WaxCentric Update, and September 27 Meeting Info

WaxCentric Friends,

Fall is finally here, and it is time to learn new skills, make new friends, and renew art friendships. Not only is WaxCentric coming out of a long hiatus, but we have a new home! Join me for a WC studio open house on Sunday, Sept. 27, 12pm-2pm. 

Last Fall I was juried-in as a new studio artist at The Foundry Art Centre, St. Charles, MO.  A double-studio on the river side of the building came available at the end of June. Updates to the sprinkler system were done in early July, and 6 days of electrical updates were completed last Friday.

IMG_01I started moving in 2 weeks ago: moving boxes by car, painting walls, cleaning the floor, assembling shelving units, laying out table placements on the floor with tape for the new electrical drop-boxes (thank you Foundry and city of St. Charles!!!). I am about 50% moved in. Next week I hope to make and install tables, move my large flat files, press, and the rest of the studio stuff.

The new space will start with:

  • 4, 36″x80″ work tables with dedicated hot plates, heat guns and support materials and tools for encaustic. (Tables can me moved as needed for bigger projects.)
  • Up to 4 chairs per table, as needed for participants and projects
  • a 24″x48″ press bed etching press for printing encaustic-plexi plate monoprints/monotypes as well as traditional etchings and collagraphs.
  • a printmaking work bench for inking plates and rolling up Akua water-based inks
  • a Paula Roland Hot Box for encaustic monoprints/monotypes
  • a large drying rack for class/workshop projects.
  • a double-high flat file for storage demo/work station
  • storage shelves for the studio, as well as class projects in progress
  • some bulk materials that can be ordered at discount (beeswax, damar crystals, papers, …) and available for purchase by class/workshop participants.

RiverI will start offering open-studio access in October, and a combination of class/workshops and open-studio time in November. I will be working on scheduling my classes, as well as WaxCentric workshops and meetings next week. Tentatively, studio hours will be Tues-Sat., 10am-4pm (working around calendar holidays, and local events).

In the meantime, pencil in a party! Come party with me for a WC studio open house on Sunday, Sept. 27, 12pm-2pm. I will have snacks and beverages. (Bring something to pass if you want to, I never turn down someone else’ treats!) I can’t wait to hear about what everyone has been working on. Then go enjoy Oktoberfest in Old St Charles http://www.historicstcharles.com/includes/events/Oktoberfest/774/).

Along with Oktoberfest, there is run on the historic streets on Sunday, and so many streets will be closed earlier in the day. The Foundry parking lot is going to be locked before noon, but will be open and available at noon. Should be clear on Clark to get to the Foundry at noon.

The Foundry doors will be unlocked, so come up to the mezzanine by the stairs at the front and back of the building, or by elevator at the back of the building. My studio, #7-8, is on the river side of the building.

I will be working on moving in, and will be in and out between 10am and 4 pm Tuesdays – Friday. Come see me in studio #7-8.

Can’t wait to see everyone,


David Fielding: WaxCentric Demo Artist, 7-20-14

IMG_0985David Fielding presented a thoughtful, insightful demonstration of his encaustic painting process, along with a Power Point presentation for the July 20th meeting held at the St. Louis Artist’s GuildDavid is Instructor of Fine Art and Gallery Director at Three Rivers College. He hosted our Encaustic Invitational exhibit last March in the Tinnin Center Gallery. His work can be found online: http://davidfielding.weebly.com. 24 photos from the event can be found on the WC MeetUp site: http://www.meetup.com/WaxCentric/photos/23361152/.

Thank you David for answering all of our questions! Below find more information about his process, and replies to questions regarding finding a gallery.

“Here is a quick over view of my process

  • I take a photograph and open it  in Photoshop.
  • I crop the image 1/4″ lager than the scale I am working with.
  • I use one of the pre-set filters in Photoshop, I normally use “Dry Brush”
  • I print the image. I use a normal printer and have found that regular print paper works the best for me.
  • I trim the excess paper off the image.
  • I use 4” plastic putty knife to apply a thin even coat of wood glue to ¼” MDF board. I pour about a quarter size drop in the middle of the MDF, and work it from the center out with the knife. Save the edges of the MDF for last. There will be excess glue.
  • I attach the image so it’s’ edges just slightly over hang the edges of the MDF. If you have trouble with this step try making the IMG_1073image bigger. Starting in the center and working towards the edges burnish the image with the back of spoon.
  • I flip the MDF over and trim the edges of paper that are over hanging. I have found it easier to complete this step while the glue is still damp. It will not take long for the glue to set up, you could even speed it up by applying a little heat with a heat gun. Normally I work a day ahead so I am letting them rest for a day, but it doesn’t seem necessary to wait more than 10 – 15 minutes.
  • I apply a coat of encaustic medium over the surface and use a heat gun to smooth it. I want to see the medium going into the paper.
  • After the wax has cooled a bit I use a 1” putty knife to scrap most of the wax off. This is an important step because it gives the wax a little tooth for the pastel.
  • I will build up the texture and under-painting with pigmented wax. I use quite a bit of medium to pigment because I want it to be translucent.
  • I use Sennelier oil pastels to work in some detail and make the image look more like an oil painting. I have a set of landscape and a set of portrait pastels that seem to have the colors I like to use.
  • I will lightly fuse the pastel layer. I am trying to just make the wax shine, I will repeat this step several times.
  • I use a verity of tools to push the wax around and will often pant wax over the pastel layers before I am satisfied with the piece. Sometimes you do not have to do very much to the image for it to work.”


0007I have been a galleried artist for over thirty years now, but I have been represented by the same dealers for most of that time. Most of them came to me and I had an introduction to the others. In all cases I knew many of the artists that they represented. I do think it is important to choose your dealer wisely. Visit the gallery a couple of times. Think about how does your work fit in. If you know artists represented by the dealer ask them what their experience is like with the gallery. It is not an overnight process. Most dealers I know have way too many artists and are approached by artists of all skill levels almost daily. It doesn’t mean they don’t take new artists on, because they do. You should be aware that just because you are taken on by a dealer it doesn’t mean that they will sell or even show your work.

How to take care of these works

I don’t think they need any special care other than to be careful with the edges. One of my favorite qualities of encaustic is the way the outside edges build up. But they are fragile and prone to chipping. Framing them should protect and show off the edges. I like to use a nice floater frame. The pastel bonds with the wax but it does take a few months for the wax to cure all the way out. If the work gets dusty you should be able to clean it with a soft rag just like any other painting.”

Thank you to Kathryn Nahorski, Executive Director at the St. Louis Artist’s Guild for hosting our meeting.


Guest Post: Vent-a Fume by Stacy J. Krieg

Stacy Krieg is a new member to WC. She comes to us from Mission, KS. Stacy recently visited my studio where we talked about encaustic practice and materials, studio safety and venting. Enjoy this informative article about her experience with Vent-a-fume.

Stacy's studio with Vent-a-Fume on the left.

Stacy’s studio with Vent-a-Fume on the left.

I recently purchased a vent-a-fume unit and wanted to share my experience with you.  I was having some issues with breathing in the fumes from the encaustic paints so I started to investigate options on the market to help vent my studio.  The only vent specifically made for encaustic paints that I came across is vent-a-fume, http://www.ventafume.com.  The company is based in Buffalo, NY and has been in business for over 20 years.  They started in the business supplying ventilation systems to schools, ceramic shops, and industrial plants.  A few years ago, they started working with encaustic painters to specifically design a unit to meet the needs of this medium.

Due to the fact that I was going to invest quite a bit of money (approximately $400-$500), I decided to give the company a call and get additional information.  I believe I spoke with one of the owners and he was great at providing me confidence in the product and answering my questions.  Since the company is trying to work in our market, he even upgraded my motor without any additional cost.


The unit came in two boxes and when it arrived I thought – oh boy, what did I get myself into?  Ha.  My sweet husband installed the unit in about 4-6 hours and the only complaint I got from him was that he had to cut a hole in our house.  The hole has to be cut so the vent can push all the fumes outside.  The standard unit hole size is 4 inches (same as a dryer vent).  Since I opted for the more powerful motor, we had to cut a 6-inch hole.


Vent-a-Fume installed.


The unit that I purchased was the bench mounted unit, size 27 “ diameter vent.  The vent is rather large but fits perfectly over my palette.


I am completely 100% satisfied with this product.  Before installation, I could only work around the medium for about an hour before I got sick to my stomach, headaches, swollen throat, etc.  Now, I can work down there day and night and I smell nothing.  I try to fuse most of my work by the vent also, as temperatures are very high with heat guns, torches, etc.

I would highly recommend this unit and would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

My email is kriegsj@yahoo.com.

Stacy J. Krieg

Guest Post: Cathryne Kulick Loos, MFA

Shellac Burn
Burning shellac onto an encaustic surface is fun and visually stimulating.

Red Bouquet

Red Bouquet. Encaustic with Shellac Burn

Last May (2012) several members of WaxCentric came to my Kirkwood studio for a demo of shellac burn on encaustic surface.  Attending members participated in the fun by creating their own shellac burns.

This blog post provides a written followup to that experience. Hope you give it a try.  It really enhances the encaustic process.


– Brushes/rags
– torch:  brulle or propane
– fire extinguisher
– fireproof surface placed under the project
– create image on solid surface, such as, wood, plaster or fired clay slab
– encaustic medium (purified beeswax and damar resin)
– shellac:  amber and/or clear
– colored powders: Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments or dry pastel scrapings
– shellac tinted with mica powder


Circle Within Circles. Encaustic with Shellac Burn

Circle Within Circles. Encaustic with Shellac Burn

Before applying liquid shellac, I prepare a solid surface with several layers of encaustic medium.  Each new layer is fused to the layer below. The layers can be different colors, if so desired.  You can also apply hot beeswax to the first two layers (usually less expensive than encaustic medium).  Also, you can work either abstractly or with an image.

There are two types of shellac burn:  wet and dry.

Both Methods

Apply a thick layer of amber or clear shellac (Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac) with a brush or rag onto the prepared encaustic surface.  I usually start with amber.  The strong amber color can also be diluted with the clear shellac, and then brushed onto the surface.

Clear shellac is also interesting, especially with colored powders added.  You can mix the colored powders into the clear shellac or brush it on top.  I have used both methods, sometimes in the same painting.

Place the solid base on a fireproof surface, preferably outside or inside and directly ventilated.

Wet Method

Immediately following the application of shellac, you can use a torch to light the shellac. The fire will burn itself out after a few moments.  (For beginners, I recommend a brulle torch because it is smaller and easier to handle than a propane torch.)

Caution:  Some of the burning is invisible.  If you have long hair, tie it back.  Don’t wear loose clothing. Have a fire extinguisher nearby.  A damp rag can also be useful to extinguish an unwanted flame.

Your end product with have interesting designs of a random nature.  Let it cool.

Dry Method

Primary Moments!  Encaustic with Shellac Burn

Primary Moments! Encaustic with Shellac Burn

After you apply the shellac, wait a few moments until the shellac is dry (can use a heat gun on low, to hasten the drying); somewhat sticky is also OK, then burn with the torch.

Direct the lit torch along the surface to create a controlled design.  I burn some areas more deeply so a couple of layers merge (a pleasing effect is possible with different colored layers.)  I only slightly burn some areas so the surface is not too disturbed.  A slight burn will be better if you are trying to preserve a specific image.

Let it cool and dry overnight.

Both Methods

You can add any number of layers of shellac and repeat the burn.  I do not recommend using any paper on your surface.  It will probably catch fire!

This is a very fun process, but be cautious!

My website: http://cathyloos.com
Websites showing my artwork:

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 keithkavanaugh.com 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, www.markwitzlingart.com, 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 www.coldwaxpainting.com 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: http://www.meetup.com/WaxCentric/photos/12601762/