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Monday, August 16, 2010

Working with Wax

Orange Circles
Wax on cradled panel
24" x 20"

detail

In the late 1990's I took a workshop at a local art college and learned about making encaustic paintings using collage elements. We worked on scrap wood with beeswax and damar resin. Although I've done a few small pieces over the years mostly my encaustic supplies have just taken up room on a shelf. After seeing an incredible exhibition of work by nationally known encaustic artists I decided it was time to see if I still like working with wax. 

Green and Purple Circles
Wax on cradked panel
24" x 20"

detail
I set up my supplies on my pattern cabinet in front of a window in which I placed a window fan set to expel any toxic fumes to the outside and set to work.  I like the 2 pieces I made and I love the smell of the beeswax but I wasn't happy working with the medium. It's messy and splashes of hot wax aren't easy to remove from carpet and windowsill, though it's possible... just scrape off all the wax you can and then dissolve with vegetable oil, followed with 409 cleaner.

What I found was that I need a larger area to work unless I move to a smaller size panel.  What works in a studio that's devoted to working with wax doesn't do so well in a confined 4 foot wide space in my studio... and I'm not willing to give over more space to the work.

So after making these 2 paintings and finishing 3 smaller ones I decided that this is something that I can let go. I cleaned up the space (except for the wax that got on my boombox, boxed up the supplies, and carted the box down to basement storage. I'll find a good home for lots of wax and pigment one of these days.

This is a valuable lesson for me in what to keep and what to let go. I'll notice the irritants as I work with various art mediums and those that don't make my heart sing with joy as I work will be given the old heave-ho.

What do you struggle with? Is it time to give up and move on?

16 comments:

  1. Love these!!! I still love working with wax even though I am not very good at it yet. I am not ready to give it up. :D

    Great question... about what am I ready to give up (and get rid of ... I have too many supplies as it is)! I'll have to think about this one.

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  2. great post. Encaustic is something I've wanted to try but for many of the reasons you talk about have not made the investment. It's great to explore, because as you explore you do begin to find what make your creative juices run and what doesn't.

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  3. Great to be able to say...time to move on! But I also have to say that both of these pieces are wonderful.

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  4. Thanks for the nice comments. At least I’m leaving encaustic on a high note. I really like both pieces but something just told me that now’s the time to leave this path and get back onto my main path which is collage and art journals with lots of sketching thrown into the mix. I have no regrets and am thrilled at all the kudos.

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  5. I'm sorry to hear about this, because just this week read in Jan Harris' blog about her encaustic class and told her I would be interested when she is ready to teach it again. I love your Orange Circles!!!

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  6. Herm, you're so lucky to be able to study with Jan. What a good way to learn about working with wax... studying with the author of her new book! You'll dig deep and should know after the workshop whether or not you want to continue with wax. It's a very personal decision. Let me know how you like it.

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  7. Jo,
    Your art is so amazing! I really love what you have been doing, and can't wait to see what you do with your return to art journals and collage!

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  8. Wow Jo, the orange circles are wonderful, but I get where you are coming from. I had a ton of oil paints from college taking up space in my studio a while back. I finally let them go, knowing that I did not want to work with solvents and lacked proper ventilation in my space. I'm happy to say I gave them to a teacher at the local art school who was always giving wonderful free demos, and using lots of paint doing it! So maybe you too can "pay it forward" and donate your supplies to another artist who might enjoy them.

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  9. Jo, I like the subtle gradation of color, shadow and line in your encaustic paintings. It's a struggle for me to know what to let go. I enjoy dabbling in several different media. One of these days, I'll clean my studio and make the decision to let some things go. Maybe this will help to move in new directions.

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  10. Jo, I hear ya'. Though I have not been seduced by encaustic, I admire it. However, I am not interested in acquiring any more tools. I used to love hand dyeing fabric and 'art quilting', but have let that go. I used to buy alot of art books, but am letting that go too. As a matter of fact, I am thinking of dumping my whole art room so I can just sit around and watch NCIS marathons. No, not really. But maybe dump some things.

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  11. I suppose most of us artists have the same sort of problem, of being inquisitive about other mediums and tools and then enjoy th,em enough to keep them around the studio gathering dust and getting in the way because we just might need to use them someday in the future. It's a bit of a hoader instinct, perhaps related to the mentality that came from my roots as a depression baby when you made use of every little thing you had until it could no longer be used for anything.
    I have lots more to let go once I identify the culprits
    and make the decision.

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  12. I myself have taken 3 workshops on encaustic and it is something-- like all the art mediums- that will take practice and diligence- but it also looks like you do not have enough space to add another medium-- it is hot and messy and will need some space so I understand why you would try it and decide that it was a good experiment but perhaps not your cup of tea. love the circles though :-)

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  13. Thanks, Donna. I’m glad you like the circles. I do too. I really like encaustic and when I worked with it before I used the big work counter in my studio. But then I realized that I couldn’t do a good job of extracting the fumes from there so this time I set up in the window. The space is only about 4’ long x 30”, under the window but not enough room to get messy. So goodbye encaustic. Now I’m eyeing all the oil paints. I hate to get rid of them but I’ll probably never get serious in that arena again, either.

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  14. I love the circles, but I know what you mean about devoting precious studio space (and time).

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  15. I just purchased some beeswax, and am excited to try my hand at Enaustic art...I love your blog and your lastest work...will be back often to see more!!! Blessings

    http://dreamsofpurelove.blogspot.com

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  16. Hi Bevie, there are some good books out there on encaustic that you might want to read. Know that encaustic is different than simply working with melted beeswax. Many crafters are finishing their work with a layer of brushed on beeswax which looks really nice but isn’t long lasting like the authentic process. I used tuna cans set on a griddle with a controllable thermostat for my colored waxes, and a saucepan on a hot plate for my beeswax and damar varnish mixture. Both were cheap and easy to use. And I used an old iron without steam holes for fusing. It’s the easiest to control. I tried propane but was scared of the open flame in my in-home studio. You don’t need expensive equipment until you know for sure that you want to pursue the technique. I wish you great good luck.

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