On August 25 numerous intrepid WC explorers took a road trip to Makanda, IL where we enjoyed a beautiful day with Laurie Blakely. Laurie presented an engaging studio visit and demo with encaustic and ceramics. We also viewed her sculptural painting exhibit at Anthill Galleries, in the heart of the Shawnee Forest
My journey to encaustic painting was a circuitous one. My background is mainly in ceramics. After years of creating clay vessels and sculpture I was looking for ways to expand the possibilities of my medium.
I asked myself two questions:
- How can I free my forms from the limitations of gravity (i.e. having to stand up, be balanced, etc.)?
- How can I create a “world” for these forms to inhabit (i.e. break from the tradition of mounting pieces on pedestals with an aura of empty space around them.)?
I explored several options and encaustic best met my objectives. And like many other artists, I was drawn to the “naturalness” of the wax; the smell, the organic nature of the medium. Encaustic seemed a perfect fit for clay– beeswax and mud.
Eventually, I developed my own idiosyncratic method for creating “sculptural paintings” by combining ceramic sculpture with encaustic painting.
First I carve intricate forms in white earthenware. Sometimes, they are so delicate I need a template for support to hold the clay as I carve. My templates are all bisque fired (unglazed) ceramic forms and I rarely use the same template twice. I usually spend several months immersed in the process of sculpting, glazing and firing before I move onto the process of painting and gilding.
After they are bisque and sometimes glaze-fired, the ceramic sculptures are mounted on board using an all-purpose, heat-resistant adhesive. Then, onto painting. Clay is a very receptive substrate for encaustic paint though it can require some patience to achieve a smooth, bubble-free surface. I prefer to use a heat gun to fuse the wax, because of the control and gentle heat sometimes required on the 3-dimensional planes.
I often embellish my pieces with 22-carat gold leaf. The portions of the sculpture to be gilded are first glazed to provide a smooth, non-porous substrate. Then I brush on a slow-set, oil-based size (Rolco) and wait 10-12 hours. When the surface is tacky, I apply loose leaf gold with a sable brush and wait three days until I touch it again. When the size has thoroughly hardened, I can clean up the gilding by gently wiping away the loose pieces and burnishing with my fingertips. Any gilding on the wax can be cleaned up by lightly scraping it away with sharp clay tools or my fingernails.
Most of my work explores the ideas of transformation and metamorphosis. My sculptures are sometimes multi-layered with one sculptural form opening to another form inside it. These relief forms change the architecture of the surface. I use encaustic to visually and physically join the sculptural components to each other and to the background. I aim for a sense of unity and dimensionality—to be able to look “into” the painting– past the surface into layers that shift, open or reveal. More work at www.laurieblakely.com
Pictures from the trip can be found on the WC MeetUp.com site: http://www.meetup.com/WaxCentric/photos/16991672/.