Over the last year my photographs have been chosen for two Healing with Arts shows at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at DHMC in Lebanon, N.H. At the last show a fellow artist told me about a four-week class on encaustic painting or painting with pigments mixed with hot wax. We had discussed this before because we were both interested in introducing new elements to our art. The digital collages I make end up being 2-D prints of my work, but I am always interested in introducing 3-D elements and texture to see what they add to a picture when it is once again scanned and compressed into a 2-D image. I thought wax might be an interesting option.
The class has been a lot of fun in spite of the fact that I've had to relax during the learning process, something that is not easy for me to do, and be willing to make mistakes. The first night we took a square wooden board and covered it with wax and experimented with various techniques to add texture, carve into the surface and to add stencils. Our teacher taught us two different stenciling techniques to add decorative designs to our pieces and I, of course, chose to add pugs. As an aside, the instructor noted that she was very impressed that I could create stencils of pugs on the spot from memory (oh, how little does she know!)
For week two, the instructor suggested that we bring in some of our own images that we wished to use in our encaustic works. I brought in several of my photo collages.
She taught us two dipping techniques for covering the image with wax and then had us experiment by using some other materials she had in her studio such as Papilio Metallic Transfer Paper and Saral Transfer Paper. We also used National Geographic to transfer images to our work.
I used the Papilio Metallic Transfer Paper to add gold scarabs to my waxed-dipped collage and the Saral Transfer Paper in white to combine two images from National Geographic, placing them at the bottom of the piece.
While working on the image in class I already began to formulate some ideas for what I wanted to do with it when I got home and could experiment in Photoshop. I knew I wanted to keep elements of the original collage such as the colors and feel, but that the new elements were more of a distraction than a complement. I loved, however, how the bottom portion of the image looked. I decided that I would cut it out either literally or in Photoshop and then put it on a new background. Once I got it in Photoshop, however, I began playing around with blurring the background and adding new elements to the image. I had originally planned on waiting to sew on the wax, which has an unique feel and appearance, before manipulating the image in Photoshop, but I couldn't wait and ended up really liking the result. I used both the image of my waxed-dipped collage and my encaustic painting on wood, merging them in Photoshop to create a more textured background. I then began experimenting by adding photographs I have in my "materials" folder in Photoshop. I am far from finished as I want to still print the piece out and experiment with thread and paint and drawing and may even change the piece further or create a whole new one as I progress in my next two classes, but wanted to share with everyone what I have done so far. The instructor is supposed to teach us how we can set up our own encaustic studios or workspaces, which I hope I can do (You need a space that is well-ventilated) because I like the texture it adds to the collages, but also think I could produce some interesting traditional pieces as I learned the techniques better. I'll continue to post pictures as the collage progresses.The friend who introduced me to the encaustic class often prints her work out on aluminum and I am considering doing so with this piece when it is complete.
For now I'm calling it "Prayer."