my sewing room

i’m doing an encaustic painting of my sewing area. it’s been a real mess for so long. when my ex and i went to albany to fetch my ex’s brother’s things and rescue their mom’s ex things and drove back out of a blizzard that went on for four days, i took as my payment a nice set of bookshelves-and-hutch, and another not-so-nice-but-they-tried shelves that i had resisted putting together for lo this year and a half, or so, because they used screws and our battery operated screwdriver didn’t work.

but jim found it cheaper to buy a new one with two batteries than to get new batteries for his old one, so i finally put the shelves together. and then i finally got around to sorting out the piles of sewing equipment, spare needles, lengths of ribbon, god it was a mess. and it looked so nice that i fell in love with it and decided to paint it.

jim made me some encaustic-ready boards. panels of masonite backed by glued-on strips and gessoed with rabbit skin glue. plus, a raised lip around the painting surface to protect the edges of wax that will build up on the painting. so cool.

so i’ve got i don’t know what size 18×24 or something of white panel facing me. i hate white. it’s a color begging to be defaced, and i find it hard to resist doing it. so i’m allergic to white.


 i sat down halfway down the back gallery where i have my computer at one end (here) and my sewing stuff at the other (there). i sat at the attic door with my pen and eraser and a folding table and did the drawing.

i had to change the drawing several times. i was too fascinated by the cloth on the back of the chair and made it way too big, and i made the shelves massively tall compared to the chair and sewing machine table.

erasing on a gessoed panel is a nightmare. smears and darkens any line. you have to use loads of elbow grease getting a light pencil line up. jim said: use sandpaper. cool.

so then i said okay i’ll put in a wash for the shadows, maybe several dark tones, and got out my watercolors and started in with the umber and ultramarine. then i went for black in the mix and did the deeper shadows.

then it needed some color, so i put in the pink. but still mainly the shadows. and then i colored in teh wood colors, and then i colored in the green wall, and put in the purple of the cloth and ochre for the lighter wood.


today i started in with the wax. you’ll see that picture tomorrow. i could say i did the underpainting in watercolor, and i suppose that’s what it is, because it’s a pretty complete representation of the basic local colors and tones. it deserves to be an underpainting because it turned out really crappy and i get to cover it up with the wax bit.

so today i brought up from the studio a bunch of pigments in itty bitty jars that i’m trying out so i can take them on residency. i brought the little bitty jars of pigment upstairs along with some turpentine and orange oil in a small jar with an ill-fitting lid, a few brushes, a palette knife and a jar of orange oil-softened beeswax medium. these be most of my materials for encaustic painting. that and a heat lamp.

i mixed up a quantity of white, not much really, on a glass slab measuring 3″ by about 7″. then i mixed up some chrome green and then some burnt umber and then some raw umber and that’s all i had room for on the little slab of glass.

 i used a stiff bristle brush and diluted the wax, which was “like butter” already, to something that would flow.

i don’t know why i try to thin wax down to watercolor wetness. it doesn’t handle well on any brush i’ve tried so far. it doesn’t go on evenly so you can’t wash it, you have to melt all sorts of lines out of it in order to get it smooth. i just don’t like painting with thinned wax. that’s just me.

anyway, i always (like four or five wax paintings constitutes a possible always) end up wanting to put wax on thicker than thinner. more like impasto than watercolor. but in order to get the details, at least at my skill level, means i’ve got to have manipulable paint, and that means thinner than thick.

in my last painting, jupiter, i did what the wax wanted to do. the wax wanted to flow and run and churn and glisten and do magical things.

in this painting, i’m making the wax do what i want it to do. whahahaaha. i need an evil laugh file. maybe stewie, maybe brain.

it actually looks immediately deeper once i have some wax on it. i got to the coated out with a first coat of wax paint part and now i’m going to let it dry over night.

because i’m not melting the wax and putting it on molten, i have to wait for my wax medium to harden. the orange oil has to evaporate out of it, leaving beeswax and pigment that is hard and resilient and smells of beeswax. i might not wait, and hit it with a heat lamp after a bit. in fact, i won’t wait. i’ll let it get so developed, maybe some secondary colors worked into areas, maybe restating the shadows. then melt it.

i’m not going to be melting it the way i did the jupiter painting. this is going to be bare mimimum melting, just until it gets shiny but nowhere near the point where the colors start to run. i don’t want running colors or shifting lines. this is a precise painting, and the wax…must…not…must…not…



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