encaustic: blue marble

ocean261 pastel underpainting

ocean275 1st layers of wax, burned in

ocean291 2nd layers of wax, to be burned

detail showing thick impasto of whites, striving for texture but not yet melted

i’m having a funny moment. im sitting here at 2 in the morning typing in the dark, and for the longest time i could only sit here with hands poised above the keyboard and staring into space, because i couldn’t think of anything to say.

not like i haven’t been planning what to say on my blog while i’m standingi around doing my art work. i do that a whole lot, having always had a camera and mike in my head. but i couldn’t figure out what impulse to follow into a blog entry, and couldn’t figure out which of my many blogs to post to, and then got lost in wondering which of the many blogs is more me? is it the cancer blog? is it doing art? right now it’s alot about traveling.

i guess what i’m trying to do is write missives, like i used to do when i’d go travelling. originally it started as 25 page letters to a friend. i knew a girl who wrote home on carbon paper, keeping a copy for herself as her journal. once the internet got here my letters turned into emails, and spammed emails at that. i sent them to anyone i had in my address book, and didn’t really care if i was burdening them with an hour and a half of reading. nobody let me know they didn’t read my emails. and now i don’t have to offend anyone with another wave of revulsion at seeing an email from me, because you have to search for my blog entries to find them, and that means you’re asking for it.

but my train of thought has been interrupted again by a funny moment, a pre-epileptic-like frozen gaze where my mind is active but my body is drooling. odd.

i’m working up a whole set of planet paintings. i want to do a long thin panel of moons in their phases, and not necessarily the moon we look at. i’ve been getting interested in parts of our planet that don’t look familiar. antarctica without ice. the arctic as an inland sea. i’ve been spending a lot of time on websites about the poles. fascinating stuff. antarctica without ice is like some fantasy novel’s map. i want to name the bits and pieces things like dragon ridge and silent wood. i want to do mars, tho the color scheme is challenging – red. red is challenging. blue and green are not. gray is not.  but i guess i lie. gray is every bit as challenging as red. blue and green are not. white and blue are not. and black.

i’ve noticed a very strange effect in melting my white wax paint. i’m using titanium white in beeswax, softened with orange oil instead of melted on a hotplate, and fused with a heatlamp.

note the bubbling of the whites and grays, and how the white has pulled away from the blue

i don’t put white on until i have to. white takes the longest to melt, and melts at a higher temperature, so everything around it is already molten and flowing  by the time white looses its structure. white is trouble. even a little white mixed in with some other color.

what happens is this. when i heat up the layers of wax i’ve been laying down for awhile, and there’s white in the paint layer, it’s as if the wax underneath the white layer (or two) was liquid and the white was slowly melting on top of an already melted mess of wax with some other pigment in it, and when it gets to a point of moltenness the fabric of the white suddenly tears, gets holes in it that spread. kind of like crawling, when a glaze beads up on the surface underneath. it’s a crawl in the direction of the heat source, and if not noticed, which is easy because it’s very glary, the crawl can become a flow and then a churn and then you have uniformly mixed color and that’s bad.

the crawl is interesting. i can’t control it. not that it can’t be controlled, but it seems to be because the white was heated maybe too fast. if it’s deliberately heated fast, the wax surges away from the heat, swelling into rings, and the white just bursts apart. if i back away the moment the white starts to split then it’s not too bad, but that part tends to stay liquid longer because it’s white and the wax retains the extra heat needed to melt it.

i have no idea why i’m getting a crawl with white. i see no mention of this problem on the encaustic forum, so i’ve got to think that it’s my method. which means, working with solvents. which is universally frowned upon, even tho it means you can paint with brushes just like you would with oil paint, with ample time to do all the brushwork things that makes oil paint so satisfying, but with the magical texture of wax.

so i’m thinking that my orange oil might be the problem. i’m going to experiment some more.

once i figured out it was me, i whipped out my experimental painting and did some samples. curiously, i couldn’t duplicate the results. so i launched into the next painting, and when it came time to add the white, i started getting the effect again even in very low concentrations of white.

more detail showing texture, this made either with a patted brush or my finger – you won’t see the tearing of the white until i burn in this layer, tomorrow.

i was trying to document this problem so that maybe someone could tell me what’s going on. so i tried to take movies i could put up on you tube, but all they showed was the heatlamp glaring into the surface of the painting. i want to show the liquifying of the wax and the point at which the white starts tearing like ripe pantyhose. but i can’t do that very well, apparently, and i can’t describe it. and since this last layer of white was mixed with mineral spirits instead of orange oil, and since i already released and burned off any remaining orange oil when i burned the first layer in, i will, i feel sure, be able to figure out if i’ve got a d-limonene problem, or does white separate with any solvent.

my d-limonene problem. i made myself sick using turpentine as a solvent already. nausea, vomiting, ill for a night and queasy thereafter for awhile. so i switched to orange oil. because mineral spirits are petroleum products, thus they cause cancer. d-limonene is gras – generally recognized as safe, which means non-toxic. there was some concern about effects to the kidneys in mice, but later studies indicated cancer-fighting properties of orange oil, and it’s being investigated as a prophylactic supplement to prevent recurrence.

i’m breathing in small quantities of a cancer fighter, how’s that for cool? because yeah i’ve already had cancer and so it’s kind of reassuring to know i’m not deliberately courting it after the disastrous first date but rather running with the antidote.

i’ve been up for awhile. jim’s asleep, allison’s still at work. did i mention i have a full house at the moment? my kid’s here, part time, and her kid’s here sometime, and so i don’t have three minutes to myself, so i’m up writing while jim sleeps. it’s spring, so my days are spent at least thinking about outside, and i’m furiously finishing this encaustic and maybe one more before perhaps turning my attention to showing them, which means work, but maybe someone else’s work. i need to turn my attention to fabric for awhile. i have to figure out how to dye silk using mx fiber reactive dyes, which is just a vinegar recipe rather than a soda ash recipe, but i still have to figure it out and get my learning curve down before i go off to the back of beyond and not know what i’m doing and make a balls of it.


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