The word encaustic sounds so clinical. But think of a room redolent with honey and warm from tins of melting beeswax. Think of color that sits so deep in the bones of the paint that it seems to emanate from the molecules themselves.
And layers. As I lay down coats of wax, re-melt them as I press with a hot iron, I often feel like I’m capturing light in amber. Because you can see it, a base coat of deep yellow, honied and nearly unfiltered beeswax followed by a glance of rose, another touch of rose, a layer of white filtered wax, and a dash of earth red. As I fuse, the layers flow over one another, the new on top of the old, idea building on idea, yet each veil reveals hints of the past.
Melted wax is as sensual as the hive perfume of honey and heat. As it cools, wax remains sticky and dull, reminiscent of rough slabs of marble with the image inside only beginning to emerge.
I make my wax medium with a few ounces of damar resin, a golden tree pitch that looks like crystallized ginger. It extends the paint’s melting point, making it more durable and less vulnerable to unscheduled melting. It also hardens the wax enough so that it can be polished.
In this final step, under a clean cotton rag, the surface comes to life. Water, silk, clouds, a puff of fog on a fall morning, the secret interior of a polished thunder egg, this is how it looks to me.
About the photo: This piece is one of the first I did using plywood wrapped in watercolor paper for my support. It’s 6″ x 6″ and looks a lot like a bathroom tile. I have not decided how to hang this series yet–that’s something I’ll take up with The Theory. He likes a deep cradle so the pieces stand several inches away from the wall. I’m not so extreme.