Yesterday I stepped outside my artistic comfort zone.
I purchased a painting voucher from Living Social a couple of months ago. After that I didn’t think much else about it until yesterday. Before the class started my friend and I briefly discussed what kind of painting it might be…watercolor, oils, acrylics. It didn’t take long for us to realize we had no idea what we were getting into. A couple people mentioned encaustic and we just looked at each other quizzically. After introductions, I asked the instructor to explain what kind of painting we’d be doing since obviously I had not read all of the details before I purchased the voucher (by the way…it never hurts to go into something without knowing the details…it’s more adventurous).
Encaustic painting is also referred to as hot wax painting. The instructor mentioned that it dates back to 70AD and even pre-dates most other forms of traditional painting. She told us about some funeral portraits that are hanging at the MET in New York City. They apparently look as good today as they did when they were originally created. If taken care of they don’t dull or fade and the colors are very vibrant. I found information on Wikipedia that shows a couple of examples.
The examples are amazingly beautiful…mine…well it’s an encaustic painting. The ability to create a detailed portrait must take years. A simple piece of encaustic art is a lot of fun to do. My goal in taking this class was to free myself from my analytical brain and to try something new. It was a huge success…I didn’t think of work once in the two hours I was there.
It was such a pleasure to take this class from an enthusiastic and patient instructor…Stephanie Hargrave. Because of the Living Social deal Stephanie had to fit a lot into the two hour session…history, safety, etc. Yet we still had plenty of time to finish a piece of art.
Encaustic painting has to start with a porous and rigid surface. We used pieces of thin wood, but Stephanie explained to us that other surfaces work too…even clay. First a layer of wax is added. This first layer is typically clear, but can be tinted as well. After the application of the melted wax let it cool for a few seconds/minute and then use a propane torch to warm the wax so that it adheres to the board. Each subsequent layer is done the same way…apply wax, heat to adhere to the layer beneath it, repeat. There were many tinted waxes to choose from.
After the piece is complete, it needs to cool completely and then a t-shirt material can be used to buff it.
In her full classes, Stephanie goes through the process of mixing the wax and adding tints. Beeswax is mixed with one other product (I don’t remember the name) and then dry tints are added. She said pre-tinted wax can be purchased, but it’s very expensive. She really wanted us to leave with a completed piece of art so we didn’t go over the tinting in detail
If you are interested in learning something new and interesting, I would highly recommend encaustic and Stephanie. She’s currently instructing at the Miller School of Art in the Georgetown neighborhood in Seattle.