my sewing room 4


it’s funny. usually it’s me that’ll go have a look at what jim’s painting, and immediately spot something wrong. usually i blurt it out rather triumphantly.

well jim did the same t hing to day. he walked by my painting, sitting in teh back hall, and stopped suddenly because he’d seen something wrong.

the chair leg. i’d painted the shadow right over it, hadn’t i. well yes. so i need to scrape it off with my fingernail.

but it took me a little while to do it, several days i guess since my last post, and every time he passed the painting it jumped out at him.

i put him out ofhis misery today.

there wasn’t much to be done to finish it. you probably can’t tell any difference and haven’t been able to for several sessions. it’s all subtleties.\it’s nitpicky fussy layers upon layers of paint that doesn’t want to go down except in glops, and dry quickly and get sticky.

on the other hand, that’s the beauty of wax. endless layers of mostly transparent, actual depth, real optical mixing of colors. such a nice thing.

i finally gt hold of some quinacridone gold. it’s a color i found at daniel smith years ago, and with rich green gold it is my favorite  color, especially thin. i wanted to buy some dry pigment, but nobody sells it. in fact, nobody hardly sels it in tube colors. so i found guerra paints because people in the forums led me there thanks folks, and they’ve bought up all the remaining quinacridone gold because they think it’s a nice color too. it was a car color. it was discontinued in 2996? and nobody’s wanted to paint cars that color since. i find that hard to believe, because it’s a beautiful shiny transparent gold. now, rich green gold probably turned out looking like snot green wen they sprayed it on cars. do they still make that? axomethine yellow?

anyway, i talked to the helpfull guy at guerra, who told me that no i didn’t want it in dry pigment form because i couldn’t possibly mull it fine enough to be transparent when made into paint. at best i could end up with a burnt sienna color. so, i got an alkyd dispersion, which basically resembles owoodstain in consistency and smell. they make the pigment into a water dispersion as well, for people who work in acrylic or watercolor or egg tempera. but i’m working with wax at the moment, so water kind of doesn’t work very well, so i’m stuck with concentrated stain.

i dipped my smallest palette knife into it, very thin, and let it finish dripping, and then let it continue finishing over my palette and then wiped it off of the palette knife, and my hand, a very thorough stain, like instant tan only this looks convincing. but orange.

then i added a small palette knife full  of wax medium (beeswax and orange oil) and mixed it up. it was very strong.

i put it on the chest of drawers to the right. it needed it. then i stuck it on the windows and on the blanket rack and on the chair, and a little on the lights and the folding screen.

for soe reason i found the quinacridone gold covered the whites as well as the darks, which would make it opaque. perhaps i used it way too thick even at the dilution i mixed it up to, maybe i should have used one drop to a knifeblade full of wax. i slathered it on with an old brush that i hadn’t bothered loosening up in turpentine first

i singed it. in quinacridone gold. which doesn’t look too thick over the white, and was hard to make clear at the further dilution i had to make in order to sign my name.


the next step is to take it down to the studio and fry it.

i fried my daffodil experimental painting the other day. about a mnoth ago i picked a daffodil and cut it n half lengthwise and put it down on a board, and covered it with paste wax. and then i let both halves sit. i suppose i should have fused the one half right away, but i couldn’t bring myself to melt a perfectly good flower.

so both halves exuded this watery brown stuff about a week later. they’re all dry and somewhat dessicated now, under the wax.

i was on the pohone to my ex the other day, and so annoyed with how he was going on that i turned on the heat lamp and fused one half of the daffodil painting. i didn’t even think about it, because i was on the phone, being annoyed. i just went ahead and melted the half until the whole half of the painting was clear molten liquid, with a dried half of daffodil in the midst of it.

i haven’t seen it since. it has gone back to being translucent and semi opaque now, undoubtedly. the other side will still be somewhat sticky as it continues to dry as the solvent evaporates. whether it will have to be heated at all if i let it sit long enough is one of the experiments i’m doing with this painting.

i’ve sent off two of my early encaustic paintings as presents. i gave the dragon to my brother, a dragon, who lived in taiwan and taught engligh. and i gave the icon to a real monk friend of mine, and had it blessed by an orthodox priest for use as an icon. so that’s cool.

now that i’m finished with this painting, i’m going to finally get to the things that have been hanging over the chair in the picture, which is several wall hangings i’m also making as gifts. and then i have to pull out my silk table again and get started teaching myself a new trick.

my sewing room 4


i’m deepening the shadows. i began dilineating the chair, which i’d been avoiding up until now, just like i’m still avoiding the dresser in the foreground. but i’ve done a lot with grays, unfortunately the shortcut taken (black plus white rather than blue red and yellow).

i can see that the whole thing is rather tilted beyond the distortion of the digital lens of my fuji coolpix, which is the low end of digital cameras. never mind that, i wish the sound recording part of my digital camera still worked so that i could put sound on my youtube videos of my grandson.

i’m very bothered by one detail of badly drawn perspective. the top of the baseboard molding on the left is way wrong, or maybe it’s the bottom of the molding. and i still think the lines fo the dresser drawers on the right could use a better eye.

i’ll turn the painting upside down and look at the lines from that angle, and i’ll be able to fix them easily that way.


i’m almost at the end now. i mixed up all the strange colors for the fabrics, bright blues, purples, scarlets. i was very frustrated, because no matter how heavily i mixed in the pigment, it was transparent, and hardly made a dent on the underlying color. only if i mixed white in would it be opaque. and that maddens me. so i’m going to have to go back over the blues and purples several times, and that means letting the wax paste dry, and that means waiting. if i go in too soon with more, i only rub up what’s underneath because of the solvent.. but i encountered that problem in oil painting. when i’d try to do too much too fast it’d just glop up. so patience. i put in the scene out the window, the lawns, the tree, the distant buildings and trees, the blue sky all of maybe 2 inches wide.

everything’s almost there. except that i have to do something to almost everything. the floor needs its lines and the shadows restated, the dresser needs to look like wood, the sewing machine needs its knobs, the material needs to look like it’s draped, the box of rolled up patterns needs to look like cardboard and craft paper, the books in the racks need colors.

of course, the real sewing room looks nothing like this. in the time since i started this picture, i have filled those top two shelves and piled things on top of the box of newsprint lower down. the cat’s sitting on the sewing table, there’s electronic junk piled up underneath on the floor, and i’ve been only waiting to finish the painting before the table and sawhorses leaning up against the wall go to be my silk table in the bedroom, and the folding screen in front of it hangs out on the porch to block the view so i can keep my bedroom door open all night for the breezes.

but i’m not quite done yet. i have to fix those angles, i have to keep laying down material colors on the chair and the blanket rack. the other room has to be finished, including can you tell that’s a painting on the far wall? and i’m not done with the view outside either. the lights need work, the sewing maching, like i said before.

i’m at the point where i’m liking this painting again. i started out being compelled to do it because of the perfect way the scene looked when i saw it suddenly, right after having actually arranged it. oooh i must do a painting – why not an encaustic? i’ve been doing still lives of my rooms for many years, bookshelves, kitchen, stove, etc. whatever looks so perfectly arranged that it’s like being in a museum. well, because of jim’s taste in renovation and decoration, i do live in a museum, and there are a dozen paintings i could do that are simply perfect little interiors begging to be painted. and jim’s encouraging that. he wants to see the bookshelf, the dresser, the pantry, the altar of love, the mummy display.

in the middle of doing the painting, i didn’t like it as much. it was in that ugly middle stage, where everything is awkward and difficult, where there are more problems to be solved than enthusiasm cells for going on. i’ve left a few paintings at that stage, and never went back to them. then threw them out so i never could. but persistence handles all those objections, and anyway finishing is what makes a painting. not the broad underpainting, but the tight expressive little dashes of highlights and rich deep darks. all those details.

but now i’m to where most of it looks like what it is, and that’s where i’m satisfied and stop working on it. because where is there to go after you’ve got it looking like itself? sign it and start on something else.

so only one more session and i’ll stop, i almost promise.

after i finish that by god i’m going to deal with the material  slung over the back of the chair, which is an unfinished wall hanging for my friend kerstin who got me a gift certificate to an art supply place, bless her heart. and when i’m done with that, the silk table goes up and i figure out how to make regular acid silk dyes from fiber-reactive mx dyes. it’s a simple formula involving salt and vinegar but it’s not widely known because… damn just get silk dye in liquid form or get the powdered acid dyes. don’t try to reinvent the wheel. you always take the hardest path from one place to another. that’s why you’re a loser.

i’ve had family members say this to me.

i like reinventing the wheel. it keeps me active. i struggle to find my own answers instead of relying on received wisdom, and really enjoy innovating when it actually works. and there’s nothing more infuriating than to tell me there’s only one way to do whatever. because there’s always another way, and if i have to find it myself i’ll do it just to show you.

my sewing room 3


getting in there with the glazes. it’s difficult to put on a glaze that’ll stick. i’m having great difficulty using brushes, because they gum up so quickly. and i can’t make fine lines when i’m dealing with something of the consistency of shaving cream. if i dilute the hell out of it and make it very heavily pigmented, perhaps that’ll work. or maybe i’ll be forced to inscribe a line and then fill it with dark. hard to say.

even building it up as much as i’ve been doing, it’s not very built up at all. nothing like the jupiter painting. because i’m using brushes instead of palette knives, i guess.

i spent some time correcting the verticals and horizontal in the right half of the painting. for the shadows i’ve been using burnt umber and ultramarine blue, and i guess i haven’t been putting enough pigment in it because the darks are really weak.


now i’ve gone and mixed up some carbon black, and put that everywhere the shadows and darks are supposed to go. it works well, but i’m suspicious of putting black in paintings. i have to when i’m dyeing fabric, because you can’t get dark colors without black, but i’m used to finding other ways to make darks when i’m using paint. but that didn’t stop me from using all the black i mixed up.

there’s not much more to go into this except for local color. i haven’t painted in any of the fabric yet, and the chair is still sketchy, but that’s because i shy away from that much persnickety detail. at this point.

i still have some fine lines to put in, and i’m frankly stumped. the next time i go back, i’ll try using way thinned super-saturated wax and pigment, and if that doesn’t work i’ll scrape out a line and fill it with dark.

and then what? this isn’t like any other encaustic painting i’ve done, mostly because it’s so thin. there’s not much actual wax on it. it’s getting to be a done picture, however, and i’ll have to stop soon.

but hey, i can completely ruin it when i take the heat lamp to it for the final fusing. it could run all over the place. we’ll find out soon.

my sewing room 2


this is slow going. mostly because i don’t know what i’m doing. i started with a pencil drawing on rabbit-skin gesso, then followed it with the local colors in watercolor. and then i started adding wax.

when i went to take the picture above i noticed that a lot of my lines were wrong. the window on the left tilts backwards, for example, and the window and door sills aren’t the same height. the corners and angles of the walls are off. things like that.

i’d been putting on transparent pigments over the underpainting, and at this point i decided i wanted to start making things more opaque. and how do you do that? add white. i have elsewhere ranted about how much i detest white as a color. so i won’t go over it here. but it’s useful for making paint opaque as well as graying out colors, so i mixed my chrome green with some white, several shades, in fact, and i put it all over the walls.

i ‘m still using a brush, and still thinning my already modified wax down to the point where i can put it on cold with a brush, and so i’ve got a lot of thinness.

but i noticed when i found some bare patches in myjupiter painting that i must have been putting the wax on pretty thin, else there couldn’t be bare patches. it seemed at the time that i was laying it on with a trowel (okay a palette knife), but maybe that was my illusion. you just can’t tell how thin or thick the wax is getting. maybe i should have weighed the painting before starting so i could tell how much wax i’d put on when i was thru. maybe i’ll do that with the next one.


i’m still noticing slanted lines. the dresser on the right, and somehow i drew in the shelf on the right tilting downwards. don’t know whether to fix it or not. it would require excising and repainting. errr.

today’s session was to put on yellow ochre and burnt sienna, and adjust the lines more. so i filled in the window on the right, where i’d scraped, and then i painted the leaning table top at a different angle so that it would tough the wall instead of burying itself behind it. i held the damn painting up in front of me to check the lines at ceiling and window, and i’m still not entirely satisfied with it. likewise the dresser and the shelf. it’s amazing how you don’t notice these things.

and that’s all i did today. it dries fast, almost as fast as tempera, but it stays tacky, sort of sticky and greasy feeling.

one interesting thing. the heat got up to 82 outside today, the warmest we’ve had it all year. and i noticed that my wax medium had separated a little. that is to say that there was a bit of orange oil floating in the wax. i stirred it up and used it as normal. but it was interesting to see it separate. that must mean that the melting point of wax mixed with orange oil is much lower than just wax alone, which melts at 147F (so i’m told). i had asked about this on the rf handmade paints forum, but i didn’t get any useful answers. maybe i can get more information at the other encaustic forum.

i guess tomorrow i’ll start in with dark glazes, or something. i’m still not sure what i’m doing, and i’ll be damned if i’ll know when to stop.

my sewing room

i’m doing an encaustic painting of my sewing area. it’s been a real mess for so long. when my ex and i went to albany to fetch my ex’s brother’s things and rescue their mom’s ex things and drove back out of a blizzard that went on for four days, i took as my payment a nice set of bookshelves-and-hutch, and another not-so-nice-but-they-tried shelves that i had resisted putting together for lo this year and a half, or so, because they used screws and our battery operated screwdriver didn’t work.

but jim found it cheaper to buy a new one with two batteries than to get new batteries for his old one, so i finally put the shelves together. and then i finally got around to sorting out the piles of sewing equipment, spare needles, lengths of ribbon, god it was a mess. and it looked so nice that i fell in love with it and decided to paint it.

jim made me some encaustic-ready boards. panels of masonite backed by glued-on strips and gessoed with rabbit skin glue. plus, a raised lip around the painting surface to protect the edges of wax that will build up on the painting. so cool.

so i’ve got i don’t know what size 18×24 or something of white panel facing me. i hate white. it’s a color begging to be defaced, and i find it hard to resist doing it. so i’m allergic to white.


 i sat down halfway down the back gallery where i have my computer at one end (here) and my sewing stuff at the other (there). i sat at the attic door with my pen and eraser and a folding table and did the drawing.

i had to change the drawing several times. i was too fascinated by the cloth on the back of the chair and made it way too big, and i made the shelves massively tall compared to the chair and sewing machine table.

erasing on a gessoed panel is a nightmare. smears and darkens any line. you have to use loads of elbow grease getting a light pencil line up. jim said: use sandpaper. cool.

so then i said okay i’ll put in a wash for the shadows, maybe several dark tones, and got out my watercolors and started in with the umber and ultramarine. then i went for black in the mix and did the deeper shadows.

then it needed some color, so i put in the pink. but still mainly the shadows. and then i colored in teh wood colors, and then i colored in the green wall, and put in the purple of the cloth and ochre for the lighter wood.


today i started in with the wax. you’ll see that picture tomorrow. i could say i did the underpainting in watercolor, and i suppose that’s what it is, because it’s a pretty complete representation of the basic local colors and tones. it deserves to be an underpainting because it turned out really crappy and i get to cover it up with the wax bit.

so today i brought up from the studio a bunch of pigments in itty bitty jars that i’m trying out so i can take them on residency. i brought the little bitty jars of pigment upstairs along with some turpentine and orange oil in a small jar with an ill-fitting lid, a few brushes, a palette knife and a jar of orange oil-softened beeswax medium. these be most of my materials for encaustic painting. that and a heat lamp.

i mixed up a quantity of white, not much really, on a glass slab measuring 3″ by about 7″. then i mixed up some chrome green and then some burnt umber and then some raw umber and that’s all i had room for on the little slab of glass.

 i used a stiff bristle brush and diluted the wax, which was “like butter” already, to something that would flow.

i don’t know why i try to thin wax down to watercolor wetness. it doesn’t handle well on any brush i’ve tried so far. it doesn’t go on evenly so you can’t wash it, you have to melt all sorts of lines out of it in order to get it smooth. i just don’t like painting with thinned wax. that’s just me.

anyway, i always (like four or five wax paintings constitutes a possible always) end up wanting to put wax on thicker than thinner. more like impasto than watercolor. but in order to get the details, at least at my skill level, means i’ve got to have manipulable paint, and that means thinner than thick.

in my last painting, jupiter, i did what the wax wanted to do. the wax wanted to flow and run and churn and glisten and do magical things.

in this painting, i’m making the wax do what i want it to do. whahahaaha. i need an evil laugh file. maybe stewie, maybe brain.

it actually looks immediately deeper once i have some wax on it. i got to the coated out with a first coat of wax paint part and now i’m going to let it dry over night.

because i’m not melting the wax and putting it on molten, i have to wait for my wax medium to harden. the orange oil has to evaporate out of it, leaving beeswax and pigment that is hard and resilient and smells of beeswax. i might not wait, and hit it with a heat lamp after a bit. in fact, i won’t wait. i’ll let it get so developed, maybe some secondary colors worked into areas, maybe restating the shadows. then melt it.

i’m not going to be melting it the way i did the jupiter painting. this is going to be bare mimimum melting, just until it gets shiny but nowhere near the point where the colors start to run. i don’t want running colors or shifting lines. this is a precise painting, and the wax…must…not…must…not…