series paintings in encaustic

i’m posting these now just to gather some of the series of encaustic paintings i’ve been working in.  it’s not that many in any category, but they’re all ongoing.

these are my planetary body paintings.  in the main they’re studio photographs, which means they’re not very good, with glares and smudges on the lens.  but they’re good enough for me, because for the most part i still have them and can drag them out and take proper pictures at will.

these are all beeswax and pigment on board, applied as a paste with orange solvent as the softener, and burned in using a light bulb.


that’s the earth on its side (as if, in space) with antarctica on the right, and only the vastness of the pacific ocean in sunlight.  30×40

earth and moon

a very challenging painting.  if you’ll kindly notice the gunge layer around the planet.  i go to great lengths to put a gunge around each planet i do.  i save up spare bits of wax and stick them in a jar with a little orange oil.  and then when i’m laying in the blackness of outer space, i smear a knifeful of multicolored wax around the planet.  you should see it when everything’s clear while i’m burning it in.  it glows with color and life.  once it’s cooled and solidified again it’s much more obscure, ut you can still see a lot of texture in the atmospheric layers.

by the way, this painting was later gouged in storage, a big slash under the moon.  i laid flat on a table and repaired the spot, and then got out my lamp to burn it in, because that’s what you do with wax.  i got it melted, but it wasn’t level with the unmelted wax around it, so i melted a bit more, and a bit more, and only stopped when i’d melted an area the size of a dinner plate.  and when it cooled, that area was subtly different from the surrounding area.  which means that when i’m ready to display it, i’ll have to go back and remelt the entire blackness of space, right up to the planet’s edges, before it looks okay.  at the moment, it looks like an echo of the moon.  36×48


i included this because it’s a space picture, not because it’s planetlike, i.e., round.  this was an early encaustic painting, when i was just exploring the translucency of the wax.  it actually looks remarkably like the nebula itself, but unless you know what you’re looking at it’s completely abstract.  which is one of the things i love about encaustic.  it looks abstract even when it’s not.  it’s the magic of the wax.  8×10


i’d say jupiter (duh) except that there are a lot of people who’ve been thru and asked which planet it is.  this was a very challenging painting.  i guess they all are.  it’s a real trick to get molten wax to move the way you want to.  in every medium it’s a real trick to control the paint, but in wax and in dye, the way you put it on is not the way it’s going to stay.  at least, not the way i put it on…

in this case, the clouds were the tricky part, and the translucency of the atmosphere near the poles.  the terminus of the planet’s shadow is achieved in most of these paintings with brown microcrystalline wax, which i otherwise have no use for, since it’s a petroleum product.  but it makes a great glaze, all by itself.  48×60


well, it’s planetlike.  i always thought so while watching the monitor at the doctor’s.  it helped to take my mind off the squeezing pain as i stood there caught by the machine.  this one is made with bits of cotton and linen fiber, building up a ridge of thicker tissue around the edge and in the middle.  this is a painting you want to run your hands over.  all encaustic paintings have an invisible sign that say ‘please touch me’.  16×20


sorry about the blur.  i’ll reshoot one of these days.  this is venus in false color, from radar images that look beneath the clouds.  the blues and greens are below ‘sea’ level, and the warmer colors are higher elevations.  it’s a planet that reminds me of a fantasy world, where this or that makebelieve kingdom bustle with sword and sorcery.  20×30

and that’s it at the moment for planets.  i have a series of moons planned, and thought perhaps i’d do a human ovum at some point.  or maybe a flu virus or something.

here are my water pictures:

north georgia trout stream

the great thing about wax is its texture.  it gives a whole nother level of information to your eye.  you can tell because of the crispness of the rocks at the lower left that they’re half out of the water.  you can tell that the black streaks are fish.  you can tell that the white scumble going diagonally below the blue is a breaking wave on the surface.  at least i can.  20×30

sugar hollow, virginia

wax is well suited to depicting water, in all its forms.  and reflections.  and translucency.  this wonderful pool right below the blue ridge is a deep clear still flat place where the tumbling boulders came to rest ages ago, and the water is maybe ten feet deep here.  there’s only a patch of sky visible in the surface reflections, because the trees are very thick on the mountains all around.  it’s only the sudden widening out of the river (at this stage a mountain creek) that makes for a break in the clouds, where hundreds of locals sprawl and play on any given summer day.  20×30

baby falls, tellico r, tennessee

my friend shannon came to visit, and we went off to visit friends up in tennessee, who took us off to watch some damnfools going over class 3+ rapids.  i spent most of my time picking up these way cool river rocks, and when i came back home, combined a painting of the rapids with suitable stones and pebbles to make this representation of our trip for her.

i applied the white of the water in several layers and let it flow to make all those intricate water movements.  white is a tricky color to burn in, because it takes much longer than any other color.  it’s because white bounces the heat off, and this is a really clear way to show it.  a full minute sometimes.  and next to the blacks and purples of the water’s depth, which melt immediately, twenty seconds, it became a real problem not to have the blacks burn off, which is a nasty thing where the wax smokes and the surface gets dry and ugly.  masking is a good way to avoid this.  laying a piece of paper directly on the dark surface and burning in around it.

i attached the larger stones in the beginning, when i did the drawing.  acrylic modeling paste.  but the small stones were pressed directly into the hot wax and then buried under clear wax and burned in right along with the wax.  in the end i made sure that all the stones had a nice coat of wax polish (wax and orange oil, rubbed in like furniture polish).  buffed with a soft cloth, the whole painting glows.  8×10

water cill rialaig 1

while at cill rialaig, in deepest kerry, i was interested in elemental things.  air.  water.  earth.  it was a nice autumn, so not much interest in fire, tho i did do a painting of the iron stove in my studio.

i once saw the air, and it has amazed me ever since.  i studied fluid dynamics in college, and came to the realization that it’s all fluid, particles and waves.  these pictures of the clouds and sea and the air in between are part of this ongoing study.  i actually want to paint the clouds and sea in a rainstorm, but since there’s no visibility in a rainstorm, it wouldn’t turn out very well.  so i’m trying to get as close as i can to that.  and the clouds on the ocean are stupefyingly beautiful.  12×24

water cill rialaig 2

this is a bit closer, but really, i’m trying to paint snow white in a snowstorm.  altho i don’t use any black when i make these paintings, they turn out in shades of gray, which are oddly soothing.  12×24

also in the water series i have tree that are in the beginning stages, another cloud,  one of amsterdam canals and the other reflections of storage tanks on the water of a dockyard.


so let’s total that up.  that’s 6 paintings completed and 3 in the works for round things, and 5 done and 3 started in clouds.  it’s something.  i’m looking at an application and they want to see 8 slides.  i’ve got until the middle of september.  sure i can whip out three or four paintings between then and now, what with two kimono to make and a wall hanging to finish and a set of banana ties to paint and a dragon shirt.  no problem.  as long as i don’t have to watch my grandkid…

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