Friday, October 21, 2011

Encaustic Workshop with Debra Van Tuinen at Elevation Gallery

Late last week, I took part in a two day encaustic workshop, hosted by Elevation Gallery in Canmore. I was invited to attend earlier in the week, and after seeing the work of Portland, Oregon based artist, Debra Van Tuinen, I was keen to participate. The workshop was on a Friday & Saturday, and with my husband's schedule in full swing for the upcoming ski season, I had to wrangle last minute child care before I could say yes. All the pieces fell into place thanks to some good friends.

I was thrilled to and grateful to spend two days learning, creating, and meeting other artists. I first learned about encaustic when taking a materials class taught by my friend Mahshid Farhoudi, at the Ottawa School of Art. We learned to make oil paint, acrylic paint, egg tempura, encaustic, and how to stretch and prime canvases with handmade gesso. I loved the course, and pretty much decided that the only one of the above that I would make again would be encaustics. We were not given a lot of time to actually use the materials in that course, so my pucks of encaustic medium remained in my studio. Just before Quin was born, I tried a bit of beeswax collage. I did many things wrong, such as using canvas, and not fusing between layers of wax, so the piece now needs some repair (which I am happy to say I can do, as soon as I have a minute...). After that, I collected some beeswax from my friend's beekeeper stepfather, but didn't work with wax again until about three months ago. I decided it was time. I heated up the crockpot, melted some wax, and started making encaustic collage. Just as I have felt with many things in my art career, I knew that once I had the time to play with this medium, that I would fall hard and fast in love.

And then, as often is the case, the opportunity to attend this workshop, fell into my lap. I knew I needed to make my best effort to attend. I am so glad that I did. Debra is a generous teacher, and she answered my questions, while teaching me what she has learned first hand at R&F Paints, and from her years of working with encaustic. I also met Teresa Posyniak, from Calgary, and Pascale Ouellet/Bigoudi, from Canmore. I have read a lot about Pascale's work and have been wanting to meet her. There were nine participants in the class, all working artists, something Debra really enjoyed. She was happy to be able to demo the techniques and then watch as we all got down to business.

On the first day, Debra taught us about different ways to work with the medium and encouraged us to play. I spent a bit of time with texture, building up and layering the wax, and lightly fusing. When I use wax in collage, I work a long time to make the surface flat. During the second part of the day, I did fuse my layers so they would melt. In the end, I made three backgrounds and one finished 6x6" painting. Most of the day was spent creating abstraction. I appreciate abstraction, but since I normally work with images and text, I was missing those elements. I do think it was valuable for me to just play, and not to think about finishing a piece.

Background #1

Background #2

Background #3

Rivers & Roads (By Tiffany Teske)
Encaustic on board

On the second day, Debra taught us how to make monotypes. I dabbled in it a bit, but would really like more time to explore this technique, using different types of paper, and of course, mixing media. All I need it a flat griddle, a piece of aluminum, and encaustic medium. We also learned how to make our own crayons using pigments, which is what I learned way back when from Mahshid. The final demo was on encaustic collage. From what I could tell, that is something I have experience in that most of the other students did not.

Debra showing us how to make a monotype...

The pressure was on us all on the second day. Elevation was planning an encaustic exhibition, Hot Flash, for the next day. Most of the art was chosen and ready to go, but to give the workshop participants an opportunity to show their work, Cheryl Baxter, the owner of Elevation, held a critique during which some of our pieces were chosen for the exhibition. I wanted to make something unlike I had ever made, but at the same time, I wanted to have something suitable for the show. I will admit that at one point, with only three hours to go, I panicked and ran to my bag of collage materials. I began to plan out a fairly easy piece that I knew I would finish in time. However, I shook myself, and returned to my work space, determined to create a piece using gold leaf, which was my original plan. The piece has no text and no images. It came together not only in time, but in a more pleasing way that I had hoped. It was only later, when titling the piece that I realized how personal it is. I learned a lot while making it, which after all, is the point of the whole class. I really enjoyed this workshop and I am so happy that I was able to be a part of it. I hope to one day visit Debra in Portland.

Teresa Posyniak's pieces

Pascale Ouelett fuses a piece...

Forever Thine (By Tiffany Teske)
Encaustic on board with gold leaf
This piece reminds me of my grandparents who were married for 66 years. 

Debra & I at the opening of Hot Flash

Hot Flash runs from October 16th - 23rd, 2011, at Elevation Gallery, #100 729 Main Street, Canmore, Alberta.

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