Monday, November 1, 2010

Weekend Seminar at Heartwood College of Art

Encaustics and brushes warming on the aluminum hot plate

Artist Kim Bernard facilitated the Saturday encaustics workshop.

Three pomegranates: the actual fruit, clay with acrylic paint, and clay with encaustics.

Wendy Burton created a gorgeous cool-blues and greens Monet-ish encaustic painting.

The Kennebunk Inn on Main Street was all decked-out for Halloween.
Considered one of the most haunted inns in Maine!!! (I had my own very strange experiences while staying there last I am inclined to agree with this assessment!)

The old Fort Knox bridge, engulfed in pea-soup thick fog.

I just returned from my fall weekend seminar at Heartwood College of Art. The part-time, low-residency MFA program is an excellent choice for teachers because it works around the teaching schedule with weekend meetings, snail-mail, phone and web communication, and a studio component which is primarily done in your own studio. This semester I am in close-contact with two mentors and an advisor and so far the feedback has been phenomenal, keeping me on my toes, on track, and in critical thinking mode probably far more hours than previously-thought sanely possible.

Our "pod" meets once a semester for a three day seminar that is jam-packed with conversations, presentations, critiques, and my favorite, a hands-on workshop where we experiment with a new art medium. I look forward to the weekend seminar for many reasons, one of which is to reconnect with the other students. We have the perfect pod with excellent chemistry. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we are all art teachers who are also serious about our own work as artists. This passion for both teaching and creating filters down to our "back-home" school students, and that same openness and nurturing is shared amongst our own peers in the Heartwood program.

Every part of the finely structured three-day seminar is meaningful, but the encaustics workshop really had my heart this time around.

A lot of my friends have learned encaustics from Kim Bernard. I was ecstatic to learn that I too would have an opportunity. The one day workshop only touched on the very beginning of what is possible with encaustics, but it was enough to get us rolling. Kim is an accomplished artist as well as a fabulous teacher who exudes immense confidence in her medium as well as a love for the history and technique. It was interesting to learn that mummy tombs were painted with encaustic techniques, and that today, those artworks still exist in good condition.

Encaustics is an art medium that consists of beeswax, dammar resin, and natural pigments. The technique involves melting the ingredients and then applying them to a porous surface with a brush. Each layer that is applied is fused either to the support or the previous layer by way of a heat gun or torch. The relatively simple technique does take time to prefect. My own work most times looked like a massive glob of melted wax with inconsistently-placed lumps and a hodge podge of color. Somehow, when Kim does a demo, the wax is smooth and the colored layers interact harmoniously with one another. Granted, I am new at this. Nonetheless, I am the first to admit that my shortcomings are plentiful with this technique!

I tried the encaustics on a bisque-fired pomegranate sculpture that I had made. It was an experiment of sorts as I have been trying to decide how to finish the surface of a recent ceramic sculpture. I thought I might use acrylic paint, or maybe shoe polish, but wanted to give encaustics a fair shake. As it turned out, I fell head-over-heels in love with the texture and process of encaustics. I filled up a bag with goodies from the Heartwood art supply store and returned home late last night, eager to finish the sculpture.


Anonymous said...

You stayed at the Kennebunk Inn??? I was right down the road!!!! (Rose)PS: Everything looks beautiful -- hope you did well (Rose)

Unknown said...

OMGoodness! You were in Kennebunk and we were right down the road. !!! Your products are beautiful! Hope your Holiday sale was productive!