encaustic painting n+3

an update. the first encaustic painting, the dragon, is still drying with loads of wax coats still too translucent for my taste.

i was reading in an encaustic forum about this paste wax preparation called dorland’s wax medium, and it said you had to cure the painting by suspending lights above it at such a distance as to melt the wax but not let it bubble, and keep it melted for some ungodly amount of time – one to six hours.

dorland’s wax medium: “It contains pure fossil earth reinforced with additive waxes, resins, and oils.” pure fossil earth sounds suspiciously like they’re trying to hide petroleum products. according to this site, the technique i’ve been using is hot wax painting. “Paint the picture cold with knife technique and then heat it to melt and fuse the wax colors.

dorland’s suggests you use tube oil colors; i use dry pigment. they use mineral spirits, unnamed waxes, resins, and oils. i use beeswax and citrus thinner. the point is spreading it on and evaporating the solvent out of the beeswax with heat and exposure to air.

that brings me to a little rant. pure fossil earth. natural. organic. these are meaningless labels being used solely for the marketing lie. don’t you just hate that?

like this citrus thinner we just bought for !6 bucks the quart. turns out it’s not anything like citrus solvent, because it’s mostly mineral spirits, i mean petroleum products, with .001%, one thousanth of a percent, of citrus oil. i want real citrus oil, dammit, not pure fossil earth with flavoring. grrr. there’s this one company i’ve found so far where they sell 98% pure citrus oil with 2% water additive. i’m going to order online tomorrow and we’ll see.

i’m trying to avoid harsh solvents at this point, as a direct reaction to both of us getting really ill after spending all day in my studio breathing turpentine. (Madge: “You’re soaking in it.”)

solvents are bad. odorless mineral spirits are bad. citrus oil is bad. but i’ll bet i’m not as reactive to it as i am to gum turpentine.

my thought was that maybe i could use the suspended light, liquid for hours trick on the dragon picture, see how it turns out. 


the second painting is this one, the koi. last seen with a coat of wax medium on it, drying. today i added more paint, overpainting the wax where the fish come out of the water. you can mostly see it in the photo, where the colors, mostly red, are brighter.

i know i’m struggling in this process. truthfully, i feel like i’m reinventing the wheel. but is that such a bad thing for an artist to do? looking back at my career, i’ve mostly reinvented the wheel, learning techniques and media by trial and error, figuring it out at each step, getting hopelessly lost right in the middle of the process. i ask the newbie questions, and then go off in my own direction anyway.

one of the reasons i like encaustic, aside from the seduction of the wax, is there’s not a lot of dogma about it. with egg tempera, say, the tendency is to take cellini as a line in the sand. thus far and no further. that’s not right. it’s not how you do real tempera. real tempera is this and this and that’s it. they get rather fundamentalist about it.

but we’re in a modern age, and artists in whatever age have turned the materials at hand into art.  now we’ve got plastics and digital, and we’re soon going to have nanothings. conservatives will go apeshit.

so, as far as i’m concerned, because nobody did encaustic for about a thousand years, and since we picked it up again in the 1700s we’ve used modern technology to make it into a substantially new art. we’ve got heat-control now. we’ve got solvents. we’ve got modern pigments. i say use them.

encaustic means heating the wax to fuse it. but you can burn it in with chemicals as well.

there’s evidence, according to either doerner or mayer, that there was a cold wax process that is now lost. so i’m going to play with that. and that’s encaustic too. because we’re not ancient greeks anymore.

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