Working large in beeswax is a different animal, altogether. I’ve been working on this piece for days now, and I’m just amazed at how different the process is when I scale up. I guess I thought it would be a lot like doubling or tripling a recipe- just add more of everything and get more cookies!- but it’s not. The largest I’ve worked before in wax has been 16 x 16 inches. This baby is 28 x 28. Almost four times the size, and more than four times the work. It’s exponential, I think. But what is curious is the way the techniques actually behave and work differently.
Take fusing for example. I usually fuse with a heat gun, and occasionally a travel iron that I picked up at a yard sale. Fusing with a heat gun on a large piece of encaustic is really different- the wax behaves differently, with the pooling becoming more apparent than on smaller pieces. Also, the pitting that looks interesting on a small piece suddenly becomes overwhelming on a bigger surface. So I’ve been adjusting my technique as I go, scraping with a razor blade in between fusings with the heat gun to smooth out the surface, and smoothing the excess pitting with the travel iron. I’ve been also using my light that is mounted on a stand to lightly fuse thin layers. It has a 150 watt bulb, and does a good job of warming the surface and fusing delicate areas. Also, laying down layers of beeswax is more difficult, because the wax starts setting about 10 inches into the stroke. I can’t make it all the way across the panel in one brushstroke!
It is so much more challenging, but I am figuring out some things, and learning a lot. I think that in order to be happy with this medium (encaustic), I have to be willing to embrace it’s limitations and abilities, and keep working with what it is, rather than trying to force it to be something it is not. When I just go with what it is, the rewards are so great. It always forces me to think of painting in completely new ways. I’m really liking the way this larger piece is coming out. I’ve just tried to emphasize translucency, and let the medium speak for itself.