Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Adventures in Asheville

Last week I was in Asheville spending time with my talented and incredibly organized friend Erin Keane.  It was a mixed purpose trip designed all around art.  Oh joyous day!

Erin graciously modeled for me in the muddy woods, we had a photo walk in the River Arts District, and I got to take her innovative encaustic + bookmaking workshop.  

On the first day of Erin's 2-day workshop, fellow classmates Jacque Allen, Laurey Masterton, and I prepped wood boards, made image transfers, and finished up with some encaustic medium.

Jacque achieved some beautiful color on her pieces using the pastels combined with encaustic medium.
You know it's a serious workshop when the power tools come out... Notice Laurey's awesome knit beehive cap.  On the second day of the workshop, we drilled holes in our covers, hand tore pages for our books, and learned how to use the coptic stitch to bind them all together.

Erin had quite the selection when it came time to choose our thread to bind our books.

Here are the three books I created during the workshop. Although its definitely going to take some practice, this is a skill I would like to take the time to perfect. It turns out, a book with an encaustic cover is a delight to the senses. It is visually interesting, you can smell that lovely beeswax scent, plus it is a piece of art that the viewer will feel encouraged to touch.  

Thanks Erin for such a lovely art filled week and for being so generous with your time and knowledge!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Location, location, location

There is happy news to report!  I now have studio space in downtown Lexington!  

Here are some before shots:

Truth in advertising time - It's not as big as it looks in the photos due to the super wide angle lens I was using to get the whole room in the shot.  This will be an interesting experiment on just how creatively organized I can be.  The ideas are already pouring in and I'm sure as I start working in the space, other ideas will present themselves.

I knew the first thing I wanted to do was paint those walls but I love the creaky argyle floor!  

My parental units graciously came to help with the installation of my solo show at the MS Rezny Gallery and then stayed to begin the process of sprucing up the studio space.   
My Dad thinking dark thoughts about the light fixture I bought...
Luckily my father is a patient man.  The new light fixture I got to replace the chandelier fought it's installation every step of the way.  I was so glad that two people could climb my ladder at once because it took at least 3 hands to get this crazy thing up on the ceiling. 

So here's what the new studio space looks like so far.  I have a ton more supplies to bring up.  This is probably the neatest it will ever be!  I can't wait to get in there and start making a mess.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Encaustic and Spackle, BFFs - Who Knew?

Running up to working on the solo show next month, I experimented a little with some new ideas.  (I'm hoping to get back to that after the chaos has died down...)  In the Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch workshop from almost 2 years ago, we played with joint compound or drywall spackle on the wood supports underneath the encaustic paint and medium.  That idea has been rattling around in my head for awhile and I finally found a piece that sort of screamed for me to explore it more.

Tangled - finished piece
Let me back up to the start of this image.  I was editing some shots from a photoshoot with my long time model, muse, and friend Anna. There were several from this one location where I had fallen in love with the color and texture on a concrete block wall.  Not being able to decide which shot to use, I dabbled in Photoshop for awhile.  Here are the original shots:

I finally got over the love for that sickly green color and converted one of the images to black and white.  Then the ideas started flowing!  At some point late that night of processing, I finally realized that I was being a silly left-brained photographer - thinking I could only use one image at a time. I converted all 3 to black and white and combined them into one long image.

The next hurdle was to decide how to approach a substrate for such an oddly sized, super-long image.  This was an opportunity for some growth on my part.  I had a 12 x 24 inch cradled birch board so I glued down the prints.  I carefully pieced the first two images and the last one together into a line because the largest paper I had was 13x19.  That left most of the upper third of the board above the image raw wood.  I knew that I wanted to extend the idea of being tangled and stuck in that empty space above but I wanted to find a less expensive approach to filling that area than just using encaustic paint.

Earlier that week, I had seen a wonderful blog post from artist Lisa Kairos where she discussed how she tinted encaustic gesso for her underpainting.  I didn't have any encaustic gesso at the house, so that lead me back to thinking about the bucket of spackle just hanging out in the garage without any drywall to be repairing.    

Here is a closeup of the board after I applied the spackle.  I put it on with a palette knife and ran the end of a brush through it to create more lines like the ones in the images.  After that dried and no longer felt cool to the touch, I decided to hit it with some watercolor to see if I could mimic the color and texture of the wall in the image.  

 After the watercolor dried, I sanded the spackle to bring back some of the white and add even more mottling.  Then I started adding washes of very thin encaustic paint, medium, and used neocolor crayons to add more tangled wires above the image.
I lost count of how many layers where finally added and carefully fused so I didn't mess up my lines and the delicate neocolor crayon additions.  This was a good learning experience for me.  It has already sparked more ideas of working outside of the space provided by the image alone.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Obsessions with a Butterfly

I've had this blue morpho butterfly piece kicking around the studio for the better part of a year at least.  It started as a 6"x6" little test piece that turned out pretty well when I was first starting out.  I decided to go nuts and have it printed at 24" by 24" and glued it to a new cradled birch board.  In the midst of producing work for shows and attempting to put in the requisite studio time to learn some new skills, this large canvas has been quietly waiting for me to get brave.  My goal, since I started studying how to use encaustic processes with my photography, was to find ways to integrate painting and my photography work.  I admit that I am still a complete neophyte but there's finally some progress to report!

This is what the image looked like after 3 layers of encaustic medium, a few swipes of paint on the background behind the butterfly, and a small amount of mark making with a blue grease pencil.

First Marks and Background Paint
I liked the effect of making the background more abstract than the original photo.  It pushed the background back farther visually.  I also used my heat gun to move the paint around on the background to even increase the abstract qualities.  At this point I was also thinking the mark making had potential but was going to need a lot more layers.

I ended up using grease pencils, oil pastels, and Caran d'Ache Neocolor I Wax Pastels.  Finding the neocolor pastels was an answer to a big problem!  On cool wax they make a wonderfully distinct mark without the residue of an oil pastel.  Because I didn't have a large set of colors in the neocolors, I ended up figuring out a way to work with the oil pastels too.  After I had finished a round with the oil pastels, I would fuse ever so carefully and then come back with a little mineral oil and a paper towel to remove whatever hadn't fused.  I learned my lesson the hard way on a previous piece about leftovers and smearing once you come back in to do any work with a brush!

A new R&F paint had come in the mail around this time.  I used their graphite gray on the body and this was a turning point for me figuring out how I wanted to finish the piece.  The almost sculptural quality of the way encaustic paint can be applied is definitely fun.  I liked the 3D feel it gave to the body of the butterfly.

Around this point, I decided that I wanted to knock back the mark making under some layers of transparent paint.  I laid out every shade of blue I owned and starting mixing news ones too.  

The painting and drawing classes I have attended in the past have taught me that I work kind of tightly.  I've admired others broad expressive strokes with vine charcoal while working away with a sharp pencil...  Encaustic painting has forced me to cut loose a little.  You can certainly make sharp lines but working with larger brushes has forced me to rethink things.  Part of loosening up is to try to listen to my gut.  The first dots and drips of paint were a happy accident, but they mirrored the scaled texture in the wings so I started dripping more purposefully.  

To finish off the piece, I added many layers of translucent paint to build in more of the highlights and shadows and to push the marks back a bit.  The fusing I was doing at this point on top of the butterfly was taking a lot of patience!

Having more room to work on a larger piece was helpful in the learning process and I'm now in love with the neocolor crayons.  Being able to draw on the wax surface is definitely going to get more exploration.  Here's the final piece and a detail shot.  

Sunday, February 3, 2013

More Lessons Learned...

I've been putting in quite a bit more studio time in the past few weeks and have learned a few more things - some the hard way!

  • If you are feeling impatient waiting for your cold, wax-laden brush to warm up and become pliable, don't use your heat gun to try to hurry the process along.  Even non-synthetic brush bristles can be burnt if there's enough heat.  Then, when you use said brush, you will spend the next 20 minutes picking little black specks out of your previously pristine painting!
  • This one is going to seem really obvious but as a gentle reminder, do not let your heat gun's tip touch anything when you sit it down after using it.  I have made a very interesting plastic sculpture out of what was a perfectly good power strip.  That is a smell that lingers and reminds me of my mistake everytime I heat up the gun now! 
  • If you use an oil pastel to make marks on an encaustic surface be sure to wipe off any excess that did not get fused before brushing anything else over it.  It didn't take me too long to scrape off the smeared portion of my beautiful marks but I'd rather skip that step next time.
  • Cheaper paper towels are your friend when dabbing oil paint off of the surface of an encaustic painting.  I bought some very nice cloth-like Viva paper towels and boy did they shed lint all over my nice wet oil paint! 
  • Not all lessons are bad... I tried using a china marker/grease pencil on an underpainting to make some gestural marks.  As long as you fuse carefully, that works wonderfully.  The underpainting was a light cream color and I played with a white grease pencil.  The effect was nice and subtle while still adding a bit of interest.
  • Test, test, test, and yee shall find the answer - eventually.  I had this neat portrait of Anna in infrared and knew it was meant to be a mixed media piece.  I wanted to have a look of something hiding her eyes - perhaps lace.  I printed out a trial piece when I printed the good one to be pasted to a cradled birch board.  The trial piece ended up looking like my old ratty Barbie dolls after years of "love", but it definitely served it's purpose.  By finishing time, I felt much more comfortable about what I needed to do to the real piece.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Peek Inside the Chaos

I also thought about naming this post When Everything Goes Wrong on a Deadline...

I'm in the process of preparing for a two person show that is set to hang on February 2nd.  Things were going well - too well.  I had my images selected, printed, and even partially prepared when life decided I needed to up my game.  A family medical crisis, an ER trip, a doggie health scare, and an out of town photoshoot have exceeded the bounds of my dance card.  Que the Queen music in the background.  I'm not sure if the song should be Under Pressure or The Show Must Go On.

Rene painting tiny details
I've learned something interesting preparing for the show.  Sometimes what I know as a photographer will get in the way when working with a mixed media process.  As a quality-minded photographer, I try to use the very best paper I can find.  Rene introduced me to a wonderfully heavy, textured paper called William Turner made by Hahnemuhle.  We made prints on the 310 gsm weight version.  They turned out to be divine!  (Deeply saturated color and amazing detail)  If I was making prints just to frame, this would be the optimum solution.  However, this paper turns into a sponge if you coat it with encaustic medium.  It has taken between 4 to 5 layers of medium before the paper is completely covered.  Now we are experimenting with Epson's cold press watercolor paper.  It's not as heavy as the William Turner but a little more substantial than Epson's regular matte paper. 

I've been trying to push myself while working toward the February show.  To that end, here is the start of Baubles:

I'm trying to see if I can find new methods of combing my photography with more painterly qualities.  The image was glued to a cradled birch board and coated with several layers of encaustic medium.  I made some gestural marks around the pearls and filled them with white oil paint.  On the left hand side I carved out wavy lines using a notched metal sculpture tool.  Then I added layers of wax to build up an accretion effect.  Now I'm trying to figure out my next step.  I have 2 very distinct sides and need to figure out how to unify them.  That's the nice thing about having so many pieces in process right now.  I can walk away from this one and take some time to think about it. 

Here's a preview of one of the images that will be in the show:  If you are in the Lexington, KY area during the month of February, come check it out!  Our opening party will be on Friday February 15th from 5 to 8 pm.  
Life of the Party
Notes on the most recent photoshoot:  There's this high school in downtown Cincinnati I've been dying to use as a location and I finally had permission so I couldn't even consider axing this event even though the time crunch caused me some rapid breathing.

You know when this greets you at the front door, it's going to be an amazing location:

Here are two of my three models waiting to get into the building - way too early in the morning.
Here's a look at the location.  It was an amazing space that definitely presented some lighting challenges.  Pretty much, it was a large open square room with banks of windows on all four sides.  There was great potential for lens flares with light coming from every direction.  Plus the window locations presented challenges for composition.  I tried to be really aware of what would be in the background when setting up a shot.

I love it when models are multi-talented.  Look what awesomely decayed location Kiersten suggested:

Props on location
I asked my models to bring shoes they liked and maybe didn't get to wear very often.  They certainly delivered!