New Work

February 28, 2020

Experiments that work!

I love it when a plan comes together! I had this idea to create a sort of monoprint-esque image and it worked so well I thought I'd roll it into a mini-tutorial. For posterity. And Julie! Do keep in mind working with wax can be a bit of a learning curve (and if you've got THAT under control the rest should be easy) but it ain't brain surgery. [googling Encaustic Wax videos should help] So hang in there and give it a whirl. Also. Kinda wish I'd thought of it BEFORE so I'd have the entire process visually recorded. Alas. Hindsight? 20-20. So bear with me as this is gonna be long on words and less on visuals.

Ready? Let's get started!
  1. Choose a substrate: I used up some leftover bookboard but really anything that has little to no give works ... wood, sturdy cardboard, artist board etc. For these particular pieces I used a base layer of plaster and gesso but works just as well on a  plain gesso'd surface.

Now let's move onto the images. 
  1. Editing Images: Once images have been chosen, I played around with some filters to get as much contrast as I could though still retaining enough detail to keep the image recognizable. I use Photoshop but any decent photo software/app should be fine. Further, I work back and forth between colour and black and white as ultimately they will be monochromatic when printed so the values are super important. This may require some experimentation! 
  2. Printing:  I use a laser printer as the blacks are so much more...well... BLACK. But. You can use an inkjet particularly if you're able to only use black ink. (I've tried to force my Epson to do this but it won't. Maybe yours is more agreeable!) Or you could always get your photos copied at a copy place if that's easier.
  3. Painting: Now's the time to get some washes down on your substrates. I start with very watery colour then build up the opacity where the white (or negative) parts of the copy will go. Don't forget you'll be flipping the image! I wanted to stick with  original photo colours (red & yellow for the tulips, purple for the iris and yellow and greens for the woodland wildflower) so used those along with some yellowy acidy greens for the greenery. Let dry fully.
  4. Wax Time: Now's the time to heat up your wax. Note: If you've never used wax before you might want to look at some YouTube videos to get the gist. And while I make my own encaustic medium it'll be much easier to purchase some ready made. Okay. With that said ...brush a layer onto your substrate. Let it harden up then fuse ie use a heat gun to smooth any inconsistencies. I find holding my gun in one position and raising or lowering the substrate is easier than the reverse as I pay full attention to how the wax is heating up/looking/moving. This is gonna take practice. Just sayin!
  5. Image Transfer: While your wax is still warm ...not soft but not stone cold, maybe 10 minutes later... is the time to adhere your photo. Flip your image ... ink to wax and burnish that sucker. AKA rub very firmly so your paper is "glued" to the wax surface. Note:  A quick hit with the heat gun can speed up the whole process BUT it can also go south in a hurry. So I'd advise using the "cold" aka burnishing method initially. Once you can't lift the paper without seemingly tearing it? You're golden!.
  6. Paper Backing: Spritz the paper with water and start to rub off the paper. I find using a synthetic cloth ...Swiffer sheets are Da Bomb...makes the process much easier on your fingers. This is standard image transfer protocol. You're essentially taking the paper off, leaving the inked image on the wax. 
  7. Scrap Rattle 'n' Roll:  Okay. This is where I divert from the typical transfer to wax process. And where I wish I had a photo!  Because I kept the contrast high on the photo, my transferred image was almost all black save for the flower bits. The only applied colour peeking through was through the "white" or blank no-ink areas. I was looking for a monoprint/hand-carved stamp look, so I started to scrape off the black ink using a series of  carving tools. Anything sharp will work ...Exacto blade, palette knife, scraper etc. Have fun!
  8. Heat Set:  After finishing all the scraping I did a quick heat set with my heat gun. Essentially you're "melting" the ink into the wax so when you add the top layer it doesn't easily get moved around. Tip: Keep the gun gently moving and start waaaay farther away than you think is useful, you'd be surprised how little heat is required - until you see the ink look kinda wet then STOP. Let completely cool down.
  9. Top Coat:  Final coat of wax gets brushed on. Personally, I try to keep this as smooth as possible as heating too much with the heat gun could move the ink around. If you do get ridges or unwanted marks you can either wait overnight and scrape them off OR go back and gently, gently, GENTLY heat  to smooth. **Please, please be aware the inked image WILL move if you apply too much heat or blow too much air. You can work with it, getting some funky shapes but if you aren't *looking* for funky, well? you're likely gonna have to start all over. Hey! I warned ya!**
  10. Additional Mark Making: I always like to scribe into the final layer of wax, not necessary at all if you like a smooth unmarked surface but I loves me some mark making! I use a variety of tools ... awls, pattern wheels (y'know those wheelie things used in sewing?), metal tops pushed in to make circles, letter/number punches etc. After that I sorta scrub paint into the lines. Tip: To get excess paint off the wax, I use a damp cloth rubbed in bar soap and wipe the surface. It works! Then I like to wait 24 to 48 hours to let the wax cure before buffing to a shiny shine. 

And you're done! I hope you have fun and experiment with this technique. It offers loads of potential I think. And if you have any questions just holler. Comment down below, email or Instagram). I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

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