my first encaustic painting

oopsie, i forgot to take this out of draft and publish it. it’s the first part of the first encaustic i’ve done. i started with a drawing of a dragon jim idid for another project, and traced it onto about 8×10 canvas glued onto a masonite board. very heavy.

first and a half stage

i’m using wax paste and pigment, put on with a brush. the dragon’s head is napthol red and indian red, the claws and scales are raw sienna and a little white. i’ve started turning the tendrils blue. the background is green oxide in the diluted wax paste.

second stage and three quarters

i’ve started putting white in. i repainted the background using green oxide and hansa yellow. at this point i’m beginning to feel the old frustration. i hate white. white makes everything look pasty.

i used a pallette knife to put white on the teeth, and to adjust where the teeth went. i was still accidently putting my wrist into the teeth several hours was still wet.

i’m wondering what kind of painting i’m doing. it doesn’t look real, even tho it looks dimensional already. maybe when i’m doing self portraits or still lives it’ll start looking real. i don’t do well with fantasy when i’m just learning a new medium. i do better being faithful to what it looks like.

i’m painting with wax right now. evidently you’re supposed to use heat when you do encaustic, but jim remembers being taught how to do encaustic cold, with solvents, and knows artists who went their entire careers doing encaustic paintings with cold wax.

so he mixed me up a jar of beeswax shavings and turpentine, and now i have a heavy gel that i’ve been mixing with my pigments and painting on with a brush.

something else that’s never done, not only am i not working with gloves and a respirator (they recommend fume hoods and glove boxes), but i’m working with little piles of pigment sitting out there on the pallette waiting to be mixed into the wax paste. i’m doing all the health standard no-nos, everything except smoking, eating, and drinking in the studio. and actually i’m doing one or more of those as well. but i haven’t dipped my paintbrush into my coffee yet. so there.

third and a half stage

i’ve started getting bold. i decided that just having a head hanging there in space wasn’t good enough when i could clearly see the ghostof a neck curving out into the picture, so i gathered up some of the ochre and umber, and some of the hansa yellow, and some of the naphtol red, and started putting it down thickly with the wax paste. this stuff really gets impasto.

i’m loving this. it’s like using crayons really heavily. i’m not seeing any translucency yet, but the colors blend well, and they get nice and deep.

i’m hoping to be able to make the tendrils a real deep blue that shines out, and have a lot of work to do getting the neck looking right.

fourth stage

tomorrow i need to dampen down the background some, need to reshape the claws, need to shape the mane of tendrils and the body behind it. the jaw needs resculpturing and the lip line needs to be brought down a bit on top.

the more i paint on here, the thicker it gets. the thicker the strokes i put on compared to how i started. like i get more sure and bold, or too enthusiastic and ruin things, depending on your viewpoint.

or is it a function of the paint layers and my impatience? when i worked at cafe tu-tu tango and had 4 hours to finish a 14×20 oil painting, i would have real trouble near the end getting the paint to show up against all the layers underneath. it got really goopy and the paint went on reluctantly unless it was way thicker than what i was putting it down into. it got kind of like that tonight, except that the layers, most of them, were dry to the touch when i went back into it.

being mixed with turpentine, which evaporates in a hurry, the wax can be brushed on in many different thicknesses, which will harden up as the turpentine evaporates out of it. so by tomorrow i expect even the thick stuff to feel like wax insted of mayonnaise.

jim is fixing to order some microcrystalline wax, because he thinks he’ll like the qualities it gives to beeswax. we’re going for a pound, and looking for the best price on 10 lbs of beeswax. we’re both getting into encaustic in a big way.


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