Encaustic on Canvas

I began working in encaustic during my second residency, which was in Breckenridge, Colorado, in June 2009. At that point I had been working in oil for several years, painting full time and showing consistently.  Based on time spent in Colorado and at the Vermont Studio Center, I decided that in order to raise the level of my creative product and tackle (and master) this tough medium, I needed to put the marketing/commercial aside and concentrate fully in the studio to develop my own encaustic process.  I think that this time, which was three full years spent in practice and dedicated artistic solitude with a singular goal, was important.

The encaustic process involves wax, pigment and heat.  Encaustic is an ancient medium dating back to 800 B.C. and later used by the Egyptians for mummy tomb portraits.  Some encaustic paintings have survived 2000 years.

Recent innovations in these materials have allowed me to experiment to paint larger, thinner and on canvas while still maintaining the primary properties of translucency and opulance that make encaustic such a rich medium for sea and nature themes. Many of my paintings are unusually large for encaustics. .Most encaustics are 24x24 or much smaller and are on board.  I have worked to produce encaustics that are innovative in technique and material use.  

My process involves heating small metal cups to large buckets of pigment-embedded wax on a hot palette.  As soon as my paint-laden brush leaves the palette, it begins to harden.  Each paint mark made on canvas has to be reheated to fuse to the canvas and to previous marks and layers.  In a medium sized canvas, I have likely laid more than a hundred layers and have fused each with either a high-heat air gun or an iron.  This is a labor intensive, messy, hot, uncomfortable process that relies an ability to “go with the flow” and manipulate the materials to my end.  I work on a flat easel, standing, and uses gravity as well as brushes and palate knives to help move the paint.

I mix most of my paints myself, stretch my canvas, and do the framing.  That all contributes to the quality and authenticity of the finished piece.  By the way, my encaustic paintings are easily cared for by dusting with a clean, dry, cotton cloth.