Inspiration: The Business of Galleries

In addition to creating work in the studio, I spend time looking for useful information that will help me work more effectively. I find topics of interest on blogs and websites, forums and help sites, e-newsletters and conferences, books and magazines, as well as from other artists.

Here are online articles regarding galleries that caught my attention this week on Art Biz Blog by Alyson Stanfield, and Joanne Mattera Art Blog:

I am currently reading Alyson Stanfield’s book, I’d Rather Be In The Studio. Interesting and inspiring with tangible steps and guidelines to get you organized with the business side of being an artist.

Thinking about getting your work into a gallery? Choose your target, research them online, and go for a visit. Nothing will be more valuable than seeing the space, talking to the staff, and determining if it is a good fit based on first hand experience. Make it a habit. Get to as many openings as you can while you do your research, keep notes, business cards, and follow-up on leads.

For readers in the greater St. Louis area, be sure to follow these sites for openings and opportunities::

Add your inspirational readings, resources and tips to a comment!


Guest Post: Keith Kavanaugh

Whatever is painted truly… possesses both the subjective sentiment, the poetry of Nature, and the objective fact.

-George Inness

I’m a landscape painter. Encaustic is my medium of choice, perfect for a subject full of potential for the expression of ideas and emotions – and itself a product of nature.

A Brief History
Originally, my background is in music. My first degree is in Jazz Performance and I’ve been active on the Kansas City scene for more than 20 years. During my schooling in Boston I had a year of art history and frequently visited the wonderful museums in that city. A year after completing my studies and moving back to Kansas City I returned to school for a degree in Fine Art and Design.

I spent the next nine years in the graphic design world, away from painting, and somewhere along the way saw my first Jasper Johns piece up close – a flag with strips of newspaper embedded in the wax. It’s surface and translucency were unlike any I’d ever seen. I began experimenting with beeswax collage and assemblage shortly after that, discovering it has many of the characteristics I love about oil, without the fumes. And the immediacy of acrylic without the constraints.

In 2001 I leased a studio space and continued working with wax and collage while also painting landscapes in acrylic. After about four years I finally merged the two into my first encaustic landscape and haven’t touched acrylic or oil since.

 As we all do, I look to many artists working in various mediums and subjects for inspiration. Johns, of course, for his use of wax. That led me to Rauschenberg. Kurt Schwitters has been an inspiration for many years. I look to Giacometti for his use of line in painting and drawing. Franz Kline, Larry Rivers and Jim Dine for the energy of their brushwork. Richard Diebenkorn for the same reason, especially in his early landscapes, but also for the layering of color in his Ocean Park series.

My work is strongly connected to the tradition of landscape painting through the American Tonalists of the 19th century. They were masters at conveying fundamental truths about nature difficult to express through words. It’s often atmospheric, bordering on abstract. They didn’t so much depict the landscape as take us inside our own experiences and remind us of our connection to the world. It’s not unlike the way we experience music. George Inness and James A. McNeil Whistler epitomize the Tonalist movement.

Their are many oil painters today who represent those same ideals. For me, Douglas Fryer and Michael Workman offer a modern interpretation of that tradition.

Last, there are artists working more abstractly in encaustic whose work is strongly connected to landscape and nature. Alexandre Masino does beautiful work using an encaustic monotype process. And Marcelo Tanaka and Anne Stahl both walk a fine line between abstraction and landscape.

My Process
Source Material
 I try to balance working from actual places through photo reference, and improvising from memory. The best pieces come from the right combination of the two. Nearly all of my work deals with the region around my home in rural Jackson County, Missouri. It isn’t unique or extraordinary but as I’ve driven, cycled and walked through the area for 20 years a certain beauty, personal to me, has revealed itself in these unremarkable places. When the light or weather are right I drive around the area and shoot reference images, usually with a camera phone. I prefer an image that isn’t technically very good so I can’t get caught up in the details of the place.

Back in the studio, I wade through the images and choose some I think might be successful. Images that work as photos often don’t work as paintings. Photography takes you to a place in a different way than a painting does, so you have to look past the photograph for that elusive element that will make a successful painting.

The image is manipulated in Photoshop where I can experiment with composition, cropping, color balance and contrast. It’s similar to doing drawings or small studies in preparation for a large work. I’ll do several small sketches to get a feel for the image and find trouble areas or elements that need more manipulation. When the drawings work I’ll move to a small panel, around 9″x14″ and do a quick encaustic study. Then, if everything feels right I’ll continue to a larger panel for the final piece. Lately that’s been 24″x39″.

Preparing the Panel

Priming the panel with wax medium.

I make my panels using 1/4″ furniture grade birch plywood braced with 1/2″ birch. The braces are clear-coated so the finished piece can hang without a frame if desired. Masking tape protects the braces until the painting is completely finished.

My medium is simple: one part carnauba wax to roughly eight to ten parts filtered beeswax. With a heat gun on high I warm the panel, brush on a layer of medium and heat it until it’s liquid and smooth, and bonded to the wood. When it’s partially cooled I scrape the panel down with a potter’s loop tool until the layer of wax is thin and consistent. The wood surface and grain are left visible so I have a midtone on which to start the painting.


The beginning of a loose sketch.

I’ve worked from prints of an image occasionally but have found that displaying it on computer monitor is a little closer to reality because of its illumination. Using black and white China Markers I do a very loose sketch on the primed panel. On a large panel I may use a grid on the image to help get elements positioned more quickly.

Scraping an early layer of underpainting.

Like many old masters, I loosely block in the values using an encaustic earthtone and white diluted with medium. The heat gun keeps it flowing like oil. In fact, I keep the heat gun going nearly the entire time I’m applying paint. Periodically, I’ll stop, scrape parts of the painting where the paint is thick or texture is building up. The scraping isn’t to remove all the paint, but to smooth it so the next layer will flow easily over it. If I leave the texture on each layer the thickness of the painting quickly becomes too great. My desire is to build up many thin layers.

Color and Layering
The first layer of color over the underpainting.

When I’m satisfied with the underpainting I begin to add color, continuing a cycle of applying paint, scraping and fusing. Along the way I’ll bring parts of the drawing back with the China Marker and I’ll use a variety of tools to scratch and alter the surface, making it more aged and interesting.

After many cycles of this, the piece should be resolved enough that I close the laptop. It’s too easy to get stuck on the photograph and lose sight of the painting. I’ll rely on memory and experience to finish the piece. Sometimes this means major changes, moving or eliminating things or even changing the time of day or weather. More often it’s minor changes to color or contrast or the surface.
Additional color layers.

The last step is a final fusing. It’s a delicate balance to heat it enough to finish with a somewhat smooth surface, but not so much that it obliterates the brushwork and marks, or make puddles in the wax. I want it smooth enough that it can be buffed occasionally with a soft cloth. While I prefer thick wax around the edges, I now scrape them to a thin bevel to prevent chipping if the work isn’t framed.
Final layers

To my eye, the piece has a chance of being successful if it meets the 30-3-3 rule I’ve read from artist Michael Workman:
  1. At 30 feet away the painting should grab your attention.
  2. At 3 feet away, it should tell a story and create a dialog with the viewer.
  3. At 3 inches away, it should reward the viewer with interesting texture and paint application.

Beyond that, I hope it will stir something in the viewer’s experience about our connection to the world. A tall order. And a lifelong pursuit.
Finished for now.

Equipment and Materials

My studio.
Paints by R&F Paints
Various electric griddles used as palettes and brush warmers
Toastmaster electric pan for medium
Various sizes of chip brushes trimmed to personal preference
Potter’s tools, ice pick, plastic putty knives, palette knives and more

Artist’s Note: The painting used in this article is a demonstration piece begun at a Waxcentric workshop in December 2012 and completed in January 2013. The amount of layering and time spent on each stage is less than normal because of the time constraints.

Visit me at and on Facebook.

Guest Post: Mark Witzling

Welcome to 2013!

Mark Witzling is our first guest writer in this new venue for the WaxCentric blog.
Thank you Mark!

At Creation. 24″ x 30.” Mixed media (cold wax and oil) on Panel

I was asked to write a brief blog post about my art.  I will start by saying that writing and talking about my art is incredibly challenging for me, which is surprising given that in business I am a marketer and known for my ability to communicate.  I think in some way that talking about the artwork itself somehow detracts from the work, limiting the work from speaking for itself by framing a context for the viewer.  Having now said that, here is a bit of an explanation about my experience as an artist.
I did not start painting until I was in my 40’s.  My college education was focused on economics, political science and communications and my graduate work is all business.  My wife and I went on a vacation to Italy and I found myself mesmerized by the artwork in Rome and Florence.  I had been to plenty of museums at home but had never seen art in the locations it was intended to be seen.  I wanted to now how it was done, and this led to some art lessons. I then committed to painting at least once a week, and have been doing so ever since.
I still paint representational works, mostly landscapes, in oils as a way to keep learning the craft of painting although my passion has shifted toward abstract work which I find more energetic and exciting as a work discovers itself.  My abstract work uses primarily a cold wax and oil  technique which allows addition and removal of layers.  In this approach I am striving to create visually appealing experiences which create an emotional response in the viewer.  For me, painting is a process that serves as a release -a way to express my personality in a different way.  If that results in a response with a viewer that’s great. It does not need to create the same response for everyone.
I have just created a website,, to show my abstract work and welcome comments and suggestions.
Notes from the 1/13 WaxCentric Meeting/Demo:
Cold wax comes from several sources, including Dorland’s and Gamblin, or you can make your own.  The website is the best online resource for information.
Mark W. Cold Wax Demo. WaxCentric Jan. 2013.

Mark W. Cold Wax Demo. WaxCentric Jan. 2013.

Generally, cold wax is mixed with traditional oil paints. I use about a 50/50 mixture but various mixtures create different effects, so experiment. I paint on gessoboard but many surfaces will work, just be sure the surface is strong enough to support the wax layers once it dries.

Many materials can be used to create lines, marks, and effects. Oil sticks, straight tube oil, powdered pigments, etc. all work.  Marks can be made with things like sticks, brushes, sponges, plastic, waxpaper, and newsprint.  Charcoal, gold leaf, found objects, rice paper,stencils (Stencil Girl products!), collage items all can be used.  Spreading the paint: multiple tools can be used. Brayers (rollers), scrapers, palette knives, and even credit cards. Pastry scrapers (used in baking) can work well.
One of the key approaches that can be used in cold wax painting is to build up multiple layers and then work back into the lower layers by scraping or using solvents (we used Gamsol odorless mineral spirits in the session but many other solvents will work.)

More photos from the demo on the WaxCentric MeetUp site:

Welcome Artists Who Use Wax!

Front Page:
Link to Current EAI Online Magazine.  Read on …

Meet at ArtMart: Mark Witzling Cold Wax Demo

Open meeting! Non-members welcome.

Come watch Mark Witzling  give a demonstration of how he uses cold wax and oil paint to  create  his beautiful abstract paintings. See Mark’s work online:

There will be an opportunity to participate. Some oil paints and cold wax medium will be available to use. You may also bring your to use. Please either bring or buy a small canvas or board at ArtMart to paint on. (There is no fee.)

Cold wax medium is used with oil paint, so bring wax paper, or something to carefully wrap your piece to take home with you.

For more information email Lisa at


Sunday, January 13, 2013
2:30 PM – 4:30 PM


2355 South Hanley Road, Saint Louis, MO

WaxCentric Blog:
WaxCentric MeetUp:
(Membership is free! Meetings average 1 time per month.)

Blog articles written about the 6th International Encaustic Conference. Provincetown, MA. 2012

7th International Encaustic Conference
Keynote Speaker: Barbara O’Brien
May 31-June 2, 2012.
Pre-Conference Workshops: May 28-30
Post Conference Workshops: June 3-5
Get a head start on information:

Encaustic Arts Online Magazine (PDF)

Download  the magazine (PDF) : the current issue of the EAI’s online magazine. Always a good read.


Do you have ideas? Resources? Work to show? Let me know in a comment!