Friday, October 29, 2010

Visceral Structures

an encaustic and mixed-media artist Elizabeth Back's solo exhibition "Visceral Structures" is on view at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, CT. Back creates paintings, sculpture and installations that relate to nature and the body on varying scales. several paintings are round like huge petrie dishes that have some type of life form growing in them; others are very textural and also have a feeling of reproduction in progress. we get a close up view of things usually unseen. don't miss it but hurry-only up through 11/5.

Friday, July 2, 2010

10 Years Old

on my web site is a series called the genome project. they are 12" x 12" encaustic paintings on panel that use the letters of the genome-ATCG-and other imagery to reflect upon what makes us us -human.
this week the decoding (or mapping) of the complete human genome is celebrating its 10th anniversary. it is our DNA instruction book where only 1/2% difference in the code creates our uniqueness.
you might say "so what"? but very likely, within the next 3-4 years your map/book will be read for less than $1000.00 and within the next 10 years it will be a part of our medical records.
hopefully advances in predictions, prevention and cures will also grow at an even faster pace. it was also announced this week that a group of scientists think they have found the genes for longevity. how does being 100 years old sound? still creating art?
for further info check out Spencer Wells at the National Geographic Genome site.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Transfer Notes from 4th Annual Encaustic Conference

Here are some notes and observations on doing transfers based on my experience and seeing what other artists do. I use a lot of images and text that I transfer and want to do it as perfectly and quickly as I can-you may have found other ways but so far this is what I feel works best. Doing a transfer can seem like magic but by paying attention to a couple of details it is a straight forward process.

What is the difference between lazer and ink jet copies? Laser (toner) printers heat a powdery toner that is applied to the paper. An ink jet sprays ink dots and uses either heat (Canon, HP) or electricity (Epson) to set the ink.

What to transfer-
Photocopy, laser copy, toner copy in B & W or color, newspaper copy. Ink jets don’t work well but are not impossible.* but why bother? They are often not waterproof.Remember to “mirror” text so it will be right reading.
Graphite, color pencils, charcoal, pastel (not oil), carbon or Saral paper,metallic transfer tapes.
Color from magazine pages.
Lazertran ink jet paper-more of a combination of techniques as the image is actually collaged in.

How to: the basic technique
Note:there is no need to use any kind of solvent
Fused, smooth surface-the smoother the surface the more perfect the transfer will be. I like some or all medium on the surface that the transfer will be on-medium is more tacky. Medium will also prevent pigmented encaustic paint from seeping into the image when you fuse. This is especially true when using charcoal.
Warm the surface-between 80-110 degrees. The transfer is harder to do if the surface is too cool and you will just push into the wax if the surface is too warm. Feel it and/or use a digital thermometer.
Place the transfer face down. Rub with a metal tool-a burnisher works best. You need the hardness of the metal tool-it works much better that wood, bone, etc. This usually takes around a minute.
Spray with water and rub over the paper. It may need several applications of water. Let the water do the work! Then rub off the paper pulp-fingers, old towels, sanding blocks, kitchen scrubbies-all these work.
Even though it looks clean add a little more water and rub with you fingers to get that very fine layer of paper off. It is easiest to edit the image at this time , removing any parts of the transfer you don't want to keep.If it is a keeper, lightly fuse. Of course if you fuse too much you will move the image, sometimes you might do that on purpose for the effect.
Cut the image out completely, put face down and cover with wax paper, then burnish.
Leave some of the paper pulp on or around the image which can add softness, some dimension.

To transfer a graphite, pencil or pastel drawing -no water.
Most artists don’t use heat for this but I prefer the surface to be just slightly warm.
The transfer will work best if the drawing is done on a non- absorbent paper.
Place face down on surface, burnish, lift up edge to check transfer, slowly pull off the paper.
Often you can do another softer transfer from the same image-a shadow.
lightly fuse.
*Ink jet printed on parchment paper will transfer easily.

Color magazine images-with water
Not all magazine pages will transfer-you need those that are printed on a clay based paper. Use same basic technique although when doing a large page I like to use a flat metal tool to get more coverage. If you hear or see air bubbles your paper is not attached to the surface and will not transfer.

Experiment, push the boundaries, take risks-that’s what art is all about.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Two Inspirations

i'm just back from the 4th Annual Encaustic Conference held at Montserrat College in Beverly, MA, just north of Boston. This was my third conference as a presenter and participant and each year this conference gets better and better-congratulations to Joanne and the college staff. over 240 artists from the US, Canada and S. America, speakers and even vendors created an informative, exciting and inspiring atmosphere. those of you who were on the fence this year about going-sign up next year. asap i will be posting the notes from my demo on transfers and will also add my notes from my previous demo-warp, weft and wax.

a sad note-German artist extraordinaire Sigmar Polke died last thursday at the age of 69 from cancer. if you don't know his work you should-he is considered one of the most influential artists of the last 40 years and worked with all types of media probably even encaustic-an artist alchemist, an inspiration.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Rubber soles

now that it finally feels like summer put your rubber soled shoes on and take a hike to the met's roof garden and enjoy big bamboo. and since you have the required shoes you can walk up into this installation created by the Starn Twins, usually known for their photography. will be reporting next from the 4th Encaustic Conference, see you there.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Will it Melt?

a red Rothko, an Andy self- portrait & and a Johns flag are all estimated to be selling in the multi-million dollar range in current auctions. Johns's flag (1960-1966-i work like this too), estimate 10-15 million is described as "...a particularly vibrant image, painted in Mr. Johns signature encaustic, an ancient technique in which pigment in suspended in wax, giving each brush stroke a distinct materiality." does your work display a distinct materiality? and how are your sales doing? the economy seems to be approving-at least around here-but all these problems in europe, in the gulf, i just don't know. many people will watch the auctions to grade the art market. and does it help the rest of us encaustic painters when a Johns encaustic painting goes for record prices? somehow i don't think anyone at Christie's is going to ask "will it melt".

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Take a Seat, Don't Speak

art exhibits don't often get much press or TV coverage but you've probably heard about this one. look but don't touch. OMG! you have to walk between two people who are naked! but you really don't-there is another doorway but that's how the media hype works. and they loved to report on the 30 year MOMA member who lost his membership after not keeping his hands to himself. there is the hype then there is the art. what one sees first is a woman in black, sitting still at a table in MOMA's huge atrium surrounded by movie lights. she is looking at the person across from her not moving or speaking. and that person could be you if you have the patience to stand in line and agree to be videotaped. "The Artist is Present", Marina Abramovic's retrospective through May 31 is thought provoking, difficult and perhaps too much all at once. but have a look, take a seat-be present. it makes you think.
coming up-the Starn Twins bamboo construction on the MET's roof. guided tours will be possible but don't wear your heels!

Monday, February 15, 2010


love. power. valentine's day & lunar new year (4707) both on the same day-2/14/10. happy new year but watch out-year of the tiger. the whitney biennial opens next week. maybe a good way to start the new year. i say maybe after reading roberta smith's article in the ny times on sunday. it is subtitled "this season new york's museums rarely transcend the sea of sameness".
i am exhibiting along with 14 other artists from across the country in fahrenheit 180 at the ann street gallery in newburgh, ny. this encaustic exhibition is open from 2/27-3/28. of note is laura moriarty's work that pushes the possibilities of this medium. for more info go to
so happy, healthy new year to all and many days fueled by the creative process.