A few weeks ago, I took an encaustic painting class that was offered through the Dakota County Library system. I had first seen encaustic painting at the State Fair a few years ago, and I fell in love with it! It wasn’t completely clear to me, but the painting appeared to actually be a photograph of the woods, and the wax was painted over the photograph to look like snow. (Or the artist was incredibly talented, and the photograph was really a painting!) It was beautiful! Ever since seeing that, I’ve been really interested in trying encaustic. But the price and the supplies have made me shy away from it. So when I saw that the library was offering a class, I jumped at the chance!
I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but the class was not at all like what I thought it would be. I guess I thought maybe we would have a painting that we tried to recreate or there would be more instruction. It was basically a workshop with a table of bins full of fabric, sequins, yarn, paper scraps, and other miscellaneous things. On our tables, were glue, watercolors, and scissors. There were two women who ran it, and they passed around some paintings that they did and then gave a brief instruction about how to use the wax.
I guess I thought that we would be painting with the wax, but really we were collaging or using watercolor and then preserving the collage in wax. You could paint on colored wax afterwards, but there were only three colors to choose from and not a lot of wax (which I understand because the wax is expensive, and this class was free).
I have to admit that collage and I do not get along at all. So I thought I would try it. And I thought maybe after dipping things in the wax, they would look more interesting. I was wrong. My first collage was with the leaf and the green paper. I didn’t mind it so much before I waxed it, although it does remind me of the art they used to have nailed to the walls in Arby’s restaurants, but after the wax, I really did not like it. For this piece, I had brushed the wax on, instead of dipping the whole thing into the wax bath.
So for next piece, I decided that the wax bath was the way to go. I grabbed an old National Geographic and found a lovely, dated photo of a woman with huge, oversized glasses. I decided that for this piece, I would go all out, glue all sorts of things together and then wax it. I think that I started out trying to make it look cool, but then gave up and decided to go as ugly as I could. In that way, I think I was very successful! After dipping the piece in wax, I was hoping to maybe scratch the wax off a bit and get a texture, but the scratching really didn’t show up well.
Overall I think the class was good, I think it was just not my kind of art. It had more of a scrapbooky-crafty type feel to it. I think a lot of people can make some amazing scrapbooks and craft things, I’m just not that person. And that’s ok with me. On the good side, I did realize during this class that the supplies I have to make candles could also be used to do encaustic painting. I think if I were to paint and use the wax as a medium, instead of just for preserving, I may like it more. And since the colored wax is so expensive, it might be fun to mix my own things into wax to get something colored. We’ll see though. I’ve got so many projects I want to start, and I’m not sure if encaustic will be high on my list.