I had the privilege of working together with photographer and tea enthusiast Krista Moll Kristamollphotography.com, hosting a tea tasting and pottery making event at one of our local parks. Roughly forty people attended the event. The morning began with the first tasting of the ten teas provided, ranging from a selection of herbal, black to green teas. Each person attending was given the clay and tools to make a mug along with detailed instructions. Krista took the care of the organizational aspect of the event as well as the tea tasting while I provided the clay tutorial and support. It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning and I look forward participating in additional Tea and Art events. For more information please feel free to visit Krista’s Facebook event page.
The creative process can be complex and abstract and therefore difficult to describe. I will, however, try.
As an artist, I find myself attracted to a number of different mediums including photography, clay work and fiber arts. I find that for each medium the creative process tends to be different. Different things inspire me and I tend to structure the work in different ways, including how I navigate my work environment.
In this blog entry I will focus on the creative process surrounding the encaustic paintings I create.
It is not uncommon for me to have several ideas or concepts for different paintings at the same time. They are often not fully formed, still in the peripheral vision of my mind, and not until they come into focus can I proceed with the painting.
Creating a concept board helps me focus. It is a way for me to get the ideas out of my head, and look at them critically. My concept board often includes a color scheme, shapes and forms that inspire me, as well as drawings and photographs. It is not uncommon for an encaustic painting to go its own direction once I have begun but the concept board gives me a place to start.
I enjoy rummaging through my waxes, picking out the ones I want to use, from plain unfiltered bee’s wax to brightly colored chunks of premixed wax.
I often work on wood or clay panels and will begin by applying a clear coat of wax. This helps with the blending of the waxes especially if the surface is porous like wood.
The tools I use can vary but for the most part I use a heated iron, stylus and heat gun. Every once in awhile I bring out the blowtorch or create a shellac burn. I begin all my painting by blocking in the surface with color. This tends to be a free flowing process where not a lot of thought and preparation go into what I am doing. The wax flows where it chooses.
Once the surface is covered in wax, I begin the process of looking for shapes and outlines to scratch it. For this particular painting I gathered a variety of round objects as templates. Once the shapes have been drawn or scratched into the wax I begin the process of removing and adding wax, mixing colors, heating and cooling the wax.
Waiting and watching for a painting to come together can be a frustrating, painful yet beautiful process. I remind my students of this almost daily. It is only when you are steering toward the end does a painting tend to come together and work. It is vital to focus on the process and not to give up on the painting because it does not look like a finished product during the process.
I enjoy listening to music while I paint, careful to pick out a selection that fits with my concept. There are times I create a specific playlists for individual paintings. Taking small breaks and walking away from the painting, even if just for a minute or two, helps my creative process flow smoother and more efficiently.
There is a fine line between knowing when a painting is finished and overworking it. I find myself always seeing one more thing to change but it is the artist in me that lets me know when the painting is complete. It has come together and is the best it can be. It takes distance, walking away from it perhaps for a day or two to look at it with fresh eyes and know that it is complete.
I have recently begun working on a new series of paintings, celebrating the cultural, diversity and life of the indigenous people of Melanesia.
The rapid demise of indigenous cultures is of great concern. Every two weeks a unique language disappears and with it, cultural traditions and knowledge. This loss is a global tragedy.
16″ by 20″ Encaustic Wax on Wood Panel
“West Papua Mother”
8″ by 10″ Acrylic on Canvas
“The Oldest Son”
8″ by 8″ Acrylic on canvas
8″ by 10″ Acrylic on Canvas
I admit I am a procrastinator. I also eat too much chocolate and drink too much coffee, but that is another post entirely. The holiday season always sneaks up on me and this year was no exception. Only this year I had also committed, last minute, to doing a show beginning the third week of December. So the usual Christmas frenzy ended in complete chaos. Not only did my stress induced self eat most of the holiday candy in the house, but my eight year old caught me trying to steal chocolate from his advent calender. Try and talk yourself out of that one!
With the holidays over and some perspective gained here are a few pictures of our pre-show preparations….and come see the actually pieces at Fosters in Durham if you are around for the next few weeks.
I have always wanted to try my hand at recreating an icon in encaustic. Using the medium icons were originally created in gave me greater insight and understanding of iconography and an appreciation of the meaning and symbolism of religious imagery. Having said that, I realize that there are specific documented ways to create iconography that I know nothing of, so I apologize in advance to those whose knowledge exceeds mine. Part of the challenge that I enjoy in creative endeavors, is finding my own way through the maze. If this leads to a dead end, then I have learned a valuable lesson, if I manage to muddle my way through, I become a better artist.
My functional work space…messy and comfy.
The icon that I chose to work with is “The Ethiopian Madonna and Child” brought to the west by Constantine in 1046. According to church tradition, she was painted by the Evangelist Luke. My first step was to apply general color on a 8by10 clay board using an encaustic iron and a selection of waxes.
Once the wax is cooled, I use a sharp metal rod to draw an outline of the icon into the wax. This can be one of the most difficult step for mistakes are hard to undo.
Now that I have the figures in place I go back with the iron and redo the background and any additional areas that do not match up with the drawing.
Once this step is completed and I am happy with the result, I heat up the encaustic stylus and start creating a general color outline.
As the icon starts taking form I add and remove layers of wax to create color, form and texture. If I get stuck I usually take a break for several hours or work on something else to give myself a fresh perspective. Sometimes, asking my 8 and 5 year old boys what they think, can be productive and at times humorous! Over the course of several days the icon takes shape.
Once the icon representation is what I have envisioned, I add the highlights and shadows. The last step it to take a soft cloth and polish the wax into a shine.
This icon was followed by several others. There is something beautiful and serene about recreating icons. These images were a bridge for the common man to experience the divine. I feel connected to the images and hope that I in some way can bring across just a glimpse of the original intent.
I celebrated my 37th birthdays recently by piercing my nose. I admit that it was a bit out of character but there I was at 9.30 pm in my bathroom with a sewing needle in hand. Of course I could have always gone to one of the numerous tattoo/piercing parlors. But taking my two little boys to a mecca of body mutilation was out of the question. I could just here it now. “ Mama pleeeease I want that dragon picture on my face, please, please please, I want it more then anything!!! Why can’t I have the dragon picture on my face? That man has a picture of a naked girl on his arm! Her breasts are very big they must be full of mama milk. Where is the baby? Mama can I go ask the man where the baby is in his picture?”
I would just do it myself. It couldn’t be that hard. I grew up in New Guinea where the tribal community we lived in were experts at piercing. I had witnessed my friends using bits of bone to dig holes through various body parts. When I was a ten year old I asked my mother if I could let my best friend Fusai pierce my nose, the request was met with such a strong negative response I never asked again.
Life has a way of repeating itself and so there I was almost 30 years later contemplating the forbidden. My two year old night owl watched with interest as I started twisting the needle into my nose only to giggle when I let lose a slew of German words that I kept for special occasions. Silly Mama!
Gritting my teeth I pushed the needle through my nostril and with satisfaction took a few minutes to admire my handiwork. For a fleeting second I thought about showing the husband my accomplishment but decided against it. He already thinks I am weird. Surprising him with a large sewing needle through my nose probably wasn’t a good idea.
Pushing the little silver nose stud into the newly created hole hurt like hell but when all was said and done my two year old clapped. Mama looks schick!
That night as I lay in bed with my throbbing nose I wondered why at the age of 37 had I finally decide to pierce my nose? Midlife crisis was the husband’s suggestion. No, I thought to myself. Several theories came to mind. Was I trying to gain some control over my body that my children in their ever so sweet way had kidnapped from me? Maybe my life had gotten so out of control I was trying to find a way to regain control. Or maybe I was just a crazy mama who had neglected herself for too long. I fell asleep that night with a wonderful sense of triumph.
A few days later I went to the airport to pick up my mother whom I had not seen in over two years. As I saw her approach I wondered what she would say to my newly pierce nose. As she got closer any concerns that I might have had flew out the window. Great rivers of laughter came out of my belly and I hugged her madly. She had dyed her white hair a brilliant shade of pink.
Originally posted with Motherverse Blog
I am thrilled to have a photograph of mine featured on the cover of the latest Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering!
A copy of the journal can be ordered a:
I am thrilled to have an encaustic painting featured on the cover of the recently released Demeter Press book Captive Bodies by Mary Ruth Marotte. Demeter Press is the publishing division of the Association for Research on Mothering. http://www.yorku.ca/arm/demeterpress.html
To order a copy of the book click here