encaustic – sugar hollow, virginia

the painting of the river in encaustic turned out so well (i’ll post a picture tomorrow, when the sun comes out here in atlanta) that i immediately thought i’d start another water painting.  so i used the reference picture i didn’t use for the last painting.  it was still lying around in the studio.  it’s of the moormans river behind charlottesville.  it’s a favorite place to splash in the water, when there’s water in the river and it’s not mostly dry.  we stop at a slow spot in the river, right after a bunch of big rocks, where the water is crystal clear and you can’t see any movement in the reference photo.  i’ve painted it a bunch of times when i was staying with my friend jimmy who paints in cville.

so the first thing i did was to find a panel.  this one is 24×30, just like the other one was.  a bit small, but i’ll manage.  jim prepared it some time ago, with a light brown ground.  as i always do, i held the photo in front of my eyes and squared it with the panel on the easel, and then took a piece of chalk and made swipes where the major features fell.  this results in a very spare indication of what’s going to be put on the board.


you’ll notice the coloration of the photos.  it rained today, and so i didn’t take any outdoor photos.  these are done in the studio with a flash.  sorry about that.  when we get some color into it, then we’ll take it outside.  on the other hand, this painting is going to be mostly brown…


i took my pastels out and started in.  the orange at the bottom and the pinkish color beneath that is the rock i’m standing on, out of water and just submerged.  everything above that is the bottom of the river.  i’ve used burnt umber pastel to indicate the rocks, and a gray to show where the glare of the water obscures the bottom.  the usual three layers are reduced for this painting, because the water itself is invisible, so you have bottom, and reflection, and no visible water at all.  i may have to do something about that, some obscuring of the bottom in the middle.  we’ll see.


i started to put on a very thin black (black, dioxazine purple and raw umber) with a brush, but it was gloppy, and i got frustrated.  on jim’s advice i made up a slurry of mostly citrus oil, some beeswax, and pigment.  this was thin enough to put on with a brush, even tho i still can’t get a good, smooth line with it.  jim suggested i use almost no wax at all, and just thin the pigment with solvent and paint it on.  the solvent would hold it on there until i had a chance to coat it out with wax.  but i didn’t do that, i just thinned the hell out of the thin mixture i’d already made up.

so all i’ve done here is outline the rocks and put in some of the shadows, and wipe off the pastel indications.  it’s been burned in, tho with it that thin i’m not sure it’s necessary.  the super thin wax paint remains shiny even when dry, and only seems to shine more when you hit it with the heat lamp.  but then, what i’m really doing is burning off the citrus oil and leaving only melted wax on the board, which is why it’s encaustic painting and not just a cold wax preparation – encaustic meaning to burn in the wax once it’s painted on.

tomorrow i get to start on the local color, which as i’ve said is mostly brown.  i’m not sure if i’m going to put fish into it or not.  you can’t tell the scale from the reference photo, even tho i know what it is it’s not going to come thru in the painting.  but we’ll see.  i’m not sure fish are necessary for this painting.


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