Sunday, March 25, 2012

No Stain, No Gain

I am contemplating doing a triptych of 18" square pieces based upon this sample I did in the Asheville Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch worksop.  Last time I used a lot of propane gas burning wood to achieve a dark brown background.  My arms got tired and the wood warped with the heat so I'm trying out some alternative (and fine art friendly) stains.  We have four possibilities in the running:  walnut ink, a soy based stain, ink tinted encaustic gesso, and strongly brewed coffee. 

A 1/2 teaspoon of alum was added to the coffee after it cooled to act as a fixative.  I read about that here.  For you coffee nuts out there, I am not wasting good coffee, merely the $1.49 pre-ground, store brand stuff in the tin.  As a total tea nut, I thought I'd better put that out there.

Here's my setup in the backyard on my trusty picnic table covered in cardboard after sanding each of the four boards.
This is what the boards looked like after the first application of the stains.

Board #1 is encaustic gesso mixed with sepia ink.  I could already tell after 1 application that this wasn't going to work.  It took a lot of ink to make the gesso  anything but a pastel tint.

Board #2 is the coffee/alum mix.  Pale but pretty.

Board #3 is straight sprayable walnut ink.

Board #4 is a Delta soy based stain.

At first, the soy based stain looked like a mushroom color.  It was definitely cooler in tone than the walnut ink, which had a rich redish-brown tone.  The photo below is after two coats of stain on boards 2-4.  I made a change on board 1 since I didn't like the way the gesso and ink combination was working.  I spritzed it with a walnut ink called Java.  The ink had a speckled appearance on top of the gesso so I used a foam brush to smooth it out.

The photo below shows a third coat of the soy based stain on board #4 and a third coat of coffee on board #2.  Obviously the coffee stain isn't going to work for this particular project.  It's probably better relegated to staining paper and textiles, but it makes a pretty golden color nonetheless.  I'm impressed with the depth of color on boards #3 and #4.  I'm witholding judgement on which way I'll go until I see how they fare under wax.  Board #1 is definitely deep and dark but most of the wood grain is masked under the gesso.
Here's a sneak peak at another project.  I've been thinking about combining cyanotypes on thin paper and encaustics.  I don't have the chemicals right now so I decided to test out the theory using a small spray bottle and cyan ink.  The 6 inch square of paper on the left is mulberry and the right is lace paper.  I laid flowers and leaves down on the paper and sprayed the blue ink onto the paper.  The lace paper was much more absorbant than the mulberry which retained better edges and detail.  It's all up to what kind of look you want.
Stay tuned for next time when I finally heat up the wax again.

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