Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Arrowmont Workshop Week

What a handsome group!
Wow...I don't have a clue where to start.  This past February was my 40th birthday and my dear parents sprang for a week long workshop at Arrowmont in Gatlinburg, TN as my gift.  Zowee!  Even they didn't realize quite what they had purchased for me. 

The workshop was an amazing, intense, inspiring experience.  K Rhynus Cesark was our instructor.  She is one of those people with infinite patience when explaining concepts and procedures.  K was extremely generous with her knowledge and skills, and I will have more on that later.  My fellow classmates were an astonishing blend of skilled artists from varied backgrounds.  An atmosphere of camaraderie, anything-goes creativity, and problem solving quickly developed during the week.

The first thing we learned was to make our own medium and encaustic paint.  In the past, I have felt hampered by the cost of pre-made encaustic paint.  This new skill will help me move toward larger works in the future.  (Thanks to Becky Dickovitch, K's assistant, for keeping the medium cooking all week.)
Oil paint on paper towels.
K gave various demonstrations each day and then we had free time to attempt the ideas that intrigued us the most.  I was happy to have so much room to spread out.  This is the first workshop where I've had an entire table to myself.  The venting of the large room could probably have been a little better.  The air kind of condensed toward the back of the room by the end of the day.  Break taking was a necessity. 
K during one of her demonstrations.
Inspecting the drawing transfer demo pice.

K with a propane torch.

My messy workspace.

My classmates had wonderfully imaginative ideas and were pretty fearless when it came to execution.
 Leah Mayer encasing insects in wax for her bee transfer project.
Leah removing paper from her xerox transfer of a bee.

Above is Lynn Bland showcasing her amazing sense of texture and detail - and guess what?  The painting on the left came home with me as a trade!!!  Happy Dance!!!  I feel a twinge of guilt because I definitely got the better end of that deal.

LeeAnn Love is an art therapist who came to work on her own art.  There were a lot of breakthroughs during the week and it was fun watching LeeAnn arrive at hers.  Oh yeah - LeeAnn's a confirmed pyromaniac now!  Ladies, guard your propane torches...
K demo-ing a batik tool to make marks.
K took pity on me and used my rice paper/image sandwich research idea as a demo.  Below are the pictures of the suprisingly detailed process.

Becky set up a  lasagna pan of melted medium to dip and coat my rice paper image.  K used clothes pins to slowly guide the paper through the wax.

K held up the piece to allow the extra wax to drip and then laid it down on a flat surface covered in wax paper.

Out came K's favorite tool - the razor blade - to remove the extra ridge of wax.
Here's the textured surface picture already glued to it's board and coated with two coats of uneven wax by me.

K painstakingly used a heat gun and her razor blade to smooth my wax job to a glassy surface finish.  That was amazing to watch.  I really worked to be in the smooth surface wax club the rest of the week!

K even moved to the window for better light to remove any possible imperfections.
For the final step, K used wax paper on top of the wax-coated rice paper print to burnish and finally did a very careful fuse.  The rice paper wasn't quite as transparent as I had hoped, but I think the idea has a lot of promise and I will start smaller and continue to work on it.

Inspiration was everywhere on the campus.  These clay tiles lined the entrance to the pottery studio.  Daylilies and gladiolas were planted right outside the window of our painting studio.

How could you do anything but laugh with Leah as your table neighbor?  She kept me grooving with music and even shared her box fan when I thought I was going to melt into a puddle of sweat on the floor next to my griddle.

Finally!  Bubbles!  I have been wondering how to do this technique for months...  All it took was a lot of opaque paint layers and some patience with the torch.  Have I mentioned lately how much I love my torches???  Oh yes!  Burn baby, burn!  I made the discovery this week that different torches have different flames.  My little torch ended up having a laser-like flame tip that was especially good for pinpoint needs.  I preferred fusing with the larger torch since it's flame spread out more.

The message Polly Cross wrote to herself at her desk could have easily applied to me!  Her work certainly did not end up tight but colorful and whimsical.  Polly also conquered her fear of the torch during the week.

I got to enjoy Gloria McCracken's wonderfully dry sense of humor.  She had to think I was nuts because I kept walking by her table to pet a piece she was making with an orange stencil.  The 3 rectangular pieces she presented at our final critique had a lot of depth.

One of my classmates remarked - It's the quiet ones you have to watch.   I enjoyed watching Pam draw and methodically work on her pieces all week, but it turned out that she had a wicked sense of humor!

Unlike any other encaustic workshop I've ever had, this class had a 3D component.  We cast wax as hollow and 3D forms!  What a new way to think about design - fabulous!  I made the face on the left and K made the houses on the right.

A fellow student and amazing sculptor, Denise Buckley, showed me how to prep my plaster mold so that it would release the wax and how to carefully build up enough wax in the mold to make my hollow torso strong.

As the week went by I had to keep visiting Denise's table to spy on what she was doing.  These wonderful clay heads kept popping up.  She works in bronze and with the price of metals skyrocketing was attempting to develop a bronze patina look with encaustics and oil paint.  She certainly succeeded. 

One of my other table neighbors, Pam Hodge, is a realistic watercolor artist but during the course of the week made some lovely, loose encaustic paintings.  I was especially drawn to the yellow collage piece below with the great negative space. 
Pam was my studio buddy most nights.  We seemed to get tired around the same time and kept each other company on the long crawl back to our dorm rooms.

Alicia Voisin was another quiet one to watch.  I saw her doing a lot of scraping but her work had such lovely textured finishes. 

Our hardworking teaching assistant, Becky Dickovitch, had a way with textiles.  Her light and airy pieces had such a beautiful color palette.

Below is one of the stoneware pieces I made to take to this workshop.  I can certainly say that I will continue to play with wax on a bisqueware surface.  This was such a fun thing to try.  It gave me a much more immediate and controlable result compared to fired glazes.
It turned out Kevin Schultz was a fellow photographer in the workshop.  We had some great Photoshop discussions.  She and Trish Korte arrived together and were a hoot!  Under the small world category, Trish and I figured out we are in a show together next month at the Pyro Gallery in Louisville.  Wild huh?

Kevin photographing Denise's work.
On the left is Kevin's in-progress piece with shellac burn and solid cast baby heads as the Queen and the Pirate King.   Kevin's beautiful book on the right also has a red wax cast Asian coin on the cover.

I think Trish has to get the most prolific award from the workshop!  You just can't have much more fun than creepy babydoll heads!  She didn't present the figural piece on the right at the final critique but it caught my eye all week.
I was envious of Peggy Leland's workspace during the workshop.  She was the most organized of the students.  She had taken a workshop with K before so she filled us in on what to expect when we had questions.  I really liked her ferris wheel piece with the ghosted image transfer in the background.

Elizabeth Garlington (below) was the one person who brought even more stuff to the workshop than I did!  Her breakthrough came later in the week and she was moved to tears when she completed the two pieces below.  I told you it was an intense week!

Emily Nickel also came to the class from a clay background.  I was astounded with her fairytale based narrative work.  During the class, she came up with a wonderful way to color her ceramic pieces with watercolor, oil paint, and a little encaustic that made for a surface that wasn't exactly matte but wasn't glossy either. 

I had a few preconceived notions about what I wanted to do while at Arrowmont.  I have had an artist block where collage is concerned for years.  In my mind, I could see combining my photography with many other materials to achieve a seamless end product.  I drug my feet all week but finally attempted a collage piece.  While I don't think this is done, I am really happy with the progress I made and plan on working down this route much more in the future.

This is a combination of one of my photographs, pattern paper, torn book pages, colored mulberry paper "borrowed" from Pam's stash, and a lot of encaustic paint.
I miss you guys.  What a wonderful week! 
Thanks K and Arrowmont for such a wonderful experience.


  1. Oh my gosh my mouth is watering. What a delectable experience that class must have been. I love the variety of techniques and projects. It truly was an intensive, wasn't it! Also LOVE that little accordion book, I guess I'm not the only one experiemtning with encaustic covers :)

  2. I thought of you Erin when I saw Kevin's book in class! It was truly an amazing week. I feel so fortunate to have been able to experience it. My notebook of ideas to try in the future runneth over.

  3. What an amazing experience this must have been!

    1. Totally! I'm hoping the creative fumes will hold out until your workshop! ; )

  4. Wow! I was totally impressed with your very creative wax designs. It's so nice and amazing. Keep up.

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