Today I’m going to share with you three ways to save time and money when painting oversized encaustic paintings. The answer in a nutshell, is underpainting.
The way I have always approached art is with a curiosity to learn the mediums, how they behave in general and how they will interact with other mediums. I love taking creative courses in any discipline: this fuels my creative muscles and pushes my instinctive creative behaviours. Art classes = My dopamine-release of choice! People always ask me to recount the story of how I discovered that I could soundly combine my two favourite mediums mixed media (acrylic based), and encaustic in the same piece.
For years, because these two incompatible materials, were my paintings mediums of choice, I had to separate my time between both. I either had encaustic days or mixed media days but never the two would meet at the same time until one fated day… A friend invited me to a furniture painting course where we would learn about the properties of mineral based paints. When finishing my adorable little bench painting, the lightbulb was quickly turned on, when the instructor said the following. “ Now, we are going to seal and finish our beautifully painted furniture with… (are you ready for this???), BEESWAX! I knew that my days of incompatible favourite mediums was behind me and my program, “Two World’s Collide”, the stable approach to combining mixed media with encaustic, was born.
Today I am going to bet that somewhere along the line, you took an encaustic course, whether it was in person, online or self-directed by watching and reading and you learned how to prep your panel in one or two materials/products. Done-zo! Word. I am going to give you a few more options to consider before diving into repetition each time you paint.
ENCAUSTIC IS EXPENSIVE
Those poor little dying bees would tell you, that if you could reduce how much wax you are consuming by underpainting, you’d save their tired little asses! I’m not kidding at all. By underpainting your paintings, you’ll be saving a lot of money on your overall wax consumption. You’ll also be saving time - making your paintings come out faster and with surprising little effort…. Imagine that, being in the flow instead of swimming against the current!
THE NATURE OF THE BEASTIt is true of most art supplies and materials, that once you understand the nature, the properties, required for the job and the nature of the material choices at your disposal, that it is easy to make sound choices that will work in your art. Encaustic requires a toothy ground that has to either absorb the wax or hold its melted little goodness in tiny dimples and “pores”. Now that we know that, let’s match it to some materials that fit the description.
Encaustic gesso - kinda obv but if you’ve never tried it, you should. It is really thick and opaque so depending on what your requirements are, this can either be a pro or a con. To me Encaustic gesso is the equivalent of a primer or base coat that comes in several colours. Comparatively it is the most expensive choice.
Mineral-based paint. Also known as chalk paints or clay paints, these smooth near-acrylic free or acrylic-free paints have just the right properties for underpainting encaustic. Because they come in acrylic-equivalent colours, you can paint an entire painting first, before adding wax. Once dry, they are flat matte, which means absorbent and porous. This creates a perfect little scenario for the encaustic wax to adhere. Some mineral based paint companies have added a tiny bit of adhesive polymer to their formulas so that the paint will readily adhere to furniture (the reason why you don’t have to prime). In my experience the, the porous ingredients added, the minerals, prevail leaving the surface ideal for encaustic. They can be expensive if you are buying large cans. Try to find a company that offers large cans for your usual colours and small sample size for the accents. Beware of latex paints that have minerals added - sometimes they don’t have enough of the good stuff - the minerals, to be a good base for encaustic - it's too slippery in other words.
Not a paint at all, but worth noting as it is one of my favourites! Collage papers glued down with wallpaper paste is fantastic. You get texture, pattern, colour and imagery (if you wish), all perfectly compatible with wax. Wallpaper paste is cheap and acrylic free. The downside is that you have to wait a little while to ensure your paper is completely dry before top coating with wax. Another added bonus is that you are able to stain and paint over the paper (using your mineral paints), to create unity, composition and beautiful under paintings.
That wraps up my list of favourite materials/methods for saving myself money and time by underpainting my encaustic pieces. My suggestion is that if you haven’t tried some of these materials or methods, DO. Experiment, play, figure it out. Besides the obv question, what have you got to lose?, I’d like to know what you’ll do with all the spare time/money you’re going to have/save in your next date with encaustic?!
Compulsively creative always,