Monday, June 28, 2010

Lynn Beach Painters

Pastel by William Burpee, one of the artist members of the Lynn Beach Painters artist colony. This work is available at the Childs Gallery in Boston.
[Moonlight on Crashing Waves]
Artist:Burpee, William Partridge
American, (1846-1940)
Title:[Moonlight on Crashing Waves]
Media:Pastel on blotter
Dimensions:19 X 24 inches

This time of year in New England there is so much to do and with the 4th of July right around the corner, patriotism is everywhere. I am already anticipating and preparing for the Marblehead festival of Arts kick-off event this Friday, "Painting the Town". The last few days I have been trying to find a spot where I can paint scenes in nature that are local to the town of Marblehead but until I know what the weather is going to do, I won't be able to commit to what my art will need to do.

I was inspired this morning on my daily walk along the beach. I re-read the historical markers provided by the town all along Lynn Shore Drive. In the late 1800's and early 1900's there was an artist colony right here. These artists used to congregate, recapturing with paints on canvas impressionistic seascapes and landscapes. I decided to read about the history in more detail once I googled the Lynn Beach Painters and I am grateful to live in a part of the country with such rich, historical background. My creative process has always been inspired by the impressionists.

Walking along the beach also reminded me of the red rocks along the shoreline, and the tide pools with algae, and the wonders of nature. My plan (and the plan keeps changing daily) is to find a spot near the shoreline where I can focus on close-up detail. Friday morning all of the "plein air" painters meet for breakfast and at that point I will commit to my painting location.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oil Pastel and Encaustic, first attempt post conference

"Yamdrok-tso", 6 x 6

Today I finally moved out of the cloud in my mind and attempted to paint a small, simple landscape. It was the first time I had the knowledge and technique details used by several of the artists at the encaustic conference although I think the person who I am most inspired by is Rodney Thompson. The hardest part for me was applying the wax medium evenly and without causing it to bubble when I fused between layers. I used the iwatani torch and have definitely conquered that fear however I still feel more in control when I use the heat gun. I am sure the more I fuse with the torch the easier it will be for me. It was the first time I attempted a landscape without using an image transfer and I used more layers of wax medium than I had ever used in the past but I think it's still not enough! Learning a new medium and starting without years of skill and experience has probably been one of the most frustrating aspects of this whole thing, but I am comparing how I am feeling to when I am teaching watercolor painting to new students and I can definitely relate to them better now. My hope is to work through the summer painting encaustic landscapes in the same manner and style as watercolor; my motivation continues to be striving to attain an ethereal and mystical quality in each of my paintings.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Finding Myself

Buddha with Blossoms and haiku in red -
The printed image of the buddha was transfered into wax medium, then I added colored details to the blossoms and branches. The black with gold on top was added so the haiku could be etched. I also added the lotus below the buddha to try to tie in the red of the alter frame.

The Buddha with alter frame, below - the color is yellowed from indirect lighting.
I lost much of the detail in the painting with the alter in place so I am probably going to do another smaller version of the buddha in black and white with no color addition.

It's been a confusing week for me on a personal as well as professional level. I have been processing so many things I saw and learned at the encaustic conference last week plus I have been re-discovering my true artistic motivation and where I want to be as an art-maker and teacher. Sometimes, you can't always get what you want. In order for me to find comfort in all of this confusion, I have tried to remember basic Buddhist philosophy that has helped me in the past:

To simply be kinder to myself, as well as to others. To be compassionate, and to try to remember that if I think and live without attachment I will be happier with my present moment; here and now.

It sounds easy, but practicing and living this way is a lot harder than the words! I have been evaluating my art and questioning the level of my professionalism and how much I really know. Am I fit to be a teacher? Do I even know enough about anything to be teaching? It's the strangest self-doubt I have ever experienced and it has taken an effect on my painting desire and confidence.

A few days ago I tried to work on a project that I had planned before the conference. I had a photograph of my buddha from springtime and I wanted to incorporate the image transfer into medium with painted blossom details, then mount a piece of an antique wood alter onto the completed image transfer. My significant other (Terry) was with me when we found the antique frame and he thought it would be an interesting mixed media project for me.

Maybe it was too soon after the conference ... I had all my new encaustic paints along with accessories out on my painting table ... and I proceeded to make a horrible mess! The end result was I destroyed the painting and thought more about what was bothering me. I realized I was cluttering my art making with my mind, filled with self doubt. I talked to Terry and asked if he could write a haiku for the buddha project much like what we did when we created the Lotus Series several years ago. He proceeded to write:

"Moss covered Buddha
Blossoms cascading to earth
Nothing really dies"

The words brought me immediate comfort and peacefulness and this morning I was able to complete the project and move forward.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mixed Media Workshop

Yesterday in Barbara Moody's mixed media workshop we received her entire lesson plan booklet that outlined the way she teaches her semester long mixed media course and she made it clear to me that mixed media painting really has limitless potential. After she reviewed (briefly) all the different mediums she introduces to her students, she demonstrated special effects used with wax - incising, powdered pigments, direct drawing, transfer drawing, and collage techniques to name a few. We were then let loose to use an array of mediums and tools that were set up all around the studio. The class was a combination of experienced encaustic artists as well as beginners (yours truly being a newbie) and I found for me, the process of learning was way better than my end results.

Barbara had a slide presentation after our lunch break which allowed us to see some incredible artworks done by mixed media artists.

Below, my work (still in progress) using a napkin pattern and joint tape (my new favorite thing) fused into layers of wax medium. I may add a layer of circular shapes with pastel transfers, creating another layer of depth. I just have to remind myself of my ongoing battle that "less is more". I need to practice transferring drawings into encaustic medium because that is what I will want to do when I am ready to start a landscape painting.

This was my attempt to understand abstraction by contrasting the black, textured collage on the right with the lighter, simpler piece on the left. Barbara helped me to see that by showing a dichotomy between the 2 pieces there was more interest (contrast/comparison). I used fused wax medium, then added tar and shellac. I LOVED playing with the thick textures of the tar.
Post conference workshops are over now and I can't believe how much I learned, it really is overwhelming. I am anxious to get started with new creations but today I am volunteering at the Salem Art Association and the Farmer's Market opens @ 3pm so it should be very busy.

The conference was a wonderful way to kick off a summer season filled with art events and shows. The next painting event for me is the day of "plein air" painting, a 1 day event that is part of the Marblehead Festival of Arts. I am not experienced enough to take the encaustics outdoors so I will stick with my watercolors, but next year who knows! I have a watercolor in the juried painting exhibit, and this year I submitted and was accepted into the photography exhibit. If you are local you really should make a point of participating in some of the festival activities. There is something to see for everyone and every age.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Color Mixing Workshop

Primary encaustic colors used for our color wheels:

Joanne Loves This Red!
Montserrat Magenta
French Ultramarine
Yellow Orchre

The color mixing workshop was a combination of history, chemistry, geology, and even tiny bits of math (simple fractions) as Hylla Evans explained the origins of color. We made our own color charts which allowed us a first hand understanding of how to mix colors. She explained how the first pigments came from the earth, the colors used by classical painters. As minerals were discovered in the earth, the pigments for the traditional impressionist painters were formed, followed by the industrial revolution which lead to modern paint colors, and then ultra modern (colors that are so intense they respond unlike any other previous color and they are off the color chart!) We also learned about intensity, tints and mixing with white.

Here I am, early in the color mixing process

Hylla (left) checking on us as we create our color wheels

Hylla's tint chart using Irgazine blue, a post modern color

Primary colors on my chart (the green is not quite right - it shouldn't be sitting in the yellow wedge), I haven't mixed my violets and reds yet.

R red
O orange
Y yellow
G green
B blue
I indigo
V violet

Monday, June 14, 2010

New Day, New Outlook

In addition to the keynote speaker on the opening night, as well as talks and demos throughout the weekend, the conference made available for sale many of the tools used with encaustic painting. "How to" videos, pigmented wax with rich, lush colors, and the Iwatani torch were highlights for me.

After a sleepless night I decided to change my blog's look this morning. I tossed and turned and tried to remember all of the things I took in at the conference and one of the easiest changes for me to address was a different, softer internet presence. Miles Conrad gave a talk on presenting to a gallery, something I also teach to art students. His talk re-assured me that I have been covering all of the important details an artist needs to have in a portfolio however a small change I decided to make was to use a white background on my blog site. He said for him, having a black background could distract his viewing of art images and that having a white background was the least distracting and closest to the way an art piece would be viewed in a gallery. It's a simple detail that may just be a personal preference but I decided to see how I like it on my blog before I go ahead and have my web designer change the background on my website.

Time to get ready for the all day workshop.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


The conference ended this afternoon, but I still have a post conference workshop on color mixing tomorrow, and another workshop on Wednesday. Today I left the conference confused and overwhelmed and unsure of what I am suppose to be doing with the wonderfully lush and alive encaustic medium. I looked around the "Best Foot Forward" show and as amazed as I was at all the different ways artists are using the encaustic paints, I felt a disconnect from the abstractions. Why didn't I feel emotion?

One of the talks I went to over the weekend was on imagery and it's meaning in art expressions and it made me start thinking my art was too simple and direct. My motivation in art expression is to paint a scene in nature, a place that will allow you feelings of serenity and balance. It's so simple, that is what I am inspired to do. I question if that is "deep" enough. Instead of dwelling on this, I will need to shift my focus to learning more about how to use the medium in ways that will let me do what I want to do when I start my next painting.

The biggest lesson learned (so far) is that I need to use a ground, or gesso, so that the wood board is white and light initially, and from there I will work on building depth in wax layers, and applying color with not just encaustic paint but using oil pastels, crayons, and even charcoal or pencil . I purchased something called "Holy Grail" from Evans Encaustics and I can hardly wait to do my next painting starting with a white, primed, birch cradled board.

Another talk I went to was probably the highlight of the entire conference for me. The theme was called "Wax Fetish" which threw me for a loop but it ended up being the talk that inspired me the most. Laura Tyler, producer of the movie "Sister Bee" was able to articulate the thing that has captivated me most about encaustics and painting with beeswax. She explained it as bringing the life and light of the bees and all of our existence into our art expressions by using the beeswax (encaustic) as a medium. It made me feel like I could understand better how being alive and our desire to create art using beeswax was an expression and transference of light. She explained it much better than this, and I am still sitting here trying to process it all. I probably shouldn't even be blogging so soon after the conference because there is too much jumbling my brain right now. Tomorrow will be the color mixing workshop with Hylla Evans, and I will enjoy the opportunity to be student for a day.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


"Best Foot Forward", open show to all conference attendees

Day 2 of the encaustic conference, and I am exhausted! I have finally been able to see, learn, and understand so many of the things that during the past year challenged me. One of the very first paintings that caught my attention in the "Best Foot Forward" show was done by Rodney Thompson. His landscape paintings have the luminous qualities that I will strive to achieve and understanding. His process (the way he shared and described it) made everything finally make sense to me. I hope to practice so many of the new things I have learned after I have had time to sit with it all. I still have 1 more day of the conference and 2 post conference workshops. This conference has been a wonderful collaboration and gathering of wonderful artists and I am so fortunate to be a part of it all.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

small is all I can do (for now)

"A New Pathway" 3.5 x 2.5

"Spring Pond II" 2.5 x 3.5

I have been waiting a year, literally, to attend the National Encaustic Conference; Friday afternoon is the kickoff. Last year I could only attend a post-conference workshop and it turned into the beginning of what became a year long obsession, learning how to paint and use beeswax in conjunction with all the things I already knew from my years of watercolor painting. It has been a challenge, to say the least, to "self teach" and I can hardly wait to be surrounded by other people as curious and as intrigued with the medium as I am.

Fortunately, I am only letting myself work on small projects this week and I was able to enjoy finishing the 3.5 x 2.5 image transfers today. I will be floating and mounting these in 6 x 6 shadowbox frames and the presentation really allows these small works to stand out. Slowly but surely, I am adding more new encaustic work to my portfolio, and less new watercolor work. Hmmmmmmmmmm!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Time to Breathe

One of my small upcoming projects is to use a photograph I took (one of my buddhas during the spring when the trees were blossoming) for an encaustic image transfer, then place it behind a detailed frame. The antique wood is 14 x 6 and was once part of a temple (so I was told). I will add pigmented wax for highlighted details in the image, then carefully mount the wood on the completed painting.

Another small project I have planned is using more of my photographs from the pathway series for 3.5 x 2.5 encaustic image transfers in artist trading card size. Once the images are transfered into the wax I add colored wax for highlights and more details.

It's a strange feeling to not have the next book to read, or paper to write, because graduate school is now behind me. I have spent time thinking about my future and am waiting to hear on several teaching opportunities but for now I have to just sit. In the meantime, I am organizing at home; I just moved out from a studio rental and now have everything in one place. I have time this summer to build up my inventory for my next Paradise City show which is not until Columbus Day weekend and I am looking forward to the National Encaustic Conference next weekend, followed by 2 post conference workshops.

This Saturday I am jurying a mixed media show for a summer arts festival over 4th of July weekend and I am also participating in the day of plein air painting event on July 2, as well as waiting to hear if my piece was accepted to the painting exhibit.

Time to breathe...

The smaller art projects will be quick and manageable which is probably why I haven't gotten into them yet. I know it's time for me to take advantage of this quiet time and hopefully I will have a productive summer.