Encaustic Painting Workshop (Octopus Art, Part 2)

Photo of Karen Eide's Encaustic Wax Workshop
Karen Eide demonstrating an encaustic technique in her workshop
A few weeks ago, I took Karen Eide's all day encaustic workshop and posted one of my encaustic octopus pieces for Illustration Friday. Today, I'm going to talk about the workshop itself. I loved taking the workshop, because it exciting to work with a new medium and it was a luxury to devote 6 hours of a weekend to art while my husband took the kids to their activities.

Basic encaustic set up
We learned that encaustic is basically painting with hot beeswax (mixed with other waxes in specific proportions). The wax and wax paints are melted on a pancake griddle and applied with coarse bristle brushes to any porous surface, like wood or mat boards. 

After listening to safety precautions, our group got to work. As we applied layers of wax, we could add fabric, paper, netting, string, and other similar materials. We could etch into the wax with sharp tools and scrape it off with a palette knife. We could draw or paint on the wax with Sharpies, ink, and oil pastels. Between each layer, we applied a heat gun to set the wax. If we let the heat gun get too close or be applied too long, the wax would melt, sometimes into interesting designs.

My first piece was a small octopus. I started with the background, applying clear wax and the colors. I melted the colors together. I etched the octopus drawing into the wax, applied black wax over the etching, and scraped off the excess, leaving the line. I added other colors and touched up the black wax, adding heat between each layer. I was very happy with my first attempt at encaustic: 
My steps to making a moody octopus encaustic painting. © 2012 Sylvia Liu
For my second piece, I decided to experiment with texture. I dripped lots of wax onto the mat board. I was going for the Roy Lichtenstein effect, but it was difficult with the fast drying wax. I melted some of the wax scrapings from my first painting onto this one, and I scraped some twirly patterns. I like the expressiveness of this piece, though it's a bit rough: 

Encaustic painting of octopus © 2012 by Sylvia Liu
© 2012 Sylvia Liu
For my third piece, I decided to go for a more restrained palette and more delicate look. I did a few layers of blues and drew an octopus in ink. This is the piece I posted for the Illustration Friday prompt "fluid":
Encaustic painting of octopus © 2012 by Sylvia Liu
©2012 Sylvia Liu
By this time, I was getting into the groove, and we had 20 minutes left of the class. I used some fabric, oil pastels, and added gold wax for my final piece:
Encaustic painting of baby octopus © 2012 by Sylvia Liu
Octopus © 2012 Sylvia Liu
I would definitely consider doing more encaustic in the future. It is so versatile, and I felt I only experienced the tip of the iceberg. The only issue is that there is some expense to set up a studio properly (to allow for adequate ventilation) and to get all the materials.

To see what an experienced artist can do with encaustics, check out Karen Eide's website. 

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