I am a painter and sculptor and have a studio beside a beautiful lake. For the past 40 years, I designed and built puppets, masks and sculptures and had solo exhibitions of these works. In 2013, I went back to painting and started working in encaustic. I am interested in issues of identity in terms of weavings as coverings to protect or to hide. The intersecting lines that I create over landscapes create an internal conversation versus the external between nature vs. nurture. Or how actual or psychological barriers erected in an environment can disrupt a cherished place. My engagement with woven structures speak to complex dialogues between identity and psychological barriers.
My second passion is teaching. I try to encompass more than teaching my students art techniques. I encourage students to, not only learn the language of art, but to also engage in critiquing art. Additionally, we continually explore ways to enhance one's voice through art in relation to contemporary and historical issues.
Encaustic adventures is a blog where not only processes and techniques are taught, but hopefully this sites will engage in a dialogue about the making of art, notions of voice, identity, themes, and ways to establish a body of work within an historical contexts.
As I am getting older I see that I am having a hard time carrying large panels around the studio and moving many paintings that are so heavy to galleries. I have only been using wooden panels but want to paint larger than 24″ X 24″ and decided that there has to be another way to paint in encaustic and use raw canvas for my paintings. Many artists have warned me not to work on canvas because the wax surface could crack if a painting did not have a solid backing. After doing a lot of research, I have witnessed artists such as Tony Scherman, Lora Murphy, Paco Benitez and Leslie Newmann, to name a few, paint with pigmented beeswax on canvas. Some like Sherman and Murphy paint directly on canvas stapled around wooden stretcher frames. Murphy uses beeswax and mycrocrystalline. I have talked to Lora Murphy and she says that she has had no trouble with her paintings cracking. Leslie Newman paints her larger paintings on hard core foam panels. She paints layer of encaustic gesso on the surface of her panels before beginning to paint in encaustic. Additionally, I watched a YouTube demonstration on the restoration of an Ansel Kiefer painting. Kiefer’s painting, made with different materials on canvas, had become unstable so the conservationist at the museum added the foam panels. It was the firmness of the foam that stabilized Kiefer’s painting.
So, over the past two months I have been experimenting by adding 1/2″ foam paper backings behind raw canvas and then stretching the canvas around the top layer of the foam and stapling to a wooden stretcher and it works. My paintings are light and have a solid surface to work on. The following are the steps of my experiment.
Picture 1: I bought a wooden canvas stretcher, two sides and two bottoms, that are 20″ X 24″. I then bought two foam panels and butted them together and glued them to the edges of the wooden stretcher bars and taped them together.
Picture 2 is the side view of the foam panel on the stretchers.
Picture 3: The back of the panel. As you can see, the foam panel is in the front of the stretcher bars and I glued only the foam panel to the wooden stretcher and stapled the canvas to the back.
Picture 4: I bought raw canvas and pulled the canvas around the panel and the wooden stretcher. I then stapled the canvas at the back of the panel. As you can see in this picture the canvas was not that flat on the front but after painting encaustic gesso onto the surface it flattened the surface totally down after it dried.
Picture 5: Painted the surface with encaustic gesso and it became completely flat against the panel.
The following are the completed painting steps.
Picture 1 the painted background. I use a heat gun to fuse the surface but fuse lightly. Once the layers are established, I can fuse a bit more rigorously. I do wear a mask when I fuse just incase there are fumes coming from the panels. I have not experienced any foam smell because there is a thick canvas barrier and a paper covering between the wax surface and the foam surface.
Painting 2 the background fused, finished and ready to add the lines.
Painting completed. 20″ x 24″
Here is the second one, 20″ X 24,” that I did also on raw canvas wrapped around a foam panel and a wooden stretcher.
Here is the 3rd one, 18″ X 24″, on a raw canvas stapled around a foam panel and stretcher bars.
To conclude, I love the lightness of these paintings. I can scrape down the surface in the same way as I scraped the wax surface down on a wooden panel. I can frame them in floater frames. When I paint on raw canvas and foam panels I will make sure that the foam is archival and has a permanency that will last for many years. Also, one can use a thick cardboard panel and paint in the same way as with the foam. Many possibilities to experiment with.
My studio sits beside a beautiful lake and the sunsets and sunrises on the lake are amazing. Every day I feel blessed when I see the sky constantly changing, the reflections in the lake go from bright oranges to midnight blues, and the leaves in the fall pop to reds and oranges. I can understand why artists in the Group of Seven were drawn to the landscapes around Algonquin Park. I, on the other hand, have a love – hate relationship with painting landscapes. I have tried painting realistically. Six years ago I did a few paintings of water plants by the shores of the lake. Below are examples.
I had positive reviews but did not see my future as a realistic landscape painter. I have always been drawn to the non-representational and have predominately painted in that style. Yet, every now and then, when I need a break from the Interlaced series, I try to paint realistic lake views. And, every time the landscape is finished I disrupt the pretty realism by painting my woven structure over it. I can’t leave that painting as a realisitc landscape.
While staying in Florida, for the month of January (2017), I went to an art store to buy myself a few tubes of watercolour paint, paper, some sewing needles and yarn. Utilizing the idea of barriers, since I was so against Trump’s idea of building a wall along the Mexican and USA border, I created these small watercolour paintings and used my needle and thread and wove a weaving on top of the landscape. When I got home I put them away.
Every month I take a few days off from the series that I am working on and shift my thoughts to experimenting on other ideas. On one of those days I decided to take a photograph from the edge of our lake and then, in the studio, paint those reflections on the lake with the horizon line and distant hills. When it was finished I saw another pretty landscape which I just could not relate to. The image of my weaving materialized and I added a woven overlay on top of the blue water and fused it. This time, by accident, I over fused the lines so the wax melted and created lacy lines over the water. It felt like I had added a warm woven blanket onto the surface and then it sank in some parts and raised to the surface in other areas. I just loved the affect. Then, I remembered the watercolour painting that I did of the barrier in Florida and began adding a fence on the horizon line. As I was painting the fence it reminded me of a lines of trees so I shifted the fence to trees with spaces in between. I included colours of reds and yellows peaking through those trees. It became a tree fence blocking the views beyond the horizon line.
I was so excited with that landscape because it was still realistic yet it was also an abstraction – it had a twist when I fused the water and added the running tree fence. Below is the first painting in the series.
My intent of using barriers or coverings was still in that first painting and became the catalyst for the next series. I continued to paint three more variations focusing on lake views from the water’s edge and included a running tree fence blocking the views.
In 2013 I retired from the art department at California State University in Sacramento. During the 13 years that I worked in California I made art, had two solo exhibitions and exhibited in gallery group shows but teaching was my priority. When I retired in 2013 I moved back to Canada and set up a studio and now work full-time as a painter. I gave up sculpture to embrace Encaustic. I am new to this small community in Northern Ontario. There are very few galleries and most focus on exhibiting artists who paint realistically. So, in order to survive here as an artist, I decided to set goals for myself. In this blog I share those goals
Goal #1 Just practice the craft of using molten wax as a painting medium as well as focus on one theme. Over that last four years I have been practicing this medium almost everyday. My goal is to perfect my technique of painting woven lines. I have always been fascinated by artists using textiles and did create art quilts for a few year, so instead of using a loom to weave textiles, I began using the painted line to weave intricate woven coverings over background abstracted landscapes. In “Darning Memories” I took inspiration from contemporary artists working with textiles. Instead of using a loom, fabric, needle and thread I use the painted lines to mimic threads so weave hundreds of intersecting lines into contemporary woven structures. While immersing myself in painting I think about whether barriers act to protect or keep us isolated? Do coverings keep us warm, safe, hidden or become suffocating? The goal for my paintings evolved into a complex dialogue surrounding identity in relation to physical and psychological barriers.
Goal #2 build a website and show my paintings on social media platforms. I designed my Weebly website (www.annawagnerott.com) and published it, started this blog (Encaustic Adventures), opened up a Facebook page, joined Pinterest, Instagram, etc.
Goal #3 apply to group and juried shows. In 2016 and 2017 I participated in the Art Fair at the International Encaustic Conference in Provincetown. At the Art Fair I met Adam and Mariam Peck. www.adampeck.com They invited me to participate in the Black Tie (Optional) group show at their Adam Peck Gallery, June of 2017.
During that same time one of my paintings was accepted into a juried show at the Kobalt Gallery in Provincetown, June, 2017,
and at the Juried exhibition at the Morpho Gallery in Chicago. The following painting was accepted.
Goal #4 participate in the local Madawaska Valley Studio Tour as well as apply to the Juried exhibition in the Trinity Gallery at the Shenkman Centre in Ottawa. I wanted to open my studio to the public so that I could meet individuals and share my work and processes. I great way to get feedback and also sell a few paintings. My painting was accepted into the AOE arts council members’ show and I was delighted to receive the Juror’s Choice Award.
Goal #4, Apply to the AOE Arts Council gallery for a Solo Exhibition. I have submitted all of the materials requested and am waiting for the results.
Goals are so important. My suggestion is to start with small goals, like applying for a group show or participating in a juried show. Join local arts groups to meet with other artists doing similar works. Participate in local art fairs and studio tour events. This is a great way to get feedback and to sell your work. Then begin writing up solo exhibition proposals. I have found that your work has to be consistent, have a theme and only focus on that theme when you are applying for a solo exhibition. The curators do not want to see a variety of different styles but want to see a focus. It takes time to develop a body of work and to accomplish your goals, but don’t give up because you will succeed if you are persistent and have a strong and consistent body of work.
Can you share your goals? What worked for you and what were your blocks in succeeding?
Many artists having exhibitions use the word Encaustic in their title such as “Encaustic Show”, “Show of Encaustic Paintings,” “Wax Art”, “Encaustic Works,” “Encaustic: Rebirth of an Ancient Medium,” “Encaustic Juried Show, 2017”, etc All of these titles focus on techniques, medium and processes used by the artists. Where are the interesting titles or themes for these shows that focus on the content of the works? In Facebook groups I see a painting posted by an artist and the title is “Encaustic on Panel? Does the painting have no title? Or I hear Encaustic Artist or Wax Artist as descriptors. Are we not artists who have something to say through our works and not just technicians using molten pigmented wax as a painting medium?
Then I hear such confusions over using Encaustic in our written and verbal conversations. Shouldn’t I say I am a painter using Encaustic as a process because I paint with pigmented beeswax and use a heat source to burn the top layer to the one below. As Ralph Mayer explains in his Artist’s Handbook in the section on Encaustic “The word encaustic comes from Greek and means to burn in, which refers to the process of fusing the paint.” Is there such a thing as Encaustic Paint? If Encaustic is a process then can it also be encaustic paint? Aren’t we using pigmented beeswax as paint on panel in the same way as an oil painter would use oil paint? And what about using encaustic(s) plural? Do artists use many encaustics? When I hear an artist say that he or she uses encaustic on panel, I assume that the painter is using a specific process such as a heat source to liquify the wax and a heat gun or torch to burn in each layer of wax. When I hear a photographer using beeswax over their photographs and calling their work Encaustic I question whether they are layering coloured beeswax and fusing with a heat source. Can they call their works encaustic if they are adding a final layer of beeswax as a covering to alter the photograph?
Encaustic as a process has been around since the 5th century B.C. In the 1st-2nd century A.D the Greeks and then the Egyptians used Encaustic to paint their Fayum funeral portraits. In the 20th century Jasper Johns, Brice Marden, Martin Kline, Linda Benglis, Michael David, and Joanne Mattera have painted or are still painting with pigmented wax. When they talk or write about their work they did/do not focus on the medium. They talk about the intent for their works in relation to the ways they use the elements and principles of design. When I went to Michael David’s talk at the International Encaustic Conference I left knowing more about the artists’ ideas and why they used Encaustic as their process. But I was not given a talk on techniques and processes or ways to use wax. As a community of artists, painters, sculptors, printmakers, photographers, etc. shouldn’t we first focus on the intent of the work and then the techniques and materials and not be driven only by wax?
I would love to hear your views so please leave comments.
I have used PhotoShop Elements together with Procreate and they are very easy to use. I am particularly fond of Procreate because the application is more intuitive for artists, whereas PhotoShop Elements has a steeper learning curve. I use Procreate when I am working on a painting and get stuck not knowing which direction to take. I paint with molten wax and, when the surface hardens, it is difficult to make changes. Trying a variety of ideas out on Procreate and not on the surface of my painting is much easier. In this blog I take you through the basic steps of using Procreate and then in future blogs show how to shift between PhotoShop Elements and Procreate. I also will create some videos lessons on how to use Procreate and you can also follow those as well.
Beginning with an Art Work STEP 1
The first thing I do is take a photo of my artwork with my iPhone, camera or iPad.
Ok, here is the photo of the artwork that I took with my iPad. I did this small painting in oil and cold wax and wanted to use it as a idea for a painting in encaustic. Making revisions in Procreate before creating a larger painting in Encaustic is so simple to do.
First step is to import my photo into Procreate. Open Procreate first. (NOTE: you will have a blank black page with no images.) When you look at the screen of Procreate you will see a small Cross in the upper right side
Click on that small cross. Another small screen will open up below that white small cross on the top right side which has Create at the top.
On your screen you will only see Screen Size, New Canvas and Import. Go to Import and click on it. Your photo file folder will appear so I just click All Photos and then all of my Photos will appear, like on the top right image below. Then click on the photo that you want to work on, I clicked on the one I wanted (bottom right) and then that photo automatically came into Procreate.
So Now I have my photo on my screen in Procreate.
Editing Tools: Sketching and Brushes Step 2
Click on your painting that you want to revise. The painting will fill the screen. (Note: you can pinch the painting on the screen with your fingers to make the image smaller or larger.) Now, in the top right side you see a row of tools that you can work with. I will go through each one. From the left to right, the first tool is the sketching/painting tools, the figure tool is the smudging tool, the eraser icon erases, and the double paper is the layering tool, and the green dot selects colours. On the right side, down the side of the painting, are two small white squares and sliding each square up and down will change your brush sizes and the transparencies. So, if you push the top square slider up you will get wider brushes and sketching marks and if you push it down you will get narrower marks. The bottom small square is the transparency slider so up is more opaque and down is more transparent.
Now we can begin with the basic painting and smudging techniques. Now let me start by clicking on the small brush and an icon will pop up below the tool bar area.
In the following photographs from 1 – 6 starting from the top left to the bottom right are the different types of brushes you can use. So, I can pick the first one which is the sketching tool, then the inking, painting, airbrushing, textures and abstract mark making. Just click on the tool that you want and then use that tool on your painting.
In the above photo from top right, brush picker tabs from top left – right are sketching tool, then the inking, painting, airbrushing, textures and abstract mark making.
Painting with Colours: Step 3
Once you select the tool you will be using , the next step is to select the color that you want to paint or sketch with. So, go to the top right small coloured circle, in my picture it is green and click on that. You will get the first green selection of colours in the drop down menu. Take your finger or stylus and touch the area of the larger square and you can change the colour. So, I can pick a lighter green and a darker green. Below the large green square you have a color slider bar and I can change my color selection. So, I changed it to blue, or to turquoise. I can pick any color just by moving the first slider bar to the left and right. The second slider bar is for lighter and darker colours and then the black and white one is for different tonal values. On the bottom in the small coloured square are other choices of colors. Then you have the background color in the white square on the bottom which is white.
Smudging and Eraser Tool: Step 4
You have the icon on the top tool bar that is a finger pointing to the left. It is beside the brush icon and this is your smudging tool. You can use this tool to smudge and blend colours together. The icon next to the smudge tool is the eraser. This is for erasing areas on your painting. You have to determine what the background color is so if your background is white then make sure the eraser shows white when you click on it. Also, the eraser will erase in any type of brush that you have selected. For example, if you have clicked on the sketching tool then the eraser will act like a stitching tool when you erase a section. If it is a brush, it will erase like the brush. So, make sure you have the eraser at the width, transparency or opaque style when using that tool. I will demonstrate this smudge and eraser tool on my painting after I have finished this section.
Remember, the sliding bar on the right side that is for your brush width or length, or for transparencies or opaque considerations when revising the painting. Below is a look at the bar to change your brushes when you need wide, narrow, transparent or opaque brush stokes.
OK so let’s do some revisions. I will just make some alterations on my painting using the basic tools and then you can see how it works.
NOTE: When I hold my finger or stylus anywhere on the surface of my painting I will be able to select the exact color. So, if I want the darker crimson I just touch that area with my finger and hold it there for a few seconds and that colour will pop up in my little color circle on the top right side. Then I can click on the color circle and the color swatches come up so I can choose to make the maroon darker or lighter by selecting another maroon colour. The painting below is the original.
Also, if I pinch the painting with my fingers, I can make the painting smaller or larger. So, can zoom into an area to work in that section. The following is one revision using the colors in the painting and making revisions onto the surface. I cleaned up some of the lines with the paint brush, I used the smudging tool to blend some areas. Very small changes.
Also, if I don’t like a mark that I drew I can undo every mark from the most recent mark to the first mark. I just click the undo arrow icon on the bottom of the slider shown below. I can undo the history of all of my sketching and drawing marks.
In the next few images I make more radical changes to three artworks. I have the background of my painting in the first example that I imported to Procreate. I used the painting and smudging tools, and the wide and narrow slider tool to change the width of the lines as well as used the transparency bar to add different opaque and transparent colours.
The following painting on the left I felt was too stiff so I wanted to play around with it in Procreate. Seeing what I could do by changing colors and getting rid of areas, adding lines etc. was exciting.
And finally, this is new painting that I did in Procreate. I started with a new canvas in Procreate and then just played around with brushes, smudging, transparencies, and adding different line elements to this computer image.
In the next post I will explore how to do paint a new design using the New Canvas tool/section and then show more options like changing colours to the whole painting, cutting and cropping, etc.
Every year many participants bring works to exhibit and hopefully sell. Each artist can set up his or her art display, either in the lobby or in his or her room. We begin the art tour on one side of the hotel, then after 1 1/2 hours move into the lobby and then to the other side of the hotel and continued looking for another 1 1/2 hours. It really is a way to see other works in encaustic and to discuss and share ideas. I had my display in my room and many participants droped in and commented on my work. I did get many visitors asking how I did the woven lines because my woven covering does look like I embed gauze into the wax. I assured them that I paint each and every line with a brush. The art fair is a time to sell paintings and sculptures, but, more importantly, get feedback and ideas for future works. Below is a view from the entryway.
After lunch I signed up for the talk Curatorial Thinking. Joanne Mattera gave a powerpoint presentation on the exhibitions that she had curated. She went over specific points on what to focus on when planning and hanging a juried show. The first focus she pointed out was to come up with a theme for the show and then how to select the artworks based on that theme. Joanne talked about not over placing the works on the walls but managing the show so that one piece can complement another work. That there is a conversation between the paintings and with the viewer. Joanne showed us examples from her own curated exhibitions such as focusing on the theme of “Colour” in a variety of mediums for the exhibition at the DM Contemporary in New York City in 2015. Then another show called Textility, co-curated with Mary Birmingham. The paintings were selected based on ideas and influences from textiles. That show was in the Visual Art Centre of New Jersey in 2013.
After showing us other examples of her curated exhibitions, Joanne discussed the pros and cons of being a curator. I was left thinking that curating is no an easy task. So many considerations have to be made from thinking of the venue, visiting artists’ studios or doing a lot of web surfing and deciding on the theme. When you have a venue for the exhibition, the curator has to think of the logistics of hanging the artworks, invitations, catalogues, etc. Exhausting!!! I think curating can be an amazing experience but I am not sure that I will follow the direction of becoming a curator any time soon.
The final Demo: Working on Soft Supports: Sherrie Posternak
Sherrie gave a demo on how to use soft supports like cotton quilt batting, canvas and a variety of other fabrics. These soft materials could be used as a base and the one can stitch elements onto that surface. The other method was to mount the finished fabric design onto a panel and then fuse your design onto that surface. The quilt batting has an interesting surface when wax was applied. Sherrie worked directly onto a thin plastic heat resistant baking sheet directly on the surface of the hotbox. She showed us how she layered tissue paper elements onto the surface of the waxed batting. The waxed fabric surface became the background for the layering of collaged materials. Then she discussed how to display the finished fabric mixed-media painting by using magnets, or adding grommets, sewing hangers onto the back etc. This was a fascinating demonstration.
Post Conference Workshop: Two days with Karen Freedman
I had been in love with Karen Freedman’s work for a long time. I had a stint of being a quilter for about 7 years and then found encaustic so I was drawn to Karen’s colourful designs that looked like quilt blocks. I wondered how she did those designs and kept such a sharp edge. She also had this pristine surface and amazing layering of layers over each other. I knew that I did not want to become another Karen Freedman, but I was wondering how to integrate some of her techniques into my own works. I registered for her workshop and here is my diary of the 2-days in the class.
First of all, I was so impressed with Karen sharing all her secrets, she is not afraid of having anyone appropriating her design. There can only be one Karen Freedman in the art world who does those exquisite paintings. On the first day Karen gave us step by step instructions and started showing us how she did the first layer. Well, one has to know how to build up a smooth coating of medium and then do a lot of scraping of the surface to get that smoothest layer. I made my stencil design of narrow and thin lines. Karen does very intricate designs but I kept to the simple ones. Once the first few layers of the wax medium looked like a smooth glass surface, I placed the stencils and filled each segment with pigmented wax, then scraped these down and applied another layer of medium over the whole surface. Then the fun began, scraping and scraping and then more scraping. This process of filling in a stencil, adding medium over the filled in stencils, scraping down again was repeated 4 times. I guess one has to travel in a person’s shoes to appreciated what they are going through and I traveled in Karen shoes for two days.
The workshop was amazing. Each artist taking the course did their own thing. I did not see one painting looking like a Karen Freedman’s. It was not easy. I think this painting technique is one of the hardest that I have tried, but once you get it, the rewards come forth. I did attempt to do two works and one I liked better than the other. I will take the ideas to my studio and try to integrate the background layering of shapes into my own works. Have an idea that I am dying to try. Thank you Karen, you are a shining light.
The following are pictures of the works in progress by the participants in the class.
The conference is over and I am back in Canada. I have met new friends and hung out with friends that I met at the 9th conference. We had such good conversations and the sea food was delicious. I look forward to attending the 12th International Encaustic Conference in June of 2018. Cheers and have a great year working in Encaustic.
This morning, at 9:30, I attended the Keynote address. Sharon Louden focused on the topic “Living and Sustaining a Creative Life.” Sharon is a vibrant speaker and so generous in sharing her knowledge about her creative community and how she has sustained her artistic life. Then she shared other artists’ stories such as Julie Blackmon who lives in a small community and takes photographs of her surroundings. In Julie’s artist statement she talks about investigating the struggles she encounters between her role as a mother in relation to her passion for taking photographs of human cultural interactions in the community where she lives.
In her talk Sharon explored how each artist pushed boundaries by creating their own community of like minded individuals and how this notion of “community” helped sustain their creative voices. Sharon stressed that an artist has to make the best art that he or she can, be consistent and never give up, do the research of what it is you need to sustain your practice, and never give up when one gets a rejection. “Rejection is just a difference of opinions.” And finally, be generous with your ideas, techniques, support, etc. Artists need to establish a community of like-minded individuals that you support and then they will support you. Such an inspirational talk and thank you Sharon Louden.
After this talk I arranged a Canadian gathering at lunch time. Met fabulous Canadians who love working in encaustic. A great time for networking and creating a community of liked minded artists. Thanks to all that came to our luncheon meeting,
Michael David: Encaustic Theories and Practices
The first talk that I attended after lunch was led by artist Michael David. His talk on Encaustic Theories and Practices: History of Contemporary was a passionate dialogue explaining how famous artists used encaustic because no other process could push their voices. Yes, Jasper Johns famous American flag paintings was shown along with Brice Marden, Linda Benglis, Anselm Kiefer, Joseph Cornell, and Joanne Mattera. Michael David also included images of his own works.
Michael David discussed why he chose encaustic. He stated that he could not build up the surface in the same way with any other medium. Pushing the limit of the liquid wax is his passion. Burying the painting, burning it, adding found elements and then embedding these elements into the wax is a process that calls him.
Michael David is passionate and a powerful speaker. I did not want his talk to end. In my notes I wrote these questions: “What am I doing with encaustic and why use this particular process?” “How do I manipulate the medium of wax in an unusual way to make it my own technique?” “Do I go deeply into me and to no-one else? “And how does my work reflect my life?” I have a lot to ponder over the next few months.
In the Next Post I share Sunday’s events and Monday and Tuesday’s workshop experience with Karen Freedman.