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.