Posts Tagged ‘David Aronson’

Cover of Encaustic Materials and Methods: A facsimile edition.

Encaustic Materials and Methods is finally here! Long-time followers of this blog may remember that I’ve been talking about bringing the 1949 text of Francis Pratt and Becca Fizell’s influential but nearly impossible to find book back to life. And after three long years, the book went live on Amazon a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a link to Encaustic Materials and Methods on Amazon.

This is a facsimile edition, which means that each page of the original book was carefully scanned so that the new version maintains the look and feel of the original. Some images were reproduced, though not all. Special thanks to the late Esther Geller for allowing us to include a new photo of her encaustic masterpiece, Oriental Musician (late 1940s). Additionally, we thank the Menil Collection for the rights to reproduce Fleur de Sang (1943) by Victor Brauner, Bryn Mawr College for the rights to reproduce Young Christ Disputing with the Doctors (1945) by David Aronson, the Whitney Museum of American Art for Karl Zerbe’s Harlequin (1944), and of course the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the use of Portrait of a young woman with a gilded wreath (A.D. 120-140).

This book would not have been the labor of love that it is without the assistance of Hannah M. G. Shapero, daughter of Esther Geller, and Ben Aronson, son of David Aronson. They provided insight into the artistic practices of their parents, and it will surprise no one to learn that both are wonderful artists themselves.  Visit Hannah M. G. Shapero’s web site here and Ben Aronson’s web site here. Sadly, both Esther Geller and David Aronson passed away this year.

And finally, a special shout-out goes to Virginia Howard, great-niece of Francis Pratt, who generously shared information about her aunt, including the loan of important archival documents. She also wrote the brief bio of Francis that appears in the book. Thanks, Virginia!

Caution: Yes, Victor Brauner supposedly used gasoline in his encaustic process. But Victor was a Jewish communist hiding out in the mountains during WWII. He had nothing, he could go nowhere and yet he still made art. I love Fleur de Sang for exactly those reasons. Here’s a link to an earlier fan-girl post I did about Victor.

Artists familiar with art materials (flake white, anyone?) knows that most of these things will kill you, one way or another. So please, exercise caution even when using your commercial encaustic products.

And maybe it goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway: keep your gas in your tank.

Last word: Looking at the recipes and formulas in Encaustic Materials and Methods is to witness the birth of modern encaustic art. We wouldn’t be who we are now without the genius of these mid-20th century artists, most of whom are gone now.

Here's a cute photo of Esther Geller standing in front of Oriental Musician. Photo from the Boston Globe.

Here’s a cute photo of Esther Geller standing in front of Oriental Musician. Photo from the Boston Globe.

Free stuff
I loaded a pdf of sample pages of Encaustic Materials and Methods in the Free Box, the top box in the right-hand column of this page. Take a look.

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David Aronson 91923-). Bell-Boy. Encaustic, 28.5" x 18.5".

David Aronson (1923-). Bell-Boy. Encaustic, 28.5″ x 18.5″.

Last time I talked about a very simple adaptation to the encaustic medium recipe we all use. Instead of the standard 8 parts beeswax to 2 parts damar resin, I suggested using a 5 parts beeswax to 5 parts resin formula. This Half and Half recipe can be used as a thick finishing glaze. Read more about this recipe here.

Turning back to Francis Pratt and the artists she interviewed for Encaustic Materials and Methods, I learned about another Boston Expressionist and student of the great Karl Zerbe, David Aronson (1923-). The piece on the right makes me wish (yet again) that encaustic work photographed better. Photos don’t catch the impasto, tool marks and surface treatment that gives this medium such depth.

Aronson used the following recipe as a glaze for his encaustic paintings. I can’t speak for what he was trying to achieve with a final surface treatment but I know that when I use this glaze it has a clarifying and leveling effect on the underlayers, especially if I’ve used layers of both hot and cold wax.

David Aronson’s Hot Glaze

1 part damar varnish

1 part linseed oil

8 parts beeswax

Place all ingredients in a melting container and heat on your palette. Use it at slightly higher temperature than your regular wax paint–it should be very thin and liquid. While you can brush it on, it’s better to apply the way Aronson recommends, with a hot putty or palette knife. Applied too thickly, it will dry a cloudy white. If applied as thinly as possible, the glaze glistens and shines. Here are my results on the six-point scale:

1) Application method: Hot wax, applied with a knife.

2) Drying time: Up to two weeks.

3) Transparency: Clear if applied thinly.

4) Interaction with underlayers: None.

5) Appearance: Thin, gloss.

6) Bloom prevention: Very good

And yes, you read 2) correctly, the drying time IS two weeks. This is totally foreign to encaustic artists, the idea that you have to wait for paint to dry. The linseed oil, which imparts some of the lovely gloss, takes time to cure. You will start to see the shine after two or three days, but it will remain tacky for quite a while. If you have any spots where the glaze pooled thickly, it may take even longer. The advantage of this glaze is that it really does unify the somewhat chalky appearance of cold wax with the smooth surface of hot wax. It gives you a kind of window into the layers of paint.

Here’s one of mine where I tried the glaze. The black areas are hot wax and the blue areas are cold wax:

Untitled [large blue-green] (detail) (low-res)

Untitled (blue and black). The white patches on the upper right are pooled glaze. Everywhere else, the glaze was applied correctly and the blue and black layers are equalized. Before I applied the glaze, the blue areas looked dry and chalky.

The image above was a scan, not a photo. I think I get better close-ups with scans but The Theory says photos are better.  Next time, we will discuss a cold wax glaze recipe.

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