encaustic – refining the lines

today i actually got down to the studio.  my last ballpoint needle broke, so i couldn’t sew on the baby quilt upstairs, and my kid had the baby out with her for the afternoon (he’s old enough to open all the jars in the studio, and too young to  not open all the jars).

the only thing that isn’t pastel underpainting at this point is the surface of the microwave.  i’m following the general principle – get all your whites down first.  the rest, the unfixed pastel, is gradually coming up on my hands and forearms, which look all smoke-stained.  a little inconvenient.  perhaps that’s why they fix pastels.

the purplish part to the left is the first coat of white, over a basically shadow-purple underpainting of all the planes on the microwave.  the wax naturally picked up and mixed the pastel in when i put it on, and churned into it once i melted it in.  the layer i put on today is just another layer of mixed white – a bunch of beeswax, a bunch of orange oil to thin it to a buttery consistency, a bunch of titanium white dry pigment, and a palette knife.

i love painting with a palette knife.  i hate painting in wax with brushes.  i tried it tonight when i made the thin lines of the top edge, and the damned brush gummed right up and put down glops of wax.  it was awful.  i’d rather use my fingers.  as badly as i use a palette knife, it’s my only real option for laying down a line.  i just have to get good with a palette knife, which of course takes years, and here i am in only my second year of learning how to use this particular tool.  only my second year of learning how to paint with wax.

the layer i put on today went a long way toward evening out the appearance of the surface, especially after i smoothed it in with my fingers and burned it in with my heat lamp.  what i’m trying to do is to build up the white first, and then use a series of glazes to put shadows and contours into the white.  even tho the beeswax i’m using is the unfiltered kind with plenty of gunge in it, and very yellow, i mix enough white into it to make the color read as white.  a creamy white.  it doesn’t show well on camera, of course.  the beauty of encaustic painting is in seeing it up close, being able to smell it, to see into it, to peer closely at the wonderful things wax does when molten.

i went around with a ruler and made sure all four edges of the box were level, because if it’s only off a little bit, it’s grating.  jim, on the other hand, regularly makes his paintings way unlevel, and it’s dizzying.  but a little is just bad drawing.

then i tried taking a brush to put in the upper contours, but it gummed up and i put it aside.  it just couldn’t smear enough paint onto the surface to make any difference.  so i picked up my palette knife and put the lines in.  these got burned in rather lightly (because if you burn in white heavily, the whole thing liquifies and starts to find its way to the ocean).

and then my painting day was over.  my kid went off to work, jim made dinner, it got dark.  so maybe tomorrow.


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