Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wrapping Up

Just a few more photos of the IEA Retreat at Carmel before I leave that subject. The photo above shows Rodney Thompson demonstrating a pour. His went perfectly. Mine at home ran down the wall behind my work table (poor aim) and the over heated wax was too yellow so I gave myself a blister on my pinky scraping the entire board back down. It isn't always as easy as the demo makes it look. And Rodney is the master. I love his quiet work.

The participants were urged to bring an encaustic for trade. The trades are wrapped and chosen by number. Here Miles is choosing one as the rest of us look on.

One of our demonstrations by Chris Paschke was on framing and boxing our work for shipping to gallery shows. The best way to protect fragile work is by double boxing. Above is the inner box.

And this photo shows the outer box which can be reused many times. The walls are of double thick foam core.

From Carmel we travel swiftly back to Portland where this morning I helped other IEA members pack up the recent show at the Brian Marki Gallery. The work that was unsold will be returned to the originating artists. I learned a lot by helping with this job; I got to see what worked and what was makeshift.

It's helpful if you have special instructions to the gallery to include a diagram as this artist has done.

The diagram is affixed to the lid of the box where is won't become lost. It is very easy to lose things with so many boxes to ship back to artists.

It is wonderfully helpful to tape an image of the work to the outside of the box. This will help you keep track of work in your own studio too. Notice the deckled edge on the wax in the crow painting above.

This is how you protect the fragile wax edges.

And then that box goes into another box with padding between the walls.

And here are all the boxes taped up and ready for the shippers to send back to the artists.

The latest in my counting series. You might just see another grid but to me they represent units of finite time. I've been feeling rushed and so have allowed myself to fall behind here and there. I need to live my life slowly and with consideration. It feels good to know that I can take a deep breath and do just that. (Waxing and waning.)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Encaustic Retreat at Carmel

Joy and gratitude. I just returned from a 4 day IEA retreat at Carmel Valley and I feel like my consciousness has been rearranged in the most wonderful way. I have met the kindest people and learned so much about working with wax that my head is reeling with ideas.

I arrived on Thursday and took possession of my comfy bunk at the Carmel Valley Retreat Center. The setting is lovely; jasmine perfumes the air and bird calls resound across the mountains. The wisteria is in bloom as well as the little japanese irises. Life is sweet in California. But you knew that.

There was a lot of this going on.

This is the lunch scene with lots of Mexican and Thai food. And sunshine. Oh, my pasty Oregon skin was so stunned in the dazzling sunshine.

We were charmed with a night of Margarita Madness. Nothing tastes better on a sultry California evening.

May I introduce you to my room mate, Charlotte Ka from Brooklyn, NY. She's been working in wax for over 16 years and has also worked during that time as a teacher. Meeting her and being exposed to her thoughtful work about the black experience was a deep privilege. She has shown her work in Kenya and Cuba among other places.

We got to meet and hear about the career of NY artist Heather Hutchison. I learned so much from listening to her; about her path as an artist and the things she must consider as she does her work. I loved watching her - the way she presents herself and her attitudes about pricing and crafting a professional persona. She charmed and informed me in so many ways. (Above with our wonderful organizer, Cari Hernandez.)

Then there was Margo; a sweet breath of fresh air with her elastick-y button bracelet that I admired and her sea creature encaustic imagery. She was wonderful on "Project Runway" night; you'll see!

Richard Frumess came from R & F Encaustics and gave us the lowdown on particle wave theory (ha ha - I just like the way that sounds!). Seriously though, he told us about refraction and light and lots of things that make our work beautimous - thank you, Richard, for giving us such beautiful materials to work with and for being one of the most delightful speakers I've ever witnessed. We were all in stitches when he ran the color chart outdoors to show us how the colors changed under different light conditions. His enthusiasm was infectious.

We did a little bit of cut and paste collage on our notebooks and it was really fun! Paper and notebooks supplied by the IEA mother-ship. And thank you very much. Loved the cut and paste.

Last night we divided up into groups and created costumes out of aluminum foil, newspaper, tape (red duct and masking) and plastic tie-wraps. Here are our creations. It was really hilarious; all of us laughed and got all competitive and vied for the favor of our judge, Richard Frumess, for the first prize of encaustic paint.

The costumes were clever but the models were the real show with lots of vamping and attitude in their presentation. They were great!

Naturally we had 2nd and 1st runners up and the woman from Texas burst into tears of joy as any good beauty queen does. Verrrry nice.

And the winner is ...... the mandarin Goddess, wow, my goodness. FAB-U-LOUS job guys. Especially considering half of us were working in semi-darkness as we taped the costumes togther .

On the last day we had 2 incredible demonstrations. Above is the work of Miles Conrad from Tucson. Miles showed us how to cast wax forms from molds. My goodness he is a master of wax. We all watched in awe.

Here is one of his silicone molds and the wax casting from it.

And check out the big orb with the orblets attached. You can imagine the time and devotion that goes into each piece.

I didn't get to see all of Lissa Rankin's demo as my flight was scheduled to conflict but the experience was life changing (I've been having quite a few of these of late). Now I just have to sit quietly with myself and decide where this will take me next. I have the Boston Conference in about a month; my question is whether to throw other things aside and fling myself fully into the wax (not literally!) or to try and keep it under control. Because right now, all I can think about is getting back into the studio and trying out some of the many new techniques I have learned. Time will tell. What gratitude I feel to be faced with such a rich dilemma.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Last Gasp

Ha ha ha. I promise not to torture you with any more of these for awhile but had to show the one I did yesterday. This is 12x20" and used a lot of wax, a lot of scraping and a lot of course changes. The surface is wonderful in person but impossible to capture on 'film'. I alternated opaque and transparent wax so that you are looking into the wax in some places (like looking into a tidepool) and stopping on the surface where the wax is opaque. That interests me.

So I'm off to pack and do a few last minute chores. Please send up a silent prayer for a friend of mine who is having a hip replacement today. He has struggled gallantly with MS for a decade and is one of the kindest people I know. And while you're at it, send up a prayer for everyone who is frightened, hungry or alone. Let's look around and help each other out. We can transform the world into a kinder place if we choose to.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Jesse Reno and More Encaustics

If you can get to Portland on July 19th you have the opportunity to take a one day workshop focusing on his painting techniques with local artist Jesse Reno. (I'll be there!) He is a brilliant creator with an amazing body of work. Contact Nikki Blackwood at for more information.

We are so lucky that he has agreed to teach right here in River City!

Yesterday I painted 4 more encaustics on wood. These are all wax, no underpainting.

The challenge I set for myself was to use the carbon paper technique (modified) that Natasia demonstrated at the last IEA meeting.

I found an ancient piece of carbon paper that I used for the black lines. I love how they sink into the wax when you fuse them.

Today it's back to abstracts I think. With the wax I never know what's going to happen until it happens. I just want to try as many different things as I can think of. One must be fearless in the studio and laugh at the voices that say negative things.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Working in a Series

Isn't it crazy how your mind can be like a desert at one time and then for no apparent reason things heat up and you have more ideas than you know what to do with? These are the encaustics I painted yesterday in response to the first drip painting that I already posted. While I was painting them I was thinking of african fabric designs and those scars that some Africans make on their bodies that create raised patterns.

My cave shape that I love. Protection, a grotto in which to hide and be safe. When I am in a frightening situation I throw up an imaginary shield over myself that looks like this shape and I tell myself that no harm may enter. Or if I'm on an airplane I put my coat over my head. True story. I can go inside then where I am not afraid.

I learned a lot about manipulating the wax while doing this series. I am going to start another group today. I'm in a groove.

This is the four in the series grouped together. I could go on with this idea for months. It is so mesmerizing; just drip drip dripping the wax onto the background. Did I mention I love the wax? xo

Saturday, April 19, 2008

IEA Meeting - Update

Here is the encaustic from the last post that I partially scraped and reworked. I paid attention to the complimentary comments but had to go with my own judgment and I like it now. It seems less confused.

Our chapter of the IEA met again in Natasia's studio last night and she demonstrated her technique of making "carbon paper" by rolling etching inks out on waxed paper. In this way she can use several colors to trace drawings onto her prepared encaustic background. The photo above shows Natasia getting ready to trace a drawing through the inked paper.

She had several sandwiches of rolled out ink prepared for her demonstration, each of a different color.

Here she traces through the inked paper with a stylus.

And shows us how she manipulates the transfer with walnut oil and Q-tips.

Finally she blots the surface with newsprint paper to remove the excess oil before fusing.

Fusing the line with a heat gun.

Left to right: Linda Womack, Susan Freedman, Andrea Benson, Barbara Greiner and Natasia Chan. It was a great but small meeting; we all got to talk a lot in an informal way and I got to ask for a critique which was helpful.

This is the painting I did yesterday. As you might surmise, I am more of a designer than I am a true painter but I'm always trying to expand my understanding of the issues involved. Art is a huge mystery for me; one that seems simple and obvious at times and one that seems overwhelming at other times. But I love the challenge and the feeling of being lost in a forest and trying to find my way out. When I started the painting above I just started with the first dot on the background having no plan other than to react to the previous mark and to proceed in that vein. I love working that way - you never know what is going to happen.

My mother used to love crossword puzzles which I have never much enjoyed but now I see the similarity between the two activities. You have a problem to solve. You put in one piece after another on the way to a solution. Sometimes you solve it and because it was difficult you feel a deep pleasure. The process is riveting and I keep returning for more. It's a wonderful discipline.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Artfest Part 4

I hear a collective gasp over the wonder that is Karen O'Brien's creation from the Waxy Layers class. I'd say she nailed the landing, wouldn't you?

This is another one of her drawings that she did in Sas Colby's class. Whew. Awesome!

Another delightful creation from Waxy Layers, this one by Michelle Allen who knows a thing or two about painting, art, business, and being a great mom. She's a lovely friend from the art fair days and has a wildly successful design business.

Another creation in the Waxy Layers mode, this one by Jonna Barnett who I first met at an art fair in Coeur d'Alene and then reconnected with for the next few years at Artfest. Sweetly singing Dove.

Another fort photo just to shift gears as we return to floorcloths. I did a better job of photographing the floorcloths but I have to tell you that being a girl reporter, teacher and noisy gadfly is busy business so I might have missed a few.

So the rest of these will be floorcloths, size 28 x 34" approximately. The tree above was done by Debra according to my notes but then in my other notes there is no Debra in that class so gosh, I'm mixed up. Whoever did it (someone will correct me in the comments) I think it will make a powerful accent piece wherever it's displayed. Dynamic.

This floorcloth was inspired by a Klimt painting and is not finished. Catherine Russell will continue to build up the shapes, filling in with tiny collage embellishments until all the shapes are filled. Wow! Beautiful and complex, inventive and unique. Good work!

Marilyn Phillips is the author of the very successful "Don't Wobble" floorcloth above. I love the saying and the stamped lettering and the well drawn pomegranates. Aren't they all talented?

This floorcloth has a successful composition with the sweeping gesture of the tree leading into the sun face. I hadn't noticed at the time but the border almost reminds me of a snake which is a symbol I love referring to the cycles of life; the shedding of old skins and the circular nature of time. Wonderful!

My favorite thing about the spiral cloth is the color combination and the surprising elements with the circles and flowers. It has hidden symbolism too as the artist who created it is moving into a new phase of her life and wanted to celebrate that.

There is a wonderful story behind the completion of the above floorcloth. The artist was so lost in the forest that she wanted to stop. Since tears were not involved I urged her to push on and see what would come of it. What emerged was this successful design; one that we all loved for it's color, composition and what it taught us about not making judgments along the way.

Where do people get their ideas? Is this atomic or celestial? I don't know but it makes a wonderful statement and I can picture it in a room as another powerful focal point. Excellent color, texture, design!

I believe this is the work of Cat Mair and once again it was born of struggle and change. (aren't we all?) In the end the colors vibrate and the loose, relaxed design satisfies me completely.

If you look closely at this one you'll see the comb marks that underlies layers of drybrush and stamping. These are my colors. I just want to move toward that warm color and dive into that world; oh, I do love this painting. I think its power is beyond my ability to put words to it; it is just a shape and color that my whole being responds to.

I hope more photos come in to me that I can share but that's it for today. Artfest. My head is still in a happy fog of Artfest. Maybe today I'll start unpacking (no promises).