I've been experimenting with encaustic paints the past few days, and let me tell you, learning a new medium is frustrating. I find myself trying to use the paints in the same ways I use acrylics instead of embracing the material and allowing myself to discover its strengths and limitations.
Encaustic paints are made of beeswax and pigment (oil paint). To use them, the paint must be melted and applied while hot. My initial attraction to this material is the ability to create a sense of depth through the layering of translucent and semi-transparent waxes; I also like that items can be embedded in the surface of the wax. Last year I began adding feathers, leaves, bones, insects, and other dead things into my paintings by suspending each object in clear epoxy, but it was difficult to visually integrate the shiny, smooth surface of the epoxy with my rather grungy paintings. I think the wax could be a better way to incorporate these kinds of elements.
I read a book on encaustic techniques, but in the end I did what I normally do--I jumped in without really have any clue of what to do. So, no surprise, my first attempt was a huge failure. I ended up making a small painting that looked sort of like what I normally would do with acrylics, except way worse. It was a waxtastrophe.
One incredible thing about these paints are that if you mess up, you can take the wax right off of your painting surface and melt the encaustic medium back down and use it again. I grabbed a knife, scraped all of the wax off of my failure painting and into a pancake griddle, melted it all back together, mixed in some oil paint for color, and started making monoprints. A lot of monoprints. Enjoy.
Every summer in Boulder, CO, artists across the city would open their studios to the community and share their work space with anyone who was interested. My mom and dad would get a catalog and map of participating artists from the local library, and we would spend entire days watching painters create new works (and munching on the endless array of free pretzels and cookies).
Many artists created in their homes, but the most exciting stops were huge warehouses with studio space for rent. Here dozens of artists pinned paperworks to the walls or straddled a massive canvass across two easels, each person's space separated with standard gray pop-up tables spattered in color and brushes. I had never seen such a large workspace or such large paintings before, and I wanted to make some too.