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Back to Encaustics September 21, 2009

Posted by Beth in Art.

It’s been quite awhile since I have had time to write on my Calla Lily encaustic piece. I finished the piece weeks ago (I had to–the electric palate was on loan from my son’s art teacher and had to be returned when school started again at the end of August.)

When I last wrote, I had finished three images I wanted to combine into one larger piece.
Cala #2 d 003 Cala #3  plant c 001-blog Calla ily #4b final b crop cor-blog

I envisioned ending up with a set of four with the 4th image as something a bit different to provide some contrast. In my photo collection, I had a close-up shot of a calla lily leaf which I liked and though would serve that purpose:Calla Lily Leaf 1

I began the process by fusing the photo to a claybord and then adding a layer of clear wax:

Cala Leaf  stage I

Next I painted each half of the leaf with a block of base color, and then fused to a smooth surface. To capture the straight fine lines of the leaf veins, I chose the intarsia technique. For the wide veins, I used a pencil to carve the grooves before filling them in with  contrasting color.

Calla leaf Stage II cropped X Calla leaf Stage III 008-crop

After scraping off the excess wax to expose the filled-in grooves, I used push-pin to carve the thinner veins. as these groves were too fine to be filled by wax, I filled them with oil paint instead, wiping off the excess with a rag dampened with turpenoid.

Calla leaf Stage IVbclose-crop

Cala Leaf Stage V 018-crop Calla leaf  Stage IV oils

I was feeling pretty good about how it turned out–but I wanted to smooth out the surface. Afraid that if I simply fused at this stage, the wax would melt and distort my straight lines, I decided to put on a protective wax layer first—-and I ruined it!

Calla leaf Stage VI 019-crop

All my beautiful clarity was now obscured by the milky opacity of the wax.  I tried to scrape and refuse to get the the top coating of wax as thin as possible, but I never was able to achieve the look I desired.

I eventually went through 5 more attempts to capture in wax the image I had in my mind. Along the way I learned a lot–perhaps the most important lesson was how much closer I was able to come to creating my desired image through  tediously repeating the process, each time with slight modifications. I felt caught up in a scientific experiment as much as in an artistic creation–but that just added to its appeal for me.

Here is a bit of what I learned:

The scraping stage of the intarsia process is MUCH easier if I used a fine brush to add the minimum amount of wax needed to fill the grooves.–and the smother the surface before carving, the better. Also, I could add more realism to the final image by varying the color of the wax and paint I used as filler. I printed off a copy of my photo to use for color testing, and that further improved my ability to reproduce the subtleties.

Here is the leaf in base colors. I was able to get a very smooth surface by putting the claybord right on top of the hot palate and letting it heat up until the wax  melted. The trick then was to get it off without jostling it  or the colors would run.

Lily leaf #2 I -crop

Below is my color tester:

Lily leaf photo for collor checks

If you look closely, you can see the filler wax changes from yellow-white to yellow. If I was to do it again, I would try for a more gradual shift.

Leaf #5 Intarsia I best-cropped

And here is the final result:

Leaf #5- final-croped

It was looking good–but not quite there yet.  When I placed this leaf image with all its sharp definition and straight lines  next to the softer blended-by-melting colors of the flower images, the effect was jarring and out of place.

I tried lightly fusing to soften the lines, but it still wasn’t quite right.

LEaf #5 -final post more fusing-cropped

Especially when I put it with the others.

Encaustic Lily set 001

It looks better here than it did “live.” I did like it, but wasn’t quite satisfied.  My son kept telling me that the leaf didn’t fit at all.  I didn’t understand why not because I saw it as all part of a set of different points of view on the same calla lily. For me, the subject tied it all together. After multiple conversations, my son finally stated “It may fit together to you because you know they are all calla lilies, but is doesn’t work visually.”  He wanted my 4th image to have the same style as the others: a black background and central image. In spite of the days of effort I had put into the improving the leaf, I decided to give his idea a try. In the end, I liked the new leaf best.

The last step was to glue the four smaller images onto a larger claybord. For my first real attempt at encaustic, I am pretty pleased!

CAlla Lily set c-cropped

Post series: New Project,   Calla Lily #2,  Calla Lily #3,  Calla Lily #4 Back to Encaustics


1. Calla Lily #4 « AisA Academy - June 7, 2011

[…] Back to Encaustics « AisA Academy – September 21, […]

2. Calla Lily #3 « AisA Academy - June 7, 2011

[…] Post series: New Project,   Calla Lily #2,  Calla Lily #3,  Calla Lily #4,  Back to Encaustics […]

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