Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Little Show-and-Tell

Today was a beautiful, sunny day.  I walked into my studio at just the right time this afternoon to see a crazy disco-ball lighting effect going on, thanks to this funky sculpture from my college days that I re-worked with a mirrored mosaic surface several years ago.  The sun was shining through a window at just the right angle to hit "the head".  By the time I got the camera it wasn't as spectacular, but you can still see the flecks of light on the walls in this picture:

Tomorrow if it is sunny I'll try to get a more spectacular shot of the light show.

December 3rd last year our crawlspace flooded from the amazing amount of rain that fell overnight and throughout the day.  A lot of my old artwork and art supplies were stored down there, and I found myself quickly clearing out everything on the floor as the water started coming up through the floor drains.  Thus my old artwork like college paintings and drawings and this sculpture came out of hiding!  Unfortunately one of the plastic bins that had all sorts of collected paper stuff in it had a crack in the bottom and leaked.  The up-side to that was I had to spread everything out to dry and came upon the following newspaper article that included a picture and write-up about this very sculpture:

That was published in May of 1986 on the front page of the Nevada Herald of Nevada, Mo.  Nevada is where Cottey College is located, where I went for my first two years of college.  How exciting it was to see that picture on the front of the paper, even if it was in a town of only 10,000!

Earlier that school year I had discovered the top half of a mannequin behind a building in downtown Nevada and had to keep it, of course.  I ended up working it into this sculpture for the scupture course that I was taking at the time.  The coolest thing about this sculpture was that I learned to weld in order to make the pyramid-shaped frame for suspending the mannequin head.  I originally glued shards of glass into slots I cut into the surface of the head.  Then several years ago I took those off and covered the surface of the head with 1/4-inch squares of mirror, set into thin-set cement.  I LOVE mosaics.  And I think this project gave me the confidence to tile the floor in the studio, believe it or not.

It's funny how adding the mirror mosaic made the sculpture more tolerable/less freaky.  I think it used to literally freak-out my kids when they would see it in the attic of our old garage.  At the time that I made it my mom claimed that it was my interpretation of how I felt about her.  I think she was at least half teasing!  It is definitely one of my favorite projects, so I'm happy to have been inspired to show it here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Encaustic Painting Workshop

I really like to make my own stuff.  I think it's in my genes.  

Back in college I made seriously heavy-duty canvases to paint on with scrap lumber and quarter-round from my dad's basement shop (thanks, Dad!).  When I learned that I could make my own egg tempera paint by mixing diluted egg yolk and powdered pigments I was in heaven. Encaustic painting sounded like another DIY painting media that I really wanted to try, but I wasn't getting to it on my own.  Encaustic painting is basically mixing powdered pigment into melted beeswax and applying that to a rigid surface.  It is an ancient painting technique, actually.  
Back in September I finally had a chance to try encaustic painting.  I was so excited to see the class offered at Pratt Art Center.  Taking that class was an amazing experience.  And doing art full-time four days in a row was awesome!  The following are pictures of what I did.  I'm happy to finally get the pictures taken and on here.

About encaustic painting - The wax is beeswax and damar varnish crystals.  The damar raises the melting point of the wax and makes it harder.  For the most part I applied the melted wax with brushes.  The great set-up at our class for keeping the wax melted but not smoking hot was a sheet of 1/4"+ steel with long bolts at each corner placed over tw0-burner hot plates.  Different colors of wax were in different tins on the metal plate, and adjusting the height of that steel plate would fine-tune the temperature of the wax.  At home I've put my wax in tuna cans in an electric frying pan.  After painting a layer of wax on your surface you have to "fuse" the wax by heating it up with a torch or a heat gun.  I love an excuse to use a torch.  We worked on tables with drywall placed on top - great fire-resistant surface.  The other way to apply color is to use wood-burning tools, but you need a regulator to adjust the temperature down.  I am now the proud owner of a Weller soldering station so I can do just that.  Wahoo - I love tools!

Black sand beach, encaustic/pebbles, 1.5x4"

This is a little tiny piece.  Unfortunately the color on the top is washed out, but it looks like foam at the water's edge or cloudy sky.  This is a handful of pebbles from my favorite beach in the world, which is north of Kalaloch on the Washington coast (see my first blog post for a painting of the beach).

encaustic with knitted copper wire, 4x5"

I just had to try putting copper knitting into wax.  (see my fused glass/knitted wire pieces in an earlier post...)  There is a layer of white wax underneath and enough layers of un-pigmented beeswax on top to bury the wire.

encaustic, 5.5x4"

This was actually my first go at encaustic.  I was experimenting with an image transfer technique, so there is actually tissue paper under the wax - you can see air bubbles trapped under the tissue paper...

Peace (at what cost?), 4x5.5"

This is an image idea that has been stuck in my head for a while...

Salmon, encaustic, 6x12"

This is still not done.  This was my first serious attempt at painting an image in encaustic, and I have worked it and worked it.  I want to lighten up the background.  Right now it has a scraped texture that is driving me nuts. 

Jemima (RIP) , encaustic, 3.5x5"

This was my most satisfying painting.  I became totally mesmerized/entranced/in my zone when doing this piece.  That is the best feeling, and one that I've missed.  I used the woodburning tool for this piece.  You dip the hot tip into blocks of pigmented wax (it's room-temperature, not melted yet) and "paint" that small amout of wax/color onto your surface.

Bones, encaustic/collage, 5x6.75"
This is my favorite piece.  There are a couple of layers of color underneath the black.  I placed the bones on top and covered them with clear wax.  I had to switch to a heat gun to fuse the wax on the bones rather than use a torch because the bones started to burn from the torch flame.  The piece of copper is tacked on top.
 I collect bones on our camping trips down in the Canyonlands/Colorado Plateau area, and I love these tiny rodent bones that I found at the base of a rock wall that was a nesting area for something.  Luckily Ben came upon my stash in an Altoids tin in the glove box of the truck right before my class.  

A New Pancreas for Nick, encaustic/collage, 8.5x11"

Since Nick was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes almost 2 years ago, I have wanted to do some sort of art involving a pancreas.  Especially since the pancreas went from something we had no reason to think about at all to something that dominated our lives.  Here's my first pancreatic art.  I  think it was strangely theraputic for me to become so familiar with what a pancreas looks like.  The painted pancreas in this piece has a 3-D texture that was fun to build up.  There is a copper "bad" pancreas at the bottom left and a shiny new copper leaf one on the bottom right.  

Type-1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease that causes the body to kill the beta-cells of the islets of Langerhans in its pancreas.  These beta cells normally produce insulin, and insulin allows sugars to enter cells and be used as energy.  Type 1 diabetics are "insulin dependant", meaning they have to give themselves insulin shots or be on an insulin pump.  

New Teacher, encaustic/collage, 8.5"x7
This was an experiment using a photo transfer technique.  I made a xerox copy of an old picture that is my grandpa's first class after he became a teacher.  I transfered that image onto tissue paper using acetone.  I fused that tissue paper onto a board with wax under and over it, rubbed india ink on the surface and put some copper foil on the top.
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