Sunday, July 13, 2014

Forever a Student

"The secret to mastery in any field is to forever be a student." -Martin Palmer

One of the goals I set for myself this year was to learn new things. In order to achieve this goal, I have recently taken a class in Encaustics from Stephanie Hargrave. I loved the class, and I loved having a chance to learn how to work with encaustic paint. I am still just getting the feel for the medium, and Stephanie gave us many new techniques to try.

You may be asking yourself, "what the heck is encaustic paint?" Encaustic paint is beeswax mixed with pigments and damar crystals. The damar gives the wax strength, and of course the pigment gives it color. The wax is applied in a melted, liquid state. The word "encaustic" means "to burn," so each layer has to be burned or fused into the previous layers. I have been working with the encaustic on birch panels and really loving it. I love the way it smells. I also love that you have to work quickly, before the wax cools and hardens.

The wax is melted in cans on top of a flat griddle. I started out using a heat gun to fuse each layer, but now I am using a torch. (I love the torch!)

The first few experiments mainly involved just practicing applying the wax, and learning how to fuse each layer. Then, we progressed to adding color, incorporating paper and tissue paper into the painting, and then we learned how to work with different types of line. These first two photos were paintings I did where I used some handmade paper.

7 x 5 inches

8 x 8 inches
The handmade paper was something I have had for a while. I made it with the expert help of my friend in Colorado, Sally Mather. (thanks, Sally!) She showed me how to make paper when I visited once. I am so grateful to have talented friends who share their knowledge with me. SO THANKFUL! I love the textures that were created when I applied wax over the paper. 

"Desert Tortoise." Encaustic, thread, twine, ink transfer, 8 x 8 inches

"Sitting upright." (jackrabbit) Encaustic, thread, twine and ink transfer, 8 x 8 inches

The second two images are the most recent encaustic paintings I've done. With these two, I was practicing using thread and twine to make lines. I also tried a technique where I did drawings in pencil, scanned them, printed them with a laser printer, and then transferred them to the warm wax. I love how they turned out, and I am probably going to try doing a few more like these. Stephanie, if you read this, THANK YOU!!! I loved your class!

Speaking of learning, if you think you might want to learn some art this summer, I am teaching a class as part of Carla Sonheim's new Summer Art Camp! The class I am teaching is called "Paint a Monster," and it is a class about learning how to paint light and shadow. (Using a Monster Finger puppet!) There are eight different artist/instructors in this art camp, and I think it's going to be a lot of fun. If you sign up early, you will save $20! (Click the link above for more details, won't you please?) I hope you will join us for this fun online class. The material stays online for a year, so even if you are busy this summer, you can still take this class!!!

Finally, we had a wonderful opening last night at Jenny Q's Grateful Desert in Joshua Tree. I have eighteen paintings of desert animals hanging in the shop, and the show will stay up until August. So if you missed the opening, don't worry! You can still see the show the next time you are downtown. (Local folks) For those of you who live far away, maybe I will have a chance to make a short video of the show for you to see. Thanks to all who came out!


Denny1600 said...

Hi Karine! I'm so wowed by your encaustic paintings! I love the ink transfers that you did. I'm going to try that, too. Of course, that requires a drawing! I agree that this class with Stephanie was fabulous. I'm looking forward to summer camp, too. And your monster class! I loved your abstract painting class and can't wait to see what is next. I wish you all the best with your show in Joshua Tree. If it's still hanging in January, I'll try to stop in to check it out. Love your work and your great instruction. "See" you later!

ArtPropelled said...

You've taken to encaustics like a duck to water, Karine!

Aine Scannell said...


great to see how you have been getting along with your first steps into using encaustics. I am pleased that you mentioned the fact that you use the flat griddle (and that we can see it there in the photograph) I saw some of those on E Bay and was thinking they might be good for this purpose so I know now to buy one when I get started with this. I didn't know about using Damar crystals - I think I will need to get a book on this technique from my library. And look it up also on the net.

I like the pieces you have completed too - adventurous and lovely the combination of the very ancient (encaustic) with the very new (inkjet)

Are those household brushes ?

The one thing I 'd like to know about in particular is the torch you mention


I appreciate that its some kind of heat torch - I just wondered what kind of area of the hardware store one would look in - maybe in the home decorating dept. ??

Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing

best wishes


Kathryn Hansen said...

You and I had similar goals at the beginning of the I just started a colored pencil course. I had wanted to take an encaustic class like you but none fit into my busy schedule! LOVE your pieces, they are very cool!!

Annie said...

Karine, I love these! I have always wanted to learn encaustics, but lack of space to work and also the outlay of money on supplies has always stopped me, but one day I will do it.
Please make a video of the show :-).

Karine Swenson said...

Hi everyone and thank you so much for your comments. I think Stephanie Hargrave made the encaustic process easy to understand, so I give her full credit for any success I have using this medium!

niya said...

Karine - these are truly gorgeous. You have such a sense of color and gesture in these. Wow.