, and how I finished up the edges.
If you are interested in working with encaustic and paper or photos and encaustic, check out my upcoming workshops this summer and fall here
The usual way we tackle a process in the studio (in this case toner based photo image transfers) can be left open to perhaps find better/faster/easier ways completing that process. I had some sheets of both laser vellum and clear overhead projector sheets - so I figured it was worth the experiment of trying to see if using those two substrates with my laser prints would yield better or faster results than the tried and true water and burnish method.
Even I was surprised by the results. I for sure thought I knew the answer going in and was incorrect. Trying to keep all things approximately the same as far as the prints were all done at the same time, the panels were all the same prepped with the same batch of encaustic medium - my results were not as planned.
Check out the video below. Because the results where unexpected, does that mean this experiment proved one method is the best? Well, maybe, there is also further tests that could be use to see if some work better on a prepared panel that has had more time to set up with less tack/warmth to the surface. I may give another round to these options to see if I can dial in the specifics for each transfer substrate.
There are two opportunities this year to learn about photo transfers in person:
August 18th-21st, 2022
Intro to Photo Encaustic
Shake Rag Alley, Mineral Point, WI
Photo Encaustic: Ethereal Markings and Monochrome
LaGrange Art League, LaGrange, IL
Can't make one of these dates? Check out my online options
Changing up your workspace
I recently afforded myself the chance to get away for a week and rent a studio space in order to shut the world away for awhile and immerse myself in making some new work, experimenting with some alternative papers, and getting familiar with some more manual alteration techniques.
It has been sometime since I have given myself a block of studio time to just experiment with no set agenda going in. I knew I wanted to push my work with photo encaustic a bit working with some very thin papers and exploring how much I could push and pull visually with background and foreground details.
Mistakes of course where made (like taping over an area that did not quite have enough medium on top - and removing that masking too soon, which ended in some tears to my papers. But at that point I just had to roll with it, as the now damaged paper fit in with the whole look and feel of the work.
This yet to be title piece is 36" w x 24" h. I used a source photo I shot some years ago on the north side of Chicago, and the piece in general is a love letter to my sometime overgrown and gritty city built on the grid system. I printed the rusted paper used in this.
There was originally another piece on tis panel - a work from 2010 that upon pulling it from storage I knew it was nothing that even remotely fit in with what I am trying to make and was not one I was interested in keeping in my catalogue. So with some reheating, scraping, and a few more layers to soften out some color in the background, I had a surface that was ready to go.
It has been some time since I have tackled work that big, and it isn't even that big of a piece, but the physical involvement in working that large always humbles me.
I got a great deal more done over those few short days than I planned, but it is always feels like more could get done. Stay tuned for some of the other pieces from that week and more.
I'm Sarah, Chicago area artist working in and teaching classes/workshops on all things encaustic