This is the second of my Organics series using encaustic. I have started several more in this series in oil, and will likely attempt some in acrylic, as well. And of course, there are all the sketches.
This piece went through quite a few changes during its creation. That’s one of the challenging things for me about encaustic. I may think I know where I’m going when I get started on a new piece, but things have a way of getting out of control when fusing each new application of wax to a melted state again (not necessary, but I love the process and especially the glassy smooth outcome) — however, it is fraught with the danger of losing edges and shapes that one already established.
This piece has many layers to it and a very thick coat of gorgeous translucent clear beeswax. Way down almost to the very bottom layer are some lovely shapes cut out of rice paper and coated in a celadon green wax, but you can only see memories of them now. There were also several strands of “beads” of wax paint in lime green that were very carefully applied, one bead at a time, that have now blurred to a few soft, hazy lines.
And, now that I have two solid little paintings and about 8 or 9 of sketches in my new Organics series, I also have a new gallery page on which to gather them all together: Organics.
For about the past year-and-a-half, I have been in a bit of despair over how to continue working in encaustic. I started using encaustic paints in 2006. Encaustic paint is pigment suspended in a mixture of beeswax and damar resin that the artist heats and paints with while in a melted state (the paint, not the artist 😉 ) – you can read more about encaustic here.
My first attempts were simply thick coatings of clear wax covering small pastel drawings of tornadoes. Then I began painting the tornadoes using the hot wax. As paradoxical as it may sound, I found the demands of the encaustic medium really liberated me from my former work that was too tight or too representational for my own satisfaction. One cannot be tight when painting in encaustic AND achieve a smooth surface, and I fell in love with the smooth surface and the unpredictability of what happens to colors melted in wax when you blow them around with hot air.
For the next year or so, I was thrilled to continue working in hot wax. I began a series of nuclear bomb paintings in encaustic, intending to paint about 100 of them, but my idea was too daunting for a subject matter that was so frightening. Having grown up in the days of duck-and-cover, I decided I couldn’t really live with that fright through the creation of 100 paintings, so I quit after completing only five nuclear bomb paintings.
I then did a political piece consisting of nine iconic images that I digitally manipulated, printed, and then encased in hot wax: my “What Have We Become?” piece. However, for most of my painting history, I have been primarily concerned with the formal qualities of art — just the beauty of the stuff on the canvas — and I always meant to avoid political statements, so this piece has (so far) stood as kind of a one-off.
Then I tried animating some encaustic paintings, but my physical set-up made that a very difficult process, so I have also put that aside for the time being.
After trying all of the above, I had a flash of inspiration and painted my set of four poppy paintings.
Simultaneously, I moved on to painting abstract works in encaustic. You can see all of those pieces on my Encaustic gallery page.
In the beginning of 2008, I moved back to painting in oil again — which feels so much like home to me — and I also tried acrylic, which has now found a place in my work (when I want to work both large and fast).
But after that, I kind of hit a dead end with encaustic. The rest of my work was becoming organic, but my next attempts at encaustic took on a design-y kind of rigid structure. I did about 6-8 paintings like that this past summer at a workshop, and have been really unsatisfied with most of that work. In fact, I have removed all but two of them from my Encaustic gallery page, though you can view them in the tiny thumbnail gallery below. I’ve also tried working in ways that I see many other encaustic artists work — collaging paper and fabrics into the hot wax, scraping and carving, and embedding objects in the wax — but so far, for me, these have mostly been dismal failures.
Meanwhile, back at the easel, my latest work was taking on quite an organic shape (see the organic series), so I thought I’d try this imagery in encaustic as well as oil and acrylic; after three partial days of messing around with this piece, I am pretty happy with the outcome. I’m preparing several more panels to continue my explorations in this direction.
This one, “Happy Together,” is just the first of my encaustic pieces for my new Organics series, and I do anticipate that I will be quite happy with subsequent pieces.
In eight days, I will be greeting friends and fans at my solo show at Bay6 Gallery in East Austin. I am really looking forward to that moment!
Getting ready for this has been an amazing process. Doing all the necessary organizational stuff besides trying to paint every moment that I can for weeks and weeks and weeks, that is.
I sent out email invitations to most of the people I know; and Bay6 has also invited a large number of folks. We’ve notified people via email, Facebook, Twitter, EventBrite, Eventful, and word-of-mouth, and we may be expecting a great turnout! I picked up my beautifully printed postcards today from Tom at ipgprint.com; I will be mailing those tomorrow. Plans are set for music, food, and drink, and we will start to hang the show next week. I owe some responses to emails and blog commenters, which I will try to get to as soon as my mental energy rolls in that direction.
I recently read an article by a representational painter on another blog, in which the writer said that one should very carefully and thoroughly plan one’s paintings. My first thought was, “No waaaaay!” That would take all the fun out the process of discovery that, for me at least, is a great deal of what painting is about. Feeling a little smug, I thought of the following much-loved quote:
You are lost the instant you know what the result will be. – Juan Gris
Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. – Jonathan Swift
Abstraction is real, probably more real than nature. – Josef Albers
I am getting very excited about my upcoming solo show. I’m painting like mad, and I’m beginning to be very happy with some of the results. I think I may just have a future in this wonderful world of painting!
Solo show this October at Bay6 Gallery & Studios, Austin
My new exhibition, “The E Word,” explores life at different scales: from the elements of evolution to the essentials of our environment, and on to the endless reaches of space. Through the interplay and juxtaposition of the micro with the macro, I try to depict on canvas what nature could do in the world, but hasn’t gotten around to yet. There are always new combinations, and with them, new opportunities for capturing the kind of emergent qualities that animate the world; new ways of discovering parts whose sum creates a greater whole.
This wealth of possibilites lies in the inescapable fractal nature of the physical world: tiny crystals under a microscope resemble mountain ranges; neurons mirror nebulae; zoosphores echo supernovae.
This painting is based on a photograph of some crystalline concoction of various chemicals.
Four new paintings
These little 5″x 7″ paintings are what I would call representational abstractions based on the stuff of life seen under a microscope. I love knowing how things are made and how they look, and often I best understand how something is made by painting it. Microphotography allows me to see the tiny things that make up the world. These paintings are not strict copies, but are based on microphotographs of stuff like soap film, chemicals, silica and other crystals and crystalline structures.