Tag Archives: painting

Encaustic Technique #7: Smooth Surface Tips

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It seems that for many encaustic artists, the smooth surface is like the holy grail. Beeswax painting lends itself to almost instant surface texture. Wonderful, to be sure, and fun to exploit, but sometimes we want something glassy and smooth. Developing a smooth surface especially on any piece over, say, 12″ x 12″, takes patience and restraint. Although I cannot boast a perfectly smooth surface on my paintings, and in fact don’t aim for that, they do fall in the category of smooth rather than textured. I tend to use the smooth texture to contrast with the final touches of paint that I use to create a subtle relief (see above). Here are my tips for working toward a smooth surface in your paintings:

1. I use a heat gun to fuse, and am very careful to not over-fuse. The wax should not be blown around, or you will create a wavy surface. I’ve also read that torches can work well.

2. I use a wide (4″) hake brush to lay down layers of clear beeswax. The hake brushes are inexpensive, and have a fine texture that lays down smooth, thin layers of wax.

3. Scraping the surface from time to time with a razor blade will even out your surface and encourage subsequent layers to go on smoothly. If you use intarsia in your paintings, this will be a built-in texture regulator.

4. When I want to lay down a smooth layer, I turn the heat up on my wax slightly. Usually I keep it at 200 deg. F., but I’ll turn it up to 220 or so for brief periods. The hotter wax is more likely to smear color directly beneath it, so use this tip carefully.

5. If I am putting down more than one layer of smooth was, I alternate the direction of my strokes with each layer. I load my brush, keeping it nice and hot, then use one sweeping stroke to cover the entire width of the painting. Then I apply a stroke beneath that one, etc. When that layer is done I turn my painting a quarter turn, and put down another layer, etc. I fuse every two thin layers as I go.

6. Many artists use a “pour” method for their paintings. They tape the edges of their painting to create a lip that comes up to create a clean edge. Then pour the hot wax onto the surface. The drawback is that this can melt and/0r pit the surface of any painting beneath the pour. This is worth experimenting with, though, as I’ve seen some really beautiful work done this way.

6. Some artists use a solvent at the very end to smooth the surface. You can put a bit on a rag and rub the surface. What I’ve noticed about this technique it that it creates a matte finish. The painting must be buffed periodically to maintain a glossy finish.

7. Which brings us to buffing. You’ve created your smooth surface, and you want to make it look glassy? Clean, lint free rags work. I like to use white t-shirts that I get from the thrift store, wash and dry, and then cut up. Another option is to use chamois, which is completely lint-free, and can work up a high shine. You don’t need anything but your buffing rag and some patience. Work on small sections at a time, rubbing lightly in small circles. This is a great way to “polish” your finished piece.

What about you? do you have any smooth surface tips you’d like to add? Leave a comment, and add to the list.

Inspiration: walking and seeing

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“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.”   -Rumi

One of the trickiest things, I’ve found, about making images is the simultaneous need for experience and innocence. On one hand, we want to bring our years of experience to bear in the studio. On the other, we want to be able to see as if for the first time; an adventurous and inventive eye must not be hobbled by what it thinks it knows and sees.

This summer, I’ve been walking the same route through the fields, almost daily, and like to practice seeing things with a fresh perspective. A few times, I’ve taken my camera, and it has been so fun to look through that magic window and see how limiting the view can sometimes expand how I see. 

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Artistic perception is this great elastic thing that must be exercised to stay limber and responsive. Ironically, doing something repetitive is sometimes just the thing to practice keeping things new.

New Work #14: Acrylic, Etc.

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Challenging work, this. I’ve been trying to translate some of the same ideas I’ve been exploring in encaustic into my acrylic mixed media work. The pieces seem related, but distinct as well. The same problems come up, but I have to solve them with a different language of solutions, as I move between the two mediums. I feel as though each new painting progresses the conversation a bit further, without a whole lot of repetition from piece to piece. 

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You can only faintly see the embroidered word “Begin” in the painting above.

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It is difficult to see in the above image (these are large-ish paintings, and the low res image doesn’t quite do them justice), but I’ve started using tiny dots of paint (the black circles above) much like I use in the encaustic pieces, but to different effect.

I’m off to the redwoods for a week of camping, swimming, sunning, and hanging out with good friends. Have a great week!

New Work #13: Encaustic

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Things have been productive around here, if a bit intermittent. You’ve seen peeks of these works in process these last few months. Here are the finished pieces. The above piece is encaustic, measures 30″ x 40″, and is titled “Winter #14”.

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“Winter #10″, 28″ x 28”, encaustic mixed media.

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“Winter # 6″, encaustic mixed media, 28″ x 25”. 

I’ll update with the latest acrylic mixed media work tomorrow.

Journaling and Dialoguing

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I just have to tell you all how much I’ve been enjoying your comments lately.

I began this blog with two goals, or intentions. The first was to simply get down my thoughts and ideas as a record for myself- as a way of journaling. Keeping this blog has given me a place and reason to think deeply about what I’m making, why I’m making it, and why other other people might want to look at it. It’s been a reason for me to write it all down, and share my progress. Even though it is a digital journal, floating in cyberspace, it lends a feeling of solidity to my ideas and history for me to look back on. 

My second goal was to find some community, and begin a dialogue with other artists and people interested in art. When you comment, this digital journal becomes a conversation. My monologue becomes a dialogue. I go look at your blogs and websites, and gain inspiration and insight.

So- thank you for sharing your own thoughts about what you’re making, why you are making it, and what our art is for. Your comments make my day.

Some Flicker Inspiration

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Oh my. I finally made it over to Big Huge Labs and their Mosaic Maker. What a fun, fun toy. I’ve been meaning to do this forever, and just hadn’t gotten around to it. They also have a tool that generates a WordPress header image. Whoo Hoo! I am so NOT a techie, that I love it when other (brilliant) people come up with tools like this that take the headache out of trying to do something infuriatingly mind boggling  fun on the computer. 

Anyway. I’ve been gathering dreamy, natural-form photos on Flicker, and I love seeing them together like this. Inspiring, indeed.

1. 20090110_0109_4, 2. La belle Astrance…avril 2006, 3. , 4. , 5. , 6. , 7. Dried Seeds, 8. Untitled, 9. the shot of the day., 10. Untitled, 11. dry, 12. Bokeh Flowers, 13. Untitled, 14. Untitled, 15. secret garden of Princess thorn, 16. pass over the hedge of thorns, 17. come feel the sun, 18. We Apologize For This Interuption, 19. frost, 20. , 21. Untitled, 22. i was thinking about hundertwasser, 23. , 24. Untitled, 25. Nostalgia

Cruel To Be Kind

Sometimes, you have to almost kill something to make it work right. 

I had that thought last week, staring at my oregano. Meet my oregano:

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Last year, I planted this in my garden. It did well, growing tall and blossoming late in summer. By fall, it started to turn brown and sickly looking. With my kitchen scissors, I trimmed it back, hoping this would be enough. And still, it continued to get worse. So I took a deep breath and cut it all the way back to the ground. Not being a very experienced gardener, this always scares me when I do it. Sometimes the plants love it, and sometimes they just die. All winter it seemed as though the oregano was dead. 

But spring arrived, and it came back about eight times bigger than it was before my hack job. I’ve just been amazed, and as I stood the other day looking at it after clearing the weeds away, it occurred to me that one of my paintings was in a similar state of need. 

I’d put hours and hours into this painting, and it just wasn’t working. It bothered me every time I looked at it, and every time I looked, I found something else I didn’t like. This painting was sitting in my studio, daring me to do something about it. And I’m a pretty experienced painter, but it always scares me to risk destroying something to try and make it work. 

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I reminded myself that I had nothing to lose , because, though I loved parts of it, I didn’t love it as a whole…

Here it is, with it’s new layers obscuring the parts that bothered me, and ready for new imagery to be put on.

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I like it better already.

Prints, Anyone?

Many of you have asked about the possibility of buying prints of my work. I’ve looked into several options for this, and decided to sign on with Imagekind. Imagekind is a website that makes fine art prints available to anyone, and the buyer can choose the size, and the type of paper, canvas, or finish. You can order the print framed or not. 

http://lisakairos.imagekind.com

I’ve uploaded work from the past 6 months or so, both encaustic paintings and acrylic nest paintings, and they are available in small format prints. 

So enjoy, and please- let me know what you think.

New Work #10: Encaustic

 

"Subterranean", 2009, encaustic mixed media on panel,

"Subterranean", 2009, encaustic mixed media on panel,

I just finished this itsy-bitsy piece the other day. It is for a project directed by  Saije Bashaw, at The Creative Gym 5.  The idea is to create an art work inspired by a word or words, and taking between 1-8 hours to complete the project. Very simple, very fun. The words this time around were “hidden” and “change”.  This little piece took me a few hours, and got me to do some visual problem solving, and felt refreshingly different from other recent work I’ve made. The deadline isn’t for a while, so I haven’t seen other’s work yet, but I’m looking forward to it. 

I’ve also been working on more “White Series” paintings…

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One….. Dot….. At….. A….. Time.