Notes on my Encaustic Process
I am an Encaustic painter; I paint with beeswax and fire. Encaustic is a natural evolving artform. One must treasure the imperfection. There will always be ripples, bubbles and marks from scraping as that is the nature of melted beeswax.
For some artists, a glass-smooth surface is the holy grail, which is nearly impossible to achieve, and what I aspire to. Other encaustic artists achieve a rough and textured surface by painting with warm beeswax that is the consistency of butter, then lightly fusing without melting. Both methods are beautiful, each in its own way. As you continue to discover this ancient medium and the methods of other gifted encaustic artists, you will see the imperfections in your encaustic painting and treasure each mark and bubble.
I endeavor to stay “true to form.” Nothing is hidden in my work. To achieve a near glass-smooth finish requires extra prep and multiple days in the studio.
I recognize the importance of the materials I use in my work and source the highest quality, all- natural materials and elements: birch wood, purified beeswax, fir tree sap called damar resin, earth pigments, and gilder’s paste wax.
Preparing the Birch Panel
The birch panels, sourced in Quebec, are made from the highest-grade birch wood. My focus on the craft of preparing the panels is key to the outcome of my finished work. It does two things: The white gesso surface creates a light reflective background that comes through the final painting, and the gesso seals the wood from leaching oil, helping to eliminate some of the “bubbles” that are inevitable.
Prepping the birch panels requires several additional days in the studio. Before the painting begins, I mask, gesso, sand, then paint clear encaustic medium – up to 3 coats – and fuse with heat. I am confident my paintings are archival. This attention to detail has become signature to my style that creates a consistent finish and feel to my work. Though this process is concealed, it makes a difference not only to me but also to the final result, and it adds to the value of the work.
Creating the Palette
Creating the palette underlies how the painting will turn out. My palette is characteristic of my artwork; it is my signature. My use of a limited and minimal palette, which is 3 to 5 colors in a painting, creates a sublime harmony that is recognizable as “peace” in my art. I am drawn to all shades of white, the neutral earth-tone colors found in nature, and the blues, greens and teals of water. Establishing the palette before I begin painting, and then not deviating from it, is especially critical for commission work.
Now it is time for me to step out of the way and let Spirit and inspiration guide me. I have an idea of what collection this work will belong to, which includes Water in Motion, A Clearing for Silence, Wash, Hikaru, Lay of the Land, and Sanctum Strata, and I have the color palette created. The wax is molten and with brush in hand, I begin.
Sides, Back and Certificate of Authenticity
Rarely does anyone talk about the back and sides of the painting. To me, it speaks to the impeccability and reverence I infuse in each work … along with the love. I finish the edges with multiple layers of Gilder’s past wax. The edges are hand rubbed with up to 5 applications of tinted wax to complement the painting. Hand rubbed paste wax reveals a luster and translucency unique to a hand-polished finish. Even with my best attempt to mask the sides so that beeswax doesn’t drip on the wood, there are always drips, even with sanding, that add to the testimony of its original creation.
I also try to keep the backs of the paintings as clean as possible, free from fingerprints and wax. To me, the clean back of the painting shows a reverence for every step of the process and a respect for your home and what you place on your walls.
Attached to the back of the painting is the signed and dated Certificate of Authenticity. Enclosed with each painting is a folio with the Certificate of Authenticity, purchase information, and other miscellany that helps create the story of your painting and serves as a reference for your files.
Thank you for letting me share my creative process in the studio with you; it is the unseen practice that creates the whole.