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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pattern - That's What I'm Talkin' 'Bout!

Sandra Quinn, Step by Step 1, 14" x 16" encaustic  2009

This does not qualify for the upcoming Pattern show because it was done in 2009 but it is a stunning example of pattern creating rhythm in a painting.

Deadline for entries is Labor Day, September 3rd.  See below for details on how and what to enter.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


INTRO TO ENCAUSTIC PAINTING      Hylla Evans (hylla@comcast.net)
Supplies to Start Encaustic Painting in Your Own Studio 

Remove any solvents or flammable materials from work area first!

BURN CREAM and access to cold water
absorbent painting supports (untreated wood, paper, bisqueware)
electric pancake griddle and extension cord
fan to exhaust fumes out the window and an open door or window to bring fresh air inside
glass cooking thermometer  (Keep wax paint under 220F.)
paper towels
non-stick muffin tins and loaf pans (flat bottoms, NOT cans from foods)
natural bristle brushes with wood handles (hake without metal are best)
scraping tools and pointed tools, spatula
natural unbleached beeswax (or medium can substitute)
encaustic paints and medium
heat glove
ladle  (for adding medium to paints)
propane torch with trigger start fitting TS-4000 BernzOMatic
"The Art of Encaustic Painting" by Joanne Mattera


This is the first of several posts on teaching encaustic painting to beginners.  Next post will have a syllabus. Post #3 is a supply list for teachers.  Post #4 is a class handout for students.  Feel free to add your own comments on the topic of each  post. Yes, you may print this series for your own use as long as you include:  ©Hylla Evans 2012, All rights reserved.  Do not distribute by any means.

Know your material inside out.
Knowing comes from both cerebral learning and studio practice.  One without the other is not enough.
Know an accurate history of encaustic.  The gold standard is in The Art of Encaustic Painting by Joanne Mattera.  Have that book available (plus any others you like) for students to peruse during breaks.  Much information is available on the internet and some is blatantly wrong.  The internet is not a vetted source.
Assemble all technical information about waxes, the nature of medium,  and reasons for fusing tools and the techniques of each, various substrates and their properties.  Know how encaustic behaves alongside other media.  Know this from your own experiments in addition to what you've been taught.
Know every tool artists use with encaustic.  Though you won't show every tool in class, you will get questions.  The breadth of misinformation out there is astounding.

Know how to impart your information generously and accurately.
Teaching encaustic is not a good plan if you don't have training and experience in teaching itself.  Learning styles vary, artistic development varies, students come to class with strong interest and some knowledge.  As teacher, your handling of each of these differences is critical to everyone's success.  It's important that you be able to mentally identify the learning style of each student in the class quickly.  Draw them out at the start of the day to gauge HOW each learns.  If you want books on general teaching methods and identifying learning skills, you can easily find those.  I recommend the Teachers College bookstore or online articles.  
I'm not suggesting that you give students a test on entry.  Have one go round of students introducing themselves, keeping it simple but giving you good information.  Ask them to address any of these: what is their art medium in which they are most comfortable, have they taken a class in encaustic or read books, how do they come to find this particular class?  Provide name tags then you make notes on what you glean from each student telling you about herself.  Though your class will be diverse in experience, you need to help each artist move forward from where she is now.  You want to encourage each individually in the course of the class and with follow up email.  Encourage them to contact you by email but don't require it.  
Respect each student's privacy, strengths, and vulnerabilities.  Class is not a competition and you need to diffuse any notion that one student is better than another.  
If there is a question to which you don't know the answer, say so.  Get the answer and communicate it to the whole class the next session or by email if there isn't another session.
Unless the class is convened specifically to teach your own methods of making your own art work, do not make that a subject of conversation and try to diffuse such requests to after class or during a break.  People cannot help but to try to please the teacher and consciously or not, some will mimic your work.

© Hylla Evans 2012

TEACHING ENCAUSTIC #3 - Teacher Supplies

This is a basic list of what I have on hand for an intro class.

  • tables, floor covering, table covering
  • extension cords (test to be sure of circuit loads)
  • fire extinguisher
  • cold or ice water 
  • burn cream, Tylenol
  • heated palettes (tested, working)
  • infrared thermometer
  • containers for medium and paint colors (flat bottoms)
  • brushes and spares
  • Holy Grail gesso and brush
  • propane torches
  • medium and brushes (plus extra brushes)
  • paints sorted by color groups (variety of manufacturers)
  • tools for scraping, incising, cutting, smoothing, writing
  • heat gloves
  • latex or similar for working with oil paint
  • oil pastels
  • watercolor crayons
  • oil paint (must wear gloves)  (NO SOLVENTS!)
  • oil to clean and remove oil paint
  • books and art reproductions
  • handouts for students, extra pens
  • photocopies for use in class 
  • collage materials - wide variety
  • stencils
  • low tack painter's tape
  • paper towels and more paper towels
  • anodized aluminum plate in case there's time to demo and discuss
  • variety of papers in case there's time to demo monotype 
  • lozenges for inevitable dry throat


Syllabi vary depending on subject matter and audience.  A class that lasts longer than one or two full days will expand more into some issues, possibly including critique and homework along the way.
This is my basic, bare minimum syllabus for Intro to Encaustic Painting.  I've put more notes at the end that reflect topics covered throughout the class.

  • Have each artist gesso a section of one panel (so it will dry and be available for comparison of primed vs unprimed wood)
  • Distribute any handouts along with name tags
  • Introductions around the room - light but informative
  • History of Encaustic: who, what, where, when, and why (reproductions or projected images)
  • Archival properties of encaustic vs other media
  • Safety precautions (burn treatment, ventilation, safe studio practices, when to see a doctor)
  • Supply list and resources list (see later blog post for the lists I use as example)
  • Discussion of materials being used in class (properties of beeswax, medium, hot palette, tools, brushes, supports, gesso, paints)
  • Explanation of additional materials that are not available in class
  • Here comes the How.  Demonstrate priming, taping sides if desired, applying base layer, fusing
  • Explain the role heat plays in decomposition of the wax, in fusing, in texture vs fluidity
  • "Gentle fusing" distance from surface and time between fusings to cool (You will return to this in talk and demo repeatedly. Distance + patience = gentle fusing.)
  • Keeping work at its best: photographing, shipping, labels and packing encaustic work
  • Transparency and adding layers
  • Using layers of clear medium within the painting
  • Scraping or subtracting partial layers
  • Many ways to achieve fine lines and clean edges 
  • Transfers (importance of using one's own imagery)
  • Collage
  • Mention further classes for works on paper, color theory, 3D, professional development, etc.
  • Frequent Q & A
  • Finishing work: polishing, bloom, hanging
  • In a clean area, artists talk about their works done in class and take questions.

Along the way, show reproductions of art that show a large range of what's being done with encaustic.  Make sure that each work referenced has copyright credit and full attribution under it.   Provide a handout of links and be sure each artist you've referenced is included.  The reproductions you show should be of high quality and they are for use in class only.  Do not distribute reproductions for students to keep.
As class progresses and students have attained skills, work individually to prompt thinking about how those skills will be put to use in their own work.  Are new doors opened?  Techniques support work at hand but they can also be the impetus for new content or a new artistic direction.  Supporting artistic growth has to include discussion of works in a larger art context.  Take the opportunity to have artists talk about their work, perhaps write about it, and encourage critical thinking about principles of design and meaning in their art.  Even in a technique class, you set the bar as high as possible for artistic growth.  If you don't do that during class, they may not necessarily think through those issues on their own.
After each class break (lunch or overnight), introduce the basic schedule for the day and review interactively the prior information as you perceive the need.

© Hylla Evans 2012 All rights reserved (do not distribute).

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Call for Entries: PATTERN

Pattern as a design principle can be simply defined as repetition of a shape or form within a work.  The separating interval may be regular or changing, but such a repetition creates a rhythm.  These patterns are never accidental.  They play an outstanding role in communicating the meaning of the work.  

AndrĂ© Derain, Barque au Port de Collioure 1905

Submit your own work that relies on pattern to do the heavy lifting of communicating your intent.
Email one or two jpgs with your name and painting title in the label of each jpg.  Paintings may have been made in any medium but must be created in the last two years and must be your original work.
In the body of the email please be sure to provide your full name, your website link, the title, medium and dimensions of the work as well as the year it was created.
Labor Day, September 3, 2012 is the deadline for entries.

There is no fee to enter and the work does not need to be shipped.