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.


  1. Beautiful piece .. I loved reading your step-by-step explanation. Art has to be outside of the box and yours is. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Cathy! You don't know how much your encouragement has meant to me. I really like seeing myself through your eyes...

  2. Gorgeous. If you have any of the plaster cloth, you can also adhere that to a board and create some interesting texture before adding the wax.
    I love everything about this painting Melissa. Bravo!

    1. Thanks Bridgette - I like that idea! I have two bags downstairs that could use some love and funny you should mention it - I was just studying the texture on your painting and plotting new ideas. :) I hope you have an awesome time at your workshop next month!

  3. Melissa,I live in Cincinnati and am very much enjoying you blog and your processes, and your end results! When is your show? I'd love to come and meet you.

    We are friends on FB and fellow Hipstas.


    Linda Gillings

    1. Hi Linda - I would love to meet a fellow Hipsta! :) Tad Barney who started that FB Hipsta group which I'm so addicted to will be at the opening too with his family.

      The gallery and show info:
      MS Rezny Studio/Gallery
      903 Manchester Street, Lexington, KY 40544

      The show runs from 10/3/13 to 10/31/13.
      The opening reception is Saturday Oct. 5th from 1-4pm.
      On Saturday 10/19/2013 1-3pm, I will be giving a demonstration of some of the encaustic techniques I used in the show.

      I hope you can make it!