Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Process in Stages

"Fire and Wind"
8 x 8 encaustic on panel

The above painting was the result of three continuous days in the studio, working through personal and creative challenges, and completely changing direction. I hesitated to share the stages I went through because I am sure there will be someone who prefers one of the versions that no longer exists. Maybe if I explain the thinking behind the process you will understand what I was trying to achieve.

Starting with more than 10 layers of colored wax, I carved, etched, added colored inlay, oil pastel and used the panel as a demonstration piece.  I scraped away to expose layers of color and wanted students to see how versatile and forgiving the wax can be. When I came home I had decided the remaining color was too busy and I toned it down by adding a translucent layer of yellow. I thought if I could adhere some of the scrapings on top it would be more interesting. The only problem was, the next day when I viewed the small pieces on top they were too busy for me.

I decided to pull off the scrapings and began etching into the top layer of wax. I also added some light blue inlay although it became too chaotic again.

It was time to do some serious "erasing" by melting off several layers of the existing wax. After the surface was smooth and down to a cream color I could once again try and create something that felt "right". I added the warm colors of sunset combined with the cool colors of water. This now was a landscape waiting to happen, and I drew tree shapes. I almost stopped at this point, but it seemed too pretty and too literal.

Easy enough to add a few more layers of wax, draw in a few more organic shapes but now the warm yellow colors were missing. Plus, I was still being too literal. I have been working toward a simplified understanding of land and earth.

After adding a few more layers of cream, orange, and warmer colors I was able to find the color palette that worked for me. The piece below is an idea and a feeling - the natural elements of fire and wind recreated using color and brushstrokes rather than representational drawing.


  1. So much versatility to the encaustic work. I loved hearing your thoughts as you reworked the piece.

  2. The final outcome is beautiful, the process itself seems to be tedious for me, but I am sure, one can lose oneself during this creative time, feeling much lighter and happier, quite meditative, isn't it?

  3. I don't usually start off in one direction and completely change the outcome although this piece originated with the sole purpose of demonstrating techniques, glad you liked it Sherry.

    Sharing my creative shift was exhausting, padmaja, but one thing to take away from this post is how versatile the medium is. The process for me usually has more flow and less shifting. Yes, meditative to the maximum. Other times, my creative process is thoughtless and just pours out. Go figure.

  4. This reminds me of people--under our calm exteriors are layers and scrapings and reworks, but they remain part of us. Beautiful ending.

  5. You just defined the process and me perfectly.