Guest Post: Laurie Blakely

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:

  1. How can I free my forms from the limitations of gravity (i.e. having to stand up, be balanced, etc.)?
  2. 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.

The Process

Emergence. Detail.

Emergence. Detail.

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.



The Idea

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

 Pictures from the trip can be found on the WC site:


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:
Websites showing my artwork:

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: