Last spring and summer went by in a blast; for several reasons. Moving to a new house, and the fact that there was no summer to speak of North of the Mediterranean Alps, was a magnet to visiting friends. This was great, but kept me busy.
The house is like a noble old lady; discretely demanding. We didn't have to change a thing, but her aged beauty forced us to fine tune furniture colours and other interior details. The house has gracefully taken us in, accepted us, and our new ways of decorating and living.
New ways with wax
It's soon spring again and I believe changes of all sorts are good and should encourage new and refreshed ways of living and thinking. Moving was a particularly good in that sense. So, in this spirit I will try to look at some work with fresh eyes and present some attempts and failures. Something I have promised, but not done, so far.
For a year or so, before the move, I had attempted to familiarize myself with the encaustic medium. Googling "encaustic" I came across all sorts of sources; one was about Sheila Marbain who did wax printing at Maurel studios. Screen printing is part of my education and the combination of wax and printing appealed to me. I decided to try screen printing with wax the way I thought it was done at Maurel Studios.
But I must have gotten it slightly wrong when I read it. I assumed she had used a screen with a design/drawing and printed the traditional way; only replacing the standard ink with a wax emulsion smooth enough to print through the screen. However, i couldn't find any hint of recipes for such an emulsion. Annoying.
Rather than reading really thoroughly once more, I impatiently set out to experiment until I achieved something resembling the result I had imagined.
Later, when reading the text again, I realised that it was done quite differently. It was a good source. It's just that I only saw what I wanted to see. My interpretation of the text was tainted by my preconceived ideas of what 'wax printing' should be and look like. By sheer luck, I managed to come up with a formula that worked to my satisfaction in the first experiment - not done in the strong vibrant colours I had aimed to use though. Still, I'll show you the result.
Unfortunately the enamel-like finish of the wax doesn't show well in the photo. As for the image - it just happened to be on the screen. I hope to set up a work space where I can try out printing line drawings in bright colours on coloured background - at the moment they only exist on my computer.
I tried another more common use of the encaustic as well.
While experimenting with making my own coloured wax I wanted to test the hardness and hold. I had no picture planned so I simply started by covering a suitable MDF substrate.
A nice sky blue, but sort of a waste to leave it like that, I thought, and then my eyes fell on some cheese cube wraps on the floor.
The wrapping of my absentmindedly eaten lunch was now littering the place. Nicely coloured foil in an interesting shape had nearly escaped my attention. Now, they were just what i needed in order to test the adherence of the wax. Would the foil stick to the wax or would it need a top layer of wax to hold it?
It's still good, so I stuck with the recipe from Joanne Mattera's excellent book "The Art of Encaustic". This was my first attempt at tempering the wax, slightly heating the wax after a new layer is added. I knew it could look smooth as enamel. Boy, did that take me many trials, and I was not even getting close. I won't even start to tell you how many times the little foil shapes moved out of position. But I'm learning. And I like learning.
Flattening out the little foil scraps this cow's face reminded me that the brand name of the cheese cubes is La vache qui rit - The Laughing Cow. What a great title. Then I looked at my sky blue little test piece and thought - this is not a laughing cow - most certainly not! And then I really had the title "Ceci n'est pas une vache qui rit"