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Posts Tagged ‘Encaustic art’

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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When we last spoke (regrettably, almost a year ago), my studio needed a new roof and our bee hive had died.

So let’s catch up. The roof was replaced, but not without further adventures in dry rot, wet rot, basically all sorts of rot. The Theory and I had to lie down with warm compresses on our foreheads and whiskey in our coffee cups after writing that check. The good news is that the roof doesn’t leak anymore.

On a beautiful day in early May, we welcomed a new box of bees to the hive. We learned so much after last year, such as don’t let paper wasps set up shop anywhere near your girls. Don’t let your hive get wet and moldy (see paragraph above for rot). And keep feeding those girls into the fall months. We had favorable weather through November, and even when winter set in, it hasn’t been cold or rainy for long. We have our fingers and toes crossed.

The summer months were taken up with a new project. My father built an archive building to house and preserve his and my stepmother’s artwork. When I say build, let’s keep in mind that professionals (Meng-Hannan Ltd) were involved. Check this: the archive building is the first new structure on the property since 1923 and the only one that is up to code. I just get shivers.

And no year of ups and downs would be complete without someone losing their job. And that would be me. After 19 years and 11 months, my stint as a kept woman came to an end. I know about doors closing and windows opening (people say the darnedest things…over and over again). But what I came away with, along with my wheelie chair and a box of binder clips, was admiration for the people I worked with for all those years.

What will I do next? I believe a nap is in order. But I have one interesting factoid from the land of the unemployed: there is just as little time in the day when you don’t have a job as when you do. And here I thought I would get so much done!

The Theory has some encaustic research goodies to pass on, which I will do in a couple of days. In the meantime, happy new creativity, everyone!

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The snow shown in my last post (February 7th)? That’s long gone! So many un-wonderful things have happened since that peaceful snowy day that I haven’t had the heart to post anything.

Where should I start? Oh, right. Let’s start with the money. My studio roof is leaking. Actually it is pouring, flowing, dumping and flooding. I have five buckets set up inside but the water is sloshing around on the floor, free-flowing and unrestrained. I had a scary moment when I realized that rain was actually coming in THROUGH the light fixtures. How did I know? Because I had just turned the lights on. Believe me, I walked carefully back to the light switch and turned them off.

We got a bid for a new roof. As you can imagine, this is the part that really hurt: a new roof is going to cost two bills. Let’s all join hands for a moment of silence.

Here are some photos:

OMG. There's a quart of water in that globe.

OMG. There’s a quart of water in that globe.

 

Inside the studio. My wintering geraniums are in the back, getting lots of water.

Inside the studio. That’s my work table under the tarp. Wintering geraniums are in the back, getting lots of water.

Another work area with a water-catching device on top. My heat gun, torch and many jars of dry pigment are under there. Did you catch that? DRY pigment. Ugh.

Another work area with a water-catching device on top. My heat gun, torch and many jars of dry pigment are under there. Did you catch that? DRY pigment. Ugh.

For anyone who wants to get all sentimental, here’s a photo of my studio before the blue tarps descended from heaven to ruin my life:

BEFORE: Here's what it looks like under the blue tarps. Bet you see the problem: moss.

Bet you can see the problem: moss. I thought it was picturesque!

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For Christmas this year (no doubt as part of his therapy), The Theory made me a little book of pictures entitled Caprice. The images are from our kitchen renovation and show details of old wallpaper, textures and other strange follies we found under the wall board. For instance, we found newspaper pages glued to the wall as insulation, which looked like photo transfers in contemporary mixed media art. In other places, we found layers of paint (probably lead-based) dripping and flowing over one another in fantastical shapes. In other places, someone patched holes in the original walls with old Folgers coffee tin lids.

You can just make out the words “drip grind” along the upper edge. What were they thinking, those farmers?

The Theory photographed these occurrences as they came to light not just to document the reno, but also in stunned amazement at the activities of our house’s previous owners. Who were these people?

About the title
A caprice is a kind of architectural fantasy tableau made up of buildings, statuary, archaeological remains such as columns, arches and  broken sculptures looted from ancient sites, all combined in a landscape setting to tell the story of some fantastical, imaginary past. Merriam-Webster also defines caprice as a sudden, impulsive, unpredictable and seemingly unmotivated notion or action. I’m not sure which definition I like best to describe what we found under the walls of the kitchen. Evidence of a mysterious world long gone certainly, but also it was just so random, so… capricious.

Some of the images in Caprice seem like art waiting to be made. I can see building up a dense layer of impasto on a board and working in layers of wax and sand and charcoal to make a grid of squares and circles like what we found under our kitchen tile. And if it caught my imagination, others might want to try it too.

Detail of counter substrate.

Detail of counter substrate.

So I asked The Theory if he would make a pdf copy of Caprice (with all the private bits removed; use your imagination) that I could share with other artists for inspiration. So here it is, take it and use it. I also have a link to the file in the Free Box on the upper right side of this page where it will always be available for download. Keep in mind that it is a large file, over 8 mg, and might be slow to transfer.

And before anyone asks (by anyone, I mean John) why I didn’t just save a step and keep the grotty old 1979 plywood and call it art, I confess, it did cross my mind. But what’s the fun in that?

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Hello! Yes, friends, I’m back from the Reno Recovery Unit at Bellevue Oregon. This is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. When last we spoke, I had petrified albino rats on my mind and not much hope that the renovation of our kitchen would never be finished. I wasn’t far wrong on that last one. Still need to do some touch up wall work and some painting.

We moved back into the kitchen in late September, after the rains started—September was one of the wettest months of the year. There’s nothing like grilling in the rain, or washing dishes on your knees in the bathtub. Whoa, flashback! The doctors at RRU said there’d be days like this. [BTW, there isn’t any such place as a recovery unit for crazy DIY-ers, it’s just wishful thinking on my part. If it did exist, The Theory and I would still be there, eating soft-boiled eggs and watching daytime television.]

I offer some before-and-afters as proof that it wasn’t all a dream:

Under that pretty blue tile was a gooey, fungus- and bacteria-rich plywood of the 1979 variety. We salvaged as many of the tiles as possible. My mom made them.

Sink wall before. Under that pretty blue tile was a gooey, fungus- and bacteria-rich plywood sheet of the 1979 variety. We salvaged as many of the tiles as possible. My mom made them.

Here's the same wall after demo. The shovel is pointing to the place where The Theory found the petrified albino rats.

Here’s the same wall after demo. The shovel is pointing to the place where The Theory found the petrified albino rats.

Ta-da! Took this photo just this morning and you'll note the lived-in look.

Ta-da! Took this photo just this morning and you’ll note the lived-in look.

Before. Trapped between two doorways, the appliances were constant traffic stoppers. We saved the blue splash behind the stove. It's acrylic paint over stainless steel, made by my dad. Free to a good home, if you have a truck.

Stove wall before. Trapped between two doorways, the appliances were constant traffic stoppers. We saved the blue splash behind the stove. It’s acrylic paint over stainless steel, made by my dad. Free to a good home, if you have a truck.

Stripped down to the wallpaper of previous owners.

Stripped down to the wallpaper of previous owners.

After. This simplified footprint makes it darn near impossible to incinerate children and pets as they walk by. Some might say that's NOT an improvement.

After. This simplified footprint makes it darn near impossible to incinerate children and pets as they walk by. Some might say that’s NOT an improvement.

Where’s the art?

To be honest, it’s taken me three hours to write this post. That’s how un-creative DIY has left me. For instance, I spent my xmas vacation curled under the duvet watching Wallander and developing a weird crush on Kenneth Branaugh. I think it was because he cried during season two, which is something The Theory did often during the reno. <sigh> Now that I’ve seen all the Wallenders I’ll have to think of something else to do. Art, anyone?

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I’m reading a wonderful book called the Riddle of the Labyrinth by Margalit Fox. It’s a detective story of sorts, about the people who deciphered the written language of ancient Crete, called Linear B. It looks like this:

Sample of deciphered Linear B, the language of Mycenaean Greece.

Sample of deciphered Linear B, the language of Mycenaean Greece.

Linear B is a very early written language, dating from 1450 BCE. Clay tablets inscribed with Linear B were discovered on Crete around 1901 but it wasn’t deciphered for another 50 years. This script was so old that it didn’t seem to come from any other known language. There wasn’t a Rosetta Stone lying around to make things easier. All I can say is that I’m glad no one was waiting on me to decipher it. That’s real work! Pretty though, isn’t it?

linear B sample2

The Minoans developed the language in order to keep track of things, goats and cows and sheep, chariot wheels and pots. They’d come to a point where they had to write down what they knew or risk forgetting it forever. And they wanted other people to share this knowledge. I love these beautiful little symbols, and I love the fact that some of them are syllables and some are pictures of what they represent.

Ideagrams representing male and female sheep, goats, cows and pigs.

Ideograms representing male and female sheep, goats, cows and pigs.

One of the reasons the language resisted translation is because some of the people working on deciphering it wanted to attach sound to the signs and make it a spoken language again. The successful code breakers were the people who didn’t let their emotions get in the way.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about language and memory, what we keep private and what we reveal. Sometimes we are driven to write in order to remember the most beautiful events, other times the most terrible.

As a human being, I value those times when emotion gets in the way and we are compelled to create things that are charged with all the beauty and horror that we’ve seen, all the questions our experiences have raised. All our secrets. As much as I want to preserve these events in my own life so they aren’t forgotten, I may not want to look them in the face every day. One of the reasons I work with wax is that the surface can be somewhat distinct from the idea, and that extra misty layer can protect the image from the world, as well as protect the world from the image.

So here’s a sketch of five events that happened to me in the last year—though not in actual Linear B. One is happy—going to the beach, another is sad—losing my cat. Another is about bees. You get the idea. Think of it has encoding rather than deciphering, of making plain language secret again. I swear I’m going to get out to the studio this weekend and slap some wax on this sucker.

My ideagram language--encoded thoughts and memories.

My ideogram language–encoded thoughts and memories.

Encaustic Materials Handbook update.
Amazon tells me that almost 250 copies were downloaded during the promo period last week! I myself only downloaded it once, so the other copies had to be you guys. That a couple hundred more than I thought possible! Now if only some absolute strangers would buy a copy….

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I don’t know how to reblog a Facebook page, but I wanted to share images of new work by Oregon artist Laura Ross Paul. Here’s what she says on her FB page: “The technique is oil and wax over watercolors, all done on the new Arches Hulle paper, which has sizing embedded.”

New work by Laura Ross Paul

New work by Laura Ross Paul

New work by Laura Ross Paul

New work by Laura Ross Paul

Laura’s work demonstrates a balance between beauty, wonder and technical genius. When I see her paintings in person, I almost never notice the material at all–just the work. In fact, I just learned recently that she uses wax. That’s how bowled over I get about her paintings!

Check out Laura Ross Paul‘s work on her web site, or go find her on Facebook.

MinicoverEncaustic Materials Handbook update
The free promo week is over, guys. Now the price rockets to $7.99. I surely don’t want to stop folks from paying real money for my book–the royalty is equivalent to a mocha latte, which is heaven in this lovely summer weather. But there may be other promo weeks coming up. Amazon lets me do that occasionally. Sign up for email updates on the right and I’ll let you know.

But if you want me to have a mocha latte, go ahead and buy my book! Oh, almost forgot, anyone who hasn’t reviewed the book but still intends to (except for John who threatened to leave only two stars because his ancient, prehistoric Kindle doesn’t have color, and that’s somehow my fault) can still score a free review copy. Just let me know.

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