Saturday, July 27, 2019

Encaustic Gesso or Milk Paint

I like starting my paintings on a white surface. It is not necessary if you have a quality board and intend to use plenty of rich encaustic colors.
Here is an encaustic painting that I started on a birch panel with just a base coat of clear encaustic medium
I have used the specialized encaustic gesso and it is good, but since I can't buy it here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and the shipping cost is as high or higher than the price of the product, I started using milk paint for white surfaces about 9 years ago. I can buy that from the Old Fashioned Milk Company and have that shipped here. Since it comes in powder form, the weight is much less than the encaustic gesso; therefore less money.

About 9 some disparaging responses; giving me all the reasons that it would not work. The main derogatory comments came from someone who sells encaustic gesso.
I proved her wrong during the last 9 years. The milk paint surface is perfect. It is non-toxic, pure and receives the encaustic paint beautifully. The major complaint was that it would not keep and would turn into a smelly mess in a couple of days. Well, I just mix up the milk paint powder in water for the amount I will use. On the occasion that I have left over paint. I cover and refrigerate it.

Applying the white milk paint to a board.

I prepare all the boards in my encaustic workshops with the white milk paint, so the students can just start applying the encaustic paint.

For the "Lightness of Being Series" I always start on a white surface. The absorbent milk paint is a perfect base for the watercolor washes and diluted ink shapes. This is the result of the first couple of days of abstract washes.

Here is the diptych I finished this week. It won't be part of the gallery show that opens August 3, but maybe next month. The panels can be sold separately as complete paintings.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019


I am teaching both encaustic and cold wax and oil workshops again. Check my workshop blog for dates: 

Of course I offer introduction to encaustic, but more recently I find that people who have some experience with the medium come to learn more than just making sample boards.

We just finished a two day workshop, 12 hours of fun, and learning many encaustic techniques. I love sharing everything I know about this medium, and it is a lot. I shared instruction and demos of how to make encaustic medium and the paint; how to create and use laser transfers, build pattern and detail with a hot pen, incorporate rice papers, oil glazes and more.
Students in my classes make their own paintings with my direction and no one makes the same painting.

I am sure that I had as much fun as Jean and Cynthia had.

Friday, June 21, 2019

When Is A Painting Finished?

collectors deciding which paintings to buy

When is a painting finished along with "How long did it take you to make that?" are questions that I hear the most.

As for how long did it take you to make?  "My answer is 60 years of practice. " I don't punch a time clock, nor do I write down my hours in the studio. I do know that because of all my 60 years of being a working artist, I never stop learning or pushing the techniques I use to discover my own voice.

"When is a painting finished?" Now that is another story. Sometimes I work on a piece until I think I can do no more and put it away for some time before I re-visit it. I just completed a painting that I "finished" three years ago. I like it much better now. I will post the changes next time.

Cold wax and warm shadows
These collectors couldn't decide on one painting, so they bought two.
encaustic, 24" x 24"
I have a viewing room where collectors can see one painting at a time in a relaxed atmosphere. The whole house is my gallery and it can seem like visual overload. Usually the client will get up from their chair and enjoy pulling older painting out of the stacks to see what they can discover. Here is also where I re-discover paintings that I am not quite satisfied with and either destroy or continue working on them.
The stacks

This array of paintings go back years. Some are the last of various series or painting I want to keep.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Why Learn to Draw?

When I was a freshman in the University of Illinois, majoring in art, we had to spend the first semester drawing in black and white. We also worked from plaster casts and human skeletons. We kept drawing until the image was perfect. I loved it. One time I chose a dried corn cob to draw because it was the most complicated. I carefully rendered each kernel. 

Later in my career, I was sometimes belittled because I could draw. One comment I received in a group painting from a live model was. "That looks just like the model!" And it wasn't a compliment. I suppose that statement was supposed to undermine my creativity. Another opinion, from an artist working in a gallery was a scornful pronouncement was that drawing isn't necessary to paint. My answer was that since I could draw, I could paint anything using the same principles , and he could only paint non-objectively.

This classical training has served me well. If you can draw, it is the basis of all future art creations.

More reasons to learn to draw: Wrtiten by Hessam Moussavi, Lead Civil Engineer - Oil and Energy professional:
Improved Creativity
Improved Memory
Improved Communication Skills
Improved Problem Solving Skills
Stress Relief
More Positive Emotions
Release of Hidden Emotions
Increase of Emotional Intelligence 
Improving the Senses
Better Hand Mobility
Becoming More Observant of Details

I particularly agree with the last one: Becoming More Observant of Details, and I know it improves hand-eye coordination.

The images below prove that I am not stuck with just drawing realistically. I use everything I know about space relationships and composition that I learned in my classical training.
A pencil drawing done when I was 18 years old in my first year in art school

Oil and Cold Wax Abstract

From the "Her Journey" series

Encaustic and Oil

Cover of a Magazine

Seated Nude, Encaustic

Latest series, "The Lightness of Being" encaustic and mixed media.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Actually Painting with Encaustic

Encaustic painting still seems to be fascinating and drawing more and more people into trying their hand at painting with hot wax, resin and color.

In my mind, it almost seems like a cult and there are teachers all over the world offering classes in encaustic. It is fun for everyone. Lots of participants in classes just want the experience of using heat to see the colors move and make a more or less shiny surface.

I have taught hundreds of students in my encaustic workshops and after the first day of getting used to the heat source and seeing what happens when the colors move by themselves, I guide them into thinking about composition and negative space. I claim that my students often make more accomplished paintings than some "teachers".

My house mate, Cynthia Hamilton has mastered the encaustic technique. Her paintings are abstract, with the most beautiful surfaces I have even seen. Cynthia has also worked in this medium for 20 years. She is my daughter, but I did not teach her. We started at the same time; I was in Ashland OR. and she was in Brooklyn NY. She first saw the encaustic technique in Italy and I discovered it in Portland OR at a gallery.

We do not share a studio, so her finished paintings are a happy surprise to me.
Below are some of her newest encaustic paintings. I wish you could see the touch the glass-like surface. I love to pet her paintings. It is a sensual experience.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

60 Years of Making Art Video and Encaustic workshops

I have been sending this video privately to my subscribers, but now, this once, I am sharing it publicly.:

Of course since I made this I have continued creating and newer work can be seen on my website.

And here is my recent announcement for the upcoming encaustic workshops.

Dates of workshops:
June 17 & 18, July 15 &16, August 19 &; 20, Sept. 23 & 24

Check out the workshop blog: for the details

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Abstract; Back to Figurative

For the past 9 months, I have been working on my latest series, "The Lightness of Being" and it has been a wonderful creative adventure. I challenged myself to explore different ways to use encaustic with mixed media. Some of these paintings will be in a 3 month show in what I think is the best, most beautiful gallery in San Miguel de Allende , July, August and September.

I may eventually go back to this style, but right now, I am having a break that is fun and keeping me smiling; painting images from old photos of my childhood, and that was a long time ago; a simple time. I have just started. I only put in a couple of hours yesterday, but I am looking forward to getting back into the studio.

I have been working as an artist for a very long time and have no intention of stopping

The new painting, "Here, There and Everywhere"
Begining paint sketches

starting with ink washes on pieces of canvas
Another oldie , a cover of a magazine from about 2002