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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