A creative highlight of the summer: enrolling in LACMA's Encaustic Mixed Media Lab. For five weeks I dedicated 3 hours on Sunday afternoons to learning a new technique and making art. It was a complete treat. Over the last year I've found that my time dedicated to selfish creativity has substantially diminished—this was the perfect way to buck the trend.
The setting was divine: a classroom in the courtyard of LACMA with huge windows, beautiful light and Satellite chandeliers.
Before the class began I knew only two things about encaustic: that it had something to do with wax and that I loved what Jasper Johns did with it. On day 1 we learned the basics: heating the wax (on a pancake griddle!) and how to use the two different brushes. We got to work on some very thin washi Japanese paper and because the class is mixed media, we added some marker to the paper. Our inspiration for the pieces came from a visit to an exhibit featuring ancient Japanese paintings. Each class began with a gallery visit.
From the beginning I decided to just get to work and not be too perfectionist or judgmental about my output (or anyone else's for that matter). Just make. I tend to work pretty fast, which I did in the class too, but I did make myself slow down a bit to enjoy the experimentation and the goofs that came with it.
Day 2 began with a visit to the Japanese Pavilion to look at some mid century modernist works on paper (not pictured here). The main room of the gallery is a stunner. I was instantly inspired.
Our first task of the afternoon was doing some quick pattern sketching on thin paper with charcoal to use later for transfers. Then we began playing with color, making a color chart by mixing pigments and using clear wax to create different levels of transluscency. For the day's project we heated and painted on a canvas board.
I was 30 minutes late for Day 3 for the pathetic reason of: I over slept. The night before had been Open Studios at Keystone Art Space and it had been a big week of getting ready and long night of schmoozing. I slept 'til noon! I found our class visiting my favorite room of LACMA. Hands down this wing never fails to just slay me. And make me cry. We spent extra time in front of the Jasper Johns and I took furtive glances at Motherwell and Chamberlain.
Back in the classroom we got to work. We started out with a piece of hardboard with vintage paper glued to it. Today we were going for depth and texture. It was right up my alley. In the end I added some crinkled newsprint dipped in wax to give the piece even more dimensionality. We moved on to a using a canvas board and some string and pastels to add depth and interest. Then we worked on a piece of card stock. I used a small chisel to create texture and rubbed it with pastel. It was a great session. The whole class seemed really inspired by the gallery visit and we all had more confidence on using in the materials and medium.
The 4th class began with a viewing of John Divola's incredible photographs. I was thoroughly charmed by his humor and experiments with traditional photography, especially the "As Far As I Could Get" serkes wherein he set a timer and ran away from the camera. Back in the classroom we experimented with various methods of image transfers. I didn't do much documenting that day of my output. I found the image transfer process pretty frustrating, but liked the ghostly, layered results. I knew it was something I would come back to and try to get better at—I plan on incorporating the techniques into my collage work.
Week 5, our last class. I felt sad to end these creative Sundays. Once again we visited a gallery for inspiration and ideas on technique. I was seriously impressed by the huge painting of Matta from 1965. I was surpised to learn that "Burn, Baby, Burn (L'escalade)" was painted by a Chilean, inspired by the Vietnam War. It screams Los Angeles to me. Watt's Riots, street culture, mayhem, but also vitality, rebellion, pride. This is a painting to revisit again and again.
After the visit we headed back down to the classroom and got to work making a fresh batch of pieces using all of the different techniques we learned in the previous weeks. Everyone got to work. First I tried a heavily layered piece using a chisel to reveal colors below the layers. Then I decide to give the transfer processes another go, this time using some photocopies of a nudie girl magazine from the fifties I brought. Next I made some small collaged pieces. At the end of class we displayed our pieces together, had a piece of cake, lots of laughs, and all vowed to continue the process of incorporating encaustic into our work.