I first studied reliquaries from the standpoint of Art History, and since then the concept consistently pops up in my artwork. They are fascinating vessels, elaborately decorated with gold and gemstones to house objects of supposed religious significance (like the remains of saints, cloth from the robe of Mary, etc.). The whole concept of "relic" is vexing and intoxicating to me--the construction of a garish house for something as simple and as lovely as a piece of bone seems like such a very human activity. We like to take humble things and cover them in wealth.
In the midst of the big ball of good-crazy happening to us right now (so much to tell and so very soon!), I wanted to throw a new little painting your way for some weekend art happiness.
My college professor of acrylic painting encouraged us to "sketch" in watercolor, but as I was a sort of a slacker and self-proclaimed "college poor", I preferred to hit the canvass with as little plan as possible and just go for it.
Recently I've been playing around with watercolors for the first time. Here is my favorite so far:
This piece is a mix of watercolor, acrylic medium, acrylic, and ink. I also messed up and split the layers of watercolor paper somehow, so I ripped a bunch of it off and kept going. It was quite a happy mistake--the large purple-gray field in the center is the result, and I love how messy the edges turned out.
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.