encaustic n+16

enc7-26 still working it in the studio.



i’ve discovered two ways of looking at it.

upstairs in the bedroom, where there’s room to do the burning-in.

i’m doing the final melting of the wax at this point. i’m going to melt the whole thing, not just the top surface. i don’t know why. it’s just what occurs to me.

 i was thinking i would do another, top coat, with maybe some damar to toughen it. but i ended up just burning it in what i had, but rather than getting the top surface glisteny and moving on before you melt the wax, i figured i wanted to go ahead and eliminate all the texture i had built up, and end up with a smooth, featureless surface, which is how this planet would appear from space.

because there’s a bunch of stages from frozen to liquid wax.

there’s the nothing happens stage which goes on for a long time while the wax absorbs the heat.

there’s the slight sheen of melting beginning to happen.

there’s the shining and swelling of the wax, kind of a wart-like look. the wax becomes pebbly.

then the wax cracks up some, as darker colors go to liquid sooner than lighter ones, and you get a crackle effect of matte-looking wax with runnels of molten wax among it, like an estuary as the tide coming in.

then the area goes to liquid. the colors disperse and some start to churn, eventually ending up as a solid color pool. or doing something strange and like evaporating the wax from a spot with smoke and little embers and shit. (i’m imagining this part, i haven’t yet overheated the wax past the fragrance point.  my hamburgers can’t make that claim. )

that’s one way of looking at the melting to liquid process. this is from the point of view of watching the wax melt.

enc7-28 see how cool the flow gets?

when you’re watching the moving puddle of melted wax, you’re tracking a different animal. this was all revealed to me over the last few days while i’ve been trying to fuse this enormous three foot by four foot – that’s twelve square feet (a garden) – painting of jupiter.

so first nothing happens. then there’s a glow from underneath the surface of the wax, which remains matte.

the glow spreads and the wax becomes translucent, so you see details that nobody else will see when the wax has hardened again. it’s very precious.

the area becomes bright and reflective, and then the reflections seem to shimmy as i move the light around.

a pool of liquid forms, liquid that reflects. anything that doesn’t reflect isn’t yet liquid.

every pass next to the liquid spot enlarges the liquid area, so i end up stroking the pool ever outward or down the painting or whatever. spots that hadn’t been liquid a moment ago soften and flow with the next pass of the light. i can work up whole areas of liquified wax without seeing any of the details because of the glare of the lamp. i’m not looking at color. i’m looking at texture. at the lack of texture – at a limpid pool of molten wax.

when fusing like this, whatever its technical name might be, my object is to make the surface featureless, meaning not just no texture, but no knots of color.

it can cause a runny mess to have large areas liquified at one time. but if i’m careful and patient, i can heat a whole area up at one time, and have it all just go to liquid at the last moment. or i can do it like vaccuuming a rug, one swath at a time.

in the middle of the liquifying process, still plenty of texture.

but i’ve found that i can concentrate on the wax itself, and work patches of white, say, which have to be handled carefully if they’re not to explode all over the place and contaminate my nice clear darks. it drives me nuts with anxiety if i’m watching the colors instead of the molten sheen.

when i do the gestalt of the molten wax thing, it’s much more meditative, and it’s easy to get lost in that and find my huge pool a solid ugly purple brown. then i guess dig it up and start again.

partially melted, you can see the flow.


i’ve got a couple of hot spots, places where instead of heating the wax until it went liquid, i seem to have burned the damn stuff away, because the longer i heated it, the drier it got. i guess you can volatilize off all the volatile bits about the wax and end up with burnt pigment dust on board.

i’ll fill them with wax and reburn them.

looks like real clouds. that’s because the white has somewhat flowed and mixed with the other colors, which had liquified first.

i really like the shiny way it’s solidified once i melted all the features. mind you, it was an intricately featured and textured piece of wax, and i’m losing all that. but for me the texture was a poor substitute for what i wanted, which was a planet, a solid object of liquidity and flow, atmosphere. i wanted waves, and all i could get with the textured wax was particles.

so i’m digging it. it’s turning out the way i wanted when i saw the photo of jupiter and thought –  wow, that looks just like wax.

okay, it’s finished.

for my next project, i’ve just had an order for some silk scarves, the cheshire cat. so i’m turning my attention to a whole nother kind of frustrating experiene. join me.


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