Painting on Canvas instead of Wooden Panels

 

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.

IMG_3120

Picture 2 is the side view of the foam panel on the stretchers.  IMG_3121 2

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.

IMG_4053

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.

IMG_3130

Picture 5:  Painted the surface with encaustic gesso and it became completely flat against the panel.

IMG_3132 2

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.

IMG_3133 2

Painting 2 the background fused, finished and ready to add the lines.  IMG_3759

Painting completed. 20″ x 24″

IMG_3776

Here is the second one, 20″ X 24,” that I did also on raw canvas wrapped around a foam panel and a wooden stretcher.

IMG_3807

Here is the 3rd one, 18″ X 24″, on a raw canvas stapled around a foam panel and stretcher bars.

IMG_4028

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.

 

Advertisements

Taking Realism to Abstraction

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.

P1040649 copy
Shore Plants. acrylic, 30″ X 30″
Shore Plants
Shore Plants, 30″ X 30″, acrylic on canvas
PAUGH LAKE
Shore Plants, 24″ X 48″, acrylic on canvas
P1040854 copy
Shore Plants, 30″ X 30″, acrylic on canvas

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.

Incubation Period

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.

IMG_2021 2
Water colour, yarn on paper, 9″ X 12″
IMG_1995
Watercolour on paper with yarn, 9″ X 12″

Experimental Days

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.

IMG_3404 3
Standing at the Edge, encaustic on panel, 24″ X 24″

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.

IMG_3426
At the Edge #2, Encaustic on panel, 24″ X 24″
IMG_3448
At the Edge #3, encaustic on panel, 24″ X 24″
22550027_10159423193915317_129998726690117592_n
At the Edge #4, encaustic on panel, 24″ X 24″ 

 

Should Wax be our Driving Force?

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.