06 October 2007

Playing in new media


Today I took a "mental health day" and attended an encaustics workshop at Silvermine Art Center. The workshop was taught by a knowledgable, generous artist named Nash Hyon. She introduced us to the techniques and processes, showed us all the basics and got us started on an exploration of encaustics or "hot wax painting". The Ancient Greeks used this technique for portraits and murals and, more recently, artists such as Jasper Johns and Robert Delaunay have used it. Due to a few very pressing deadlines I won't be able to explore this medium further until after the new year, but taking the class today got me thinking about my current medium of fiber in a deeper way.

Encaustics is all about layering. You start with a (usually) blank surface and patiently, slowly build layer after layer of wax medium, adding collaged items and colored pigment if you choose. Incising lines, scraping away layers, adding still more layers until you declare yourself satisfied with the result. Now I'll try to translate some of that patient layering to my fiber art where I've been trying to work more complexly in layers of imagery, color and texture.

I enjoyed the process of encaustic, but it's a skill like any other that takes practice to master. Today I was mostly experimenting with how the different materials I was collaging would react with the wax. I'm definitely looking forward to exploring further and seeing how best to incorporate this technique into my "vocabulary".

I've also recently taken up tap dancing again. Another medium, another opportunity for creative inspiration. Choreography follows a lot of the same principles of design that visual art does -- repetition, rhythm, variety and balance among others. Besides, it's good exercise for both body and brain. And I can combine art quilting and tap dancing if I "shuffle off to Buffalo" every time I head to the ironing board and "shuffle hop step" when I head back to my machine!

8 comments:

Judith Glover said...

When I was in high school I had a Cuban art teacher who taught us how to do encaustic painting in the late 50's. Before he left Cuba some artists were just beginning to work with encaustic painting and he was very excited about it. I remembr he invited us to his home to look at the work he was doing there. The way he explaned it, it sounded like there was a painting movement in Cuba in the 50's centered around the encaustic process.

I have a landscape painting I did using bees wax and oil paint. There was no collage involved. Diane Rodwell at Artspace in Raleigh, NC, has been doing encaustic paintings for several years now.

Judith G. Glover

Gerrie said...

I love encaustic mixed media work. I am sad that you have discovered it may not work with quilting. I think your piece is lovely.

Stacy West said...

I love the effect of the wax over handwriting. So evocative!

Rhojo said...

As a recently retired dance teacher(25 years) and a quilt artist, I am happy to hear you too think both artistic expressions compliment each other. Your encaustic piece shows that you can easily embrace new artistic techniques as well as new dance steps! Can't wait to see what happens with y our fiber art!

jpsam said...

And I think Brice Marden works include encaustics.

Rayna said...

I took an encaustic workshop a few years ago and still haven't had time to get back to it. I sitll have all the tools and colors and plan to dig them out after the dust settles in my studio. It is not as easy as it looks.

Natalya said...

encaustic sound like fun, would love to try it one day...

Plain Jane said...

Are you familiar with Fran Skiles work? http://www.quiltingbythelake.com/FranSkiles.htm They're not encaustic, but they have that gorgeous layered look. She started with quilting fabric and morphed into her current work. Gorgeous stuff. But I BET she doesn't tap dance! (I took tap dancing in my 30's and loved it.--good for you!)