a word on encaustic painting. a word on painting with wax. a word on the cold wax method of encaustic. i have found that i have a really hard time applying wax paint if it’s at all waxy. but once i cut it enough it becomes like oil paint, like butter. come to think of it, i can’t handle spreading butter cold, either. there’s got to be spreadability before i’m happy. and correct me if i’m wrong, because i haven’t tried encaustic the regular way yet, but you can’t get a buttery application with molten wax. whereas i can paint with it. with brushes, and go back, and blend. i have maybe ten minutes before enough citrus oil has evaporated that the wax becomes tacky.
indeed, you can see the reference photos tacked up onto the background right there. just like old fashioned paste-up mechanicals that nobody uses anymore. anyway, ten minutes of working time is as good as or better than acrylic and watercolor, tho nothing to the hours of working time when you’re working in oil paint.
i love to paint. it’s a physical thing. well-being floods thru me when i’ve got a brush in my hand. i know, it’s sexist. but the charge is there. but i really LOVE to paint with wax. it’s light and fluffy, it’s smooth, it stays where you put it, it has texture.
texture. this is why i dare to include wax encaustic on panel in among my fabric art blog entries, because it’s so tactile. and the thing about fabric is that it’s tactile. it’s something you just have to go up and feel. and wax is exactly the same. it’s three dimensional, and there’s a surface that feels marvelous next to your skin. and god the colors. wax holds pigment unlike other media. watercolor doesn’t have depth. acrylic smells bad so i never use it, oil takes forever to dry but smells great, pastels ah that’s a different paragraph. oil has the translucency as well as the impasto and so does acrylic, but there’s that dimensional thing. you can make wax thick, and it looks thick. you can see down into it. you can get lost in it.
detail of the moon
maybe later on you can see down into it. i’m actually painting rather thickly on this. with a palette knife. and now that i’m using white in the colors, it’s opaque. i’ve been using up whatever color is left on the palette by mixing in the next color, so i’ll have a batch of paint that goes progressively brown or blue or white.
i’m going back and forth between palette knife and paintbrush. wax scumbles really well, and a palette knife is great for scraping and smudging, tho lousy for detail, at least at my skill level, which is only practiced beginner.
i worked out the details with pastel in the earlier stage of this painting, which is 48×54 on panel. i’ve never had any luck with pastels, but as a way to block in the color it can’t be beat, except it didn’t like my surface very much. too hard, and too smooth. i didn’t use any pastel on the background, which was mid gray. i changed the position of the moon from lower to higher. you can see antarctica at the bottom of the painting.
starting with ultramarine blue, i used the palette knife to lay in the large areas. then i put in the green. then the earth color. but all of this in several stages. i’d put in the blue, which is the negative space, then try to put down the brown objects then sliced back into it with the ocean again, then back to the land with different colors. at this point the only white is the underlying pastel.
somewhere in the middle of the back and forth process i decided i needed to see the background now. so i mixed up some dark microcrystalline wax and put black and ultramarine and burnt umber, and slathered it on with a palette knife.
i’ve been messing around. i ended up putting blue in the shadows of the moon and several different layers of browns on the landforms. i went over the oceans with cobalt and prussian and a little white. and i’ve brushed on a layer of microcrystalline wax, more black and prussian blue.
it’s funny, but every layer of paint outlines a different contour for the various landforms. i’m constantly revising what i’ve drawn, even at what you would think was a late stage. but it doesn’t matter with wax; i could come in at the end and decide i wanted the moon back down at the bottom, and just excise it and paint a new one in.
now i’ve started in with the clouds. i’m painting just like i paint in oils, cold wax is a substance with a lot of body.
i’m waiting to the end, i think, before torching the planets. how apocalyptic that sounds. on the jupiter painting i just finished, i burned the wax in with every layer. i was constantly pulling down the eyeglasses and pressing the switch on my heatlamp, feeling like the welder in flashdance. for this painting i’m too in love with the way the wax is going down just like it is, and wondering if i let it dry long enough will i be able to buff it up and call it done? plenty of wax paintings have been done that never came near a heat lamp or any other source of heat.
i’m very pleased with my progress on this. i like doing planets. i’m wondering if i can get images off google earth that i could use, because i could do closeups. i could do the fiddly bits. a little research says i can, clouds and all. how delicious. i can spend hours looking for source images, cruising around examining features of the planet. i can do this, wasting entire days or nights, depending.
but not tonight.