I am a mixed media artist. My artworks combine encaustic paint, encaustic printed paper, small wax objects, glass buttons, crystals, lights and jewelry.
I use encaustic paint, which is made from beeswax, dammar resin, and pigment. I melt the paint on a metal sheet, dip in a brush, apply the paint to a prepared board, and then pass a torch flame over the surface to bond this layer of wax to the underneath layer.
However, I have weeks of planning before I ever pick up that brush. It’s a struggle for me to narrow down the possible subjects of a painting to a singular. Nothing will come to mind at first, only a depressed certainty that I’ll never have another good idea. This is the creative desert, and the only path out is to visit art galleries and museums, read books, and spend time in nature.
My large mixed media works take six months to complete, so I look for a subject that can hold my interest and reflect my feelings and current struggles. If I can’t feel it, future viewers of my painting won’t feel anything either. A painting is a success for me if it connects with people through our shared humanity.
Once I’ve found a story to tell, I pull out a sketchbook and create fifty or so small 2”x2” pencil sketches. One of these sketches will eventually inspire me and then I do color studies on top of the sketch.
Finally, I paint a 12”x12” panel as a study for the large work and plan out any three dimensional elements.
Now I am ready to prepare my birch wood panels with an encaustic gesso, three layers of beeswax, and heat. I transfer the line drawings of my design to the surface of the work. Finally, it’s time to pick up the brush and begin painting.
From there, I keep painting and correcting. The original design never works when scaled up to 5’x5’, so now is the time to experiment, try new color choices and refine my ideas. Some days will be long and discouraging, but all artists seem to have these days. We ride them out with the knowledge that tomorrow might be the magical day when the painting pulls together and the process seems easy. I call this experience “Being in the Zone” and am grateful for every day I can spend there.
Finally the basic painting is done and I can I add my three dimensional elements and lights. I have bags of crystals, boxes of yard sale jewelry, and a giant box of lights to inspire me.
When the front surface is complete, I work on the back of the painting, a surprisingly complex part of the process.
Finally, I spent a week building a box. The painting needs to be stored or shipped, and boxes for 5’x5’ paintings don’t come off the shelf.
And then I do it all again.