Saturday, July 27, 2013

Encaustic Abstract Landscapes - Sunrise, Sunset

One of the more rewarding aspects of painting abstract landscapes is working with both sky and water in the
same piece.  And there's no better times of day to capture than sunrise and sunset simply because of the way an artist can play with shapes and colors in the way they work the reflections in the water.
After about two months of rain here in the southeast in South Carolina, I felt a need to move away from the misty and dream like landscapes I'd been painting to digging through my paintboxes and baskets to find some bright bold colors to play with as opposed to the muted blues and grays.
Working on both 4X4 and 8X10 cradled wooden art boards and on larger 16X20 canvases, I turned my attention to mountain scenes during sunrise and sunset. This gave me the opportunity to play with palettes of yellows, oranges and reds.  It
may have been dreary outside  my window and gloomy in my studio but it was bright and bold on my easel.
On these pieces, I did less of the scumbling and removing of pant that I do with the more misty panels and  instead focused on layering, often wet on wet with my oils using vermillion red, cadmium red, cadmium yellow, cadmium green, terra verte, thalo yellow green, Payne's gray, titanium white and  ivory black.
On the wooden cradled art boards I used oil and beeswax encaustic, while on the larger canvas piece, I simply used oils since beeswax will crack when the elements swell and shrink the canvas.
While I love the dreamlike effects on the more moody dusk or misty works I did in blue tones in the past, it's fun to play with cloud formations in the sky, along with the vanishing points to create moods and distance  in these sunrise and sunset pieces.
For materials this time I used Artist's Loft wood art boards from Michaels, a mixture of Grumbacher and  Winton oils and R&F white beeswax mixed with Damar resin for the encaustic finish.
After painting the landscapes with the oils, I allow them to dry for at least a week before applying the
encaustic glazing which adds dimension and texture to the finish.
The smaller 4x4 pieces serve as my "samplers" the opportunity to test out a concept and see if it works.  Since they will stand they are nice additions to a bookcase or mantle either in groupings or alone.    


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mood and Atmosphere in Landscapes

It's been raining off and on, mostly on for over a month now in South Carolina, reminding me a lot of New
 England weather.  I'd forgotten how much such weather can affect mood.  I'm more subdued and introspective, perhaps even a bit melancholy and while I've painted some sunrises and sunsets in bold reds or yellows in my oils/encaustic series, I tend now to be painting in only oils and am using an entirely different palette, more blues, dark greens, amethysts and blacks.
I'm painting my mood, something I can't avoid, and find that ruins of old castles or fortresses express what I'm feeling. When working on such pieces, I'm a lot looser, using brushes, rags and even my fingers to blend the oils in unusual ways to represent mists, water and darkened buildings in the distance.  It's a more tangible process and easier way to create an atmosphere which represents my mood and allows the sky, water and hulking buildings, which could be any seaside castle or fortress in the British Isles or on the French coast, take on a life all their own.  Perhaps, being less controlled, I'm allowing my subconscious a bit more free reign in the way the paintings progress.
I started on a 4X4 piece of cradled art board as a sampler, simply to start a process of working with blues
and blacks.  In continuing with my architectural series I roughed in the ruins even before I made the conscious decision and creating the sky and ocean arose from the bleakness of the buildings.
I wanted to create a sky the was somewhere in that liminal eerie in between world of dusk - a sky that may be threatening storms but with a hint that tomorrow may bring moments of sunshine.
I chose to use phthalo blue, ultramarine, violet, Payne's grey, amethyst, lamp black and titanium white on my palette to create the mottled, unpredictable sky.  I use a good bit of scumbling technique in the sky with layers or colors, adding darkened under edges a day or so later. On the 4X4 pieces I did use encaustic but decided to with just oils on the next piece, an 8x10 cradled art board.  I used the same palette, the same concept and the same techniques since the smaller boards are the test pieces for the larger pieces.  But after the 8x10 I wanted to go larger and moved onto a 16X20 canvas, painting over a half finished painting I didn't like.  I do this every once in a while.  It feels better than looking at the half finished piece with all its flaws and saves money. 
Because there was a figure on the original painting I covered most of it up except for the moon.  The rest came fairly easy as I allowed the undercoat dictate ways to paint the sky. I had already decided what I liked as far as color scheme to create the mysterious, slightly menacing mood since I'd worked it out on the two previous smaller pieces.  I allowed some of the darkened green in the lower left hand corner from the underlying painting break through to keep the balance between the dark areas and the brighter influence of the full moon on the ocean.
I have to say this was a fun series to work through the various sizes to expand on a concept.  While I've used the 4x4 inched cradle boards before as samplers to work out an idea inexpensively, I didn't realize the process would graduate to a larger oil painting.   

Monday, July 1, 2013

Victorian Women in Encaustic Transfer

When I visited the National Gallery this past April to see the traveling Pre-Raphaelite show, I hoped it would serve not only as an incredible visual experience but also as an inspiration and it has.
 I'm surprised by the way it has and am exploring new fields I didn't expect.  I've done one large painting in a Pre-Raphaelite style, but most of the work I'm doing is in lead pencil, conti crayon or charcoal - the last two mediums being rather new to me.  I played with them a bit years ago but hadn't done much since then.
While I was working, I did frame a couple of the drawings, but then wondered how the drawings would work with encaustic transfer. So I decided to try transferring the drawings using the white beeswax medium I've been using on some of my landscapes.  And how lovely a combination it is.
I start with a wood surface, some I've found in thrift stores and reprimed and others I bought as natural or primed wood plaques or wooden cradle art boards. I heat the wood surface with a heat gun then applying the R&F beeswax/Damar mixture in layers to the warm surface. Before applying the transfer, let it thoroughly cool.
I started drawing on vellum instead of on drawing paper after the first couple of drawings, hoping the conti crayon and charcoal would lift off easier and take to the encaustic.  On paper the conti crayon and charcoal sinks into drawing paper but the vellum being doesn't have any "teeth" any areas where the medium can sink in and be lost, so the drawing sort of floats on the surface.
To complete the transfer, I place the drawing face down on the cooled beeswax then rub the back with a number of instruments like you would for a grave rubbing. I use a Martha Stewart bone folder on the rounded sides especially for large dark areas such as the hair. I also use the rounded bottom of a make up brush handle because gets into the dips in the wax most of the time.
I say most of the time because beeswax is not an exact medium - it has properties and a mind of its own depending on many factors - how much was applied by the brush, how hot it was at the time of application.  It will also have small bits of vegetable matter in the mix since the Damar is sap from trees.  Sometimes you can pick the pieces out of your surface with a tweezer after you've applied the beeswax to your base, but there are tiny specks that you just have to put up with. 
It's kind of a daunting process for me because I'm have less control over it than I do with painting.  There's always that moment after I've done the rubbing just before I peel back a corner that I panic as to whether the process worked.  Sometimes it doesn't work the way you expected - there may be parts missing or faded out but that's the mystery of it and the way it gives a piece a vintage look. It feels pretty magical when, after you've peeled away the vellum, how the image looks back at you from the wood covered with beeswax.
More examples to come on my website. 
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