Monday, February 15, 2010

Encaustic Art

One of the pictures Maggie showed the other night in her presentation at Bead Junction was this painting which adorns a mummy's casket from the days of Ancient Rome. It is said to date back to approx. 100 to 100 CE. Photo courtesy of the VRoma Project, which advises that "the woman's name, Isidora ("gifts of Isis"), is inscribed on the side of the wrappings, and the gold hair ornament and quantity of expensive jewelry indicate her high social standing." Maggie was inspired by the emerald and gold necklace in this image.

I was slightly shocked to see this picture in Maggie's slide show on Friday night, because I had just seen it for the first time the night before, at C1 Art Space, where I was taking a class in encaustic painting. This mummy painting is one of the earliest examples of this technique of layering paint and wax.

I really enjoyed learning the encaustic technique. We painted liquid beeswax onto a wooden board and then started adding colour (using wax mixed with oil paint), tissue paper and images cut form old magazines (the less glossy, the better for this technique, to allow the wax to saturate the paper more easily). The wax dries quickly and if you don't like what you've put on, you can either scrape it off or melt it off with a heat gun or propane torch.

Lighting up a propane torch with a flint is always a bit intimidating the first time. Luckily, I'd had some experience last year in Susan Lenart Kazmer's class at the Bead and Button Show in Milwaukee. As I was waving it across my wax creation, I kept thinking, I know I've got something at home that would generate this kind of heat in a smaller and more controllable fashion, but what is it? However, I was much too focused on the wax painting for my brain to process this request for information at the time, so it wasn't until the next day that I remembered my Blazer torch, which I use to fuse metal as taught by Kate McKinnon. Ah yes, that would work too!

Here are the two paintings I made the other night:

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