It’s amazing how many emotional highs and lows can be attributed to one small painting. There are lulls that need to be lulls — quiet work sessions when it should be about building form or depth. That can be a whole day or two of quiet development which feels scary — is the painting sliding into nothingness?
Then there are days when it’s time to make something POP. I”m looking for the Bam and I want to direct the eye in certain directions. It’s tricky in a different way - I need emphasis without pushing the point too hard.
The trick is knowing when to do each and with encaustic, I’m making those decisions with depth in mind. I can’t adjust the background or deepest elements of the painting when I’m on the 20th layer of beeswax. The time is always now.
The balance between focus and out of focus - in terms of my thought process - is what holds the painting in well, balance.
This is the fourth in this series - I think by the fourteenth I might get the hang of the botanical thing. Unfortunately, there will only be time for one more MAYBE before I deliver my work to Blue Spiral. These pieces have a longer “lost in the wilderness” feeling for me — I start with a purpose and I get very lost….and then pop out into the sunshine, either mildly satisfied with the trip or just relieved to be out!
And that’s painting. People say “it’s so nice that you can do something you enjoy”. That’s actually very condescending. It isn’t all enjoyable, as strange as that may seem.
I set this one aside today, knowing it has some weak spots. I needed to step away and add the final elements thoughtfully. I left it for a couple of hours and came back to see some immediate additions. Tonight, I can see another distracting area that I want to address. I’m sure that adjustment will lead to another.
While I was letting this one perk, I began another small botanical I hope to have this warm background peeking through foliage as this one develops.
My simple plan on tissue paper is really about courage. It gets me started and past the jitters. As with watercolor, the first decisions are the most important. They set the tone of the piece and determine the palette. Also, I can’t go back and correct or improve on those first layers. They are what they are and later I don’t want to wish more or less was done.
With this piece, I finished using my original cartoon yesterday and have been building on what is there. I’ll continue now, one leaf at a time - adjusting, trying to send the eye one direction or the other, thinking warm and cool.
And at some point, it will be what it is.
I deal with something different in encaustic - dead color. As I work with pigmented wax, I return scraped wax back to the palette. Eventually, I have pans filled with unintentional color. Scrapings might have two of three colors pulled from the encaustic, leading to a pan of blah color.
I don’t have any use for a neutral gray or boring brown. I want every color in my piece to definitely be warm or cool - every color counts. Even the secondary colors who aren’t center stage should still be RIGHT. AS I see it, I have a 12” x 18” space on which to make my statement. Every space (and color) matters.
I use the dead color to tone down other pigments - it comes in handy - but generally, I can’t use it up as quickly as I create it. Today, I had a brainstorm and used it for the mortar in this architectural piece. It might work…
I think of it as energy - high or low - but really, it’s about momentum. There are days when one thought leads directly to another. Even the brush handles are turned the right way. I almost can hear one click connect to the next as I work — and I have the deceptive feeling that I know what I’m doing!
Other days, I can’t even tear a paper towel off the roll without knocking something off the shelf and startling whoever is sleeping at my feet. I drop my razor blade in the wax, I sling medium on the cat, when the phone rings my waxy fingers stick to the keypad….you get the picture.
None of it is luck or bad energy. It’s momentum and I love when I have it. When I don’t, I remember that I’ve had it before and hang on tight.
Because it always comes back.
I took a quick photo at the end of the day so I could ponder it tonight. I see a thing or two that I want to do before the final layer of wax. And then I can see a couple of details to add. I like this one. Something about it is restful to me. I love to crouch by the tracks and hear a train pass by….maybe that’s why.
Some days I sit down in my chair, get the kitten settled, open a Diet Mountain Dew….and the phone rings. Or I realize I’m out of medium. Or the dogs lose their mind and I have to referee. Some days are “jumpy”. I’m jumping out of my chair (and concentration) every 20 minutes.
Today was like that and at the end of the day, I had a suspicion that I was off track. I shot a photo as I left so I could think about it tonight.
I’m not sure what to think about this piece. I can’t judge it at this point…I fully intend to have a calmer day tomorrow. I need to lose myself in the wax tomorrow.
Today was magic. I walked in determined to settle in to a solid work day - and that is exactly what happened. With Pandora R&B on the radio, I began at 10am and when I looked up, it was 4pm. A new drawing was on one table and a new encaustic well underway on the other. How did that happen? I took a break and went back to work at 4:45 and had to drag myself away at 6:30pm
It took me till 10pm tonight to figure it out. There was a downpour outside today. No walkers along Oakwood Avenue, going to buy cigarettes or beer. No bored kids on bikes on Virginia. No workman pulling in to the neighboring businesses. Consequently, my dogs were relaxed and quiet. Misty, the old terrier, had no one to protect me from and no one to aim her shrill bark at. The other three dogs were allowed to sleep without her constant interruptions.
My magic was as simple as that. The studio was still and I worked without distraction. Keeping Misty quiet is the key to a very productive and peaceful day. I can’t decide if that is a simple solution or a very complicated one.
I tried this composition about a year ago in a square format. I did okay with it, the first time around, but I missed the mark — it was a bust but I got close. I decided to try it again and this time, I’m happy with it. I hope a year from now, I’ll be even more effective in encaustic. An exercise like this reassures me that I’m always learning. Moving forward is the only way to go.
Every painting waits for the punch. For me, it’s the element that holds everything together or possibly made me want to do the piece to begin with. The punch can be as obvious a the yellow striped foreground here or just a dash of blue somewhere that repeats another dash….and makes the painting work. I guess punch is defined many ways but it’s the zinger that makes everything click.
Little Woot napped in my lap while I worked, fearless of the heat and dripping wax. He made the day a good one :). Thanks, Woot.
As I began this painting today, it crossed my mind that this couldn’t get more beautiful than this. I was scraping back the first layer of wax, all the way to the board below, to begin building color. I build the painting with reclaimed wax that is usually a dull brown or green. It’s clean wax that I’ve put through several layers of cheesecloth but there is color in it from past paintings. Some moments are like this. The materials, patterns, and joy of painting. It was simply a beautiful moment.
Violet left me today :). Her potential forever mom came to visit her and whisked her away. With any luck, Violet has a home of her own now. I’ll miss looking over at the radio and seeing her staring back at me. I’m sure Carm will fill the void tomorrow. Whenever a kitten leaves she comes swaying into my work room and aggravates me for a few hours. She loves me in her own vicious kind of way.
I go through an awful lot of these. Who knew that I’d get so excited over a new straight edge razor blade. I work with a blade until the edge is dull and sticky - when I start cleaning it with a paper towel, I know there are only a few swipes left in it.
When I peel the cardboard wrap off a new razor blade I feel renewed energy. My attention may have wavered and and my focus dulled but a new blade will cause me to sit up straighter in my chair and clear my thoughts.
In an eight hour day of working alone, I create hills and valleys to my day. Popping the top on a cold Diet Mountain Dew, unwrapping a new razor blade, cranking up Pandora for an afternoon of music…just a few of the things that put some snap back in the day.
Hi Lionel, you need to come by the studio some time so I can show you what I do….and thanks for all YOU do for our animals. Truly, you are welcome any time :)