Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Waxing Nostalgic

Last week I spent a lovely day learning about Encaustic Collage from my friend and amazing artist Lisa Thorpe.  Lisa is the artist in residence out at Bishop's  Ranch, the retreat center where I go for my quilt retreats each year, and during every retreat we ooh and aah over the artwork Lisa has hanging in the retreat center's dining room.  I've loved seeing how Lisa has worked with encaustic collage, so when she offered to to teach a class, a bunch of us jumped on it.

So, 6 of us (including Miss C, my daughter) found ourselves in the ranch's art studio on a cold windy day, surrounded by scraps of paper and old photos and the warm smell of melting wax.  Lisa walked us through the process, and we had a very fun day of creating and exploring a new art process.

Basically, the process involved starting with a plywood base, building a collage with paper elements, painting a wax mixture over the top, then adding texture by pressing objects into the surface and rubbing pigment into the lines to emphasize them.  Sounds easy, but it's clear that it takes some practice to work with the wax so it comes out the way you want it to.  There's also the totally unpredictable effect of the papers blending into each other, so what you see when it's dry is not necessarily what you'll see when the wax is applied.

I made several small pieces that day, but my favorite is the one above which features an old photograph of my grandmother, grandfather, and my dad as a little boy.  It sits on a page from an old Italian grammar book that I inherited from my grandmother, so there are some lovely memories in here for me.  I realized, after the fact, that I have a heavy hand with the wax and that I applied it too thickly on all of my pieces so part of what I liked about the collage was obscured.  It's too foggy and blurry.  I'll know better for next time.

It was so fun to see what everyone made, and how we approached our collages so differently.  Miss C worked away happily (an art field trip to break up the homeschool week) and produced some amazing collages.  It's good to learn something new with friends.

Lisa's a great teacher, by the way, as well as a talented artist.  If you are in Sonoma County, you can see her artwork currently hanging in Ravenous, a wonderful restaurant in Healdsburg.  (Two reasons to go: great food and great art!)


  1. Kudos to you for trying a new medium. I've never tried encaustic, but I admire a lot of encaustic artwork.

  2. Will MIss C share some of hers for us?