Process

About Ruth's encaustic process:

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.

Ruth began working in encaustic in 2009 and developed her encaustic process during a 3-year intensive studio practice and study of the medium.  She uses the best materials available; recent innovations in these materials have allowed her 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 Ruth’s sea and nature themes.

Ruth’s process involves heating pigment-embedded wax on a hot palette.  As soon as her 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, Ruth has laid more than a hundred layers and has fused each with either a high-heat air gun or a small iron.  This is a labor intensive, messy, hot, uncomfortable process that relies on Ruth’s ability to “go with the flow” and manipulate the materials to her end.  She works on a flat easel, standing, and uses gravity as well as brushes and palate knives to help move the paint.

Traditionally, encaustic paintings are made with beeswax paints on small, hard surfaces.  Ruth uses a combination of waxes and oil paint pigments, including a small amount of beeswax.  Ruth mixes almost all of her paints herself, stretchs all her own canvases, and does the framing as well.  Ruth’s encaustic paintings are easily cared for by dusting with a clean, dry, cotton cloth.

About Ruth’s experimental oil process:

Helen Frankenthaler made up the technique Ruth uses in her Horizon Series, non-traditional oil paintings depicting the horizon at sunrise, midday and sunset.  In the 1950s, Frankenthaler poured on untreated canvas with diluted paint.  Morris Louis knew her and openly stole.  Louis poured vivid color very precisely; Frankenthaler let it happen. Ruth does a bit of both, but ultimately, her work is nothing like the work of the great Frankenthaler and Louis.  Her paintings  are layered, built upon, while their work presents color “fields” and separate strips of pure color.  And Ruth’s work is not as purely abstract.  It’s also messier.

Ruth sets up an outdoor studio to work on her poured oil paintings.  There, She has the room to toss the large canvases around and the freedom to allow the paint to run and splatter. She has the trees to hold the drying paintings like easels and the slope of the ground and gravity to replace the brush by pulling the paint where it needs to go.

Part of the fun (and frustration) of doing these paintings is that they finish themselves after Ruth walks away from their canvases.  Before drying, the paint continues to migrate; shapes and colors change.