What goes into creating a work of art
Having receiently finished this encaustic collage I titled "Energy" I wanted to share with you part of my process.
As an empathic person I am affected by the personal energy of those around me. As a middle-aged women raised in a patriarchal family I struggle with boundaries, I'm only now learning to make my own needs and desires a priority. By setting boundaries I am protecting my own personal energy from those who easily take advantage and drain me. My tendency is to give until I am depleted. Then once depleted the introvert within me craves isolation to recharge.
It was with this initial idea of boundaries that I started by burning the edges of the wood panel. This process of burning the wood to create the dark brown look is an ancient Japanese practice known as shou-sugi-ban; The techniques is valued because makes the wood highly resistant to mold, insects, water and even fire.
Though I am not a farmer I like the idea of burning a field to regenerate the soil to grow again. With "Disco Inferno" by the Trammps playing at decibel 10 and singing at the top of my lungs "Burn baby bun" I found this part of the process very satisfying.
In cleaning the edges after the burn the soot left an interesting stain behind. I knew I wanted to create a mandala, the rings having a variety of textures and patterns creating movement and representing the variety of energy that moves and affect us.
I love the color and texture it created but more than that I love that the panel was no longer pristine and unapproachable. Like many artists I find a blank canvas to be incredibly intimidating.
What I was thinking ... about the initial design
I started with the outer most ring thinking that to give out energy you first must start with something. What is freely given to you at the beginning. To represent this the leaves on the base layer are facing in.
The center star represents the self. When the flow of energy is balanced the self will thrive. An iridescent shimmer added to the last layer of the star represents the self that can thrives and shines.
After the base design was drawn directly to the board many layers of encaustic medium (encaustic medium is a combination of bee’s wax and damar resin) where painted on and melted together with a torch. That’s what gives the warm yellowish tint to the piece.
For the base of the middle circle, I used written text thinking it would create visual texture and interest for the next layer.
I choose sheet music as well as pages from Emily Post's book of Etiquette
What was chosen ... and why
The sheet music I chose was "Merry-Go-Round" by Richard Gaerderler, staying in the circle theme and adding playful fun. "Returning from Vacation" by Arthur Dana, was added, because who doesn’t want to always feel like that!
More layers of encaustic medium were added and I began to add color as a design element. At this stage I was using pan pastels and light fusing to create the lower mid layer.
Working through the process and with the help of my mentor Candy Law I was wrestling with the push pull of too busy and what to let go of while still retaining the lost focal point. some things were worth keeping some layers or ideas needed to be scraped away and started again.
As with many creative endeavors sometimes you just need to step away from the piece you are working on, focus on something different and simply live with what you have created while it rests and considers where it wants to go next.
This piece was no exception. As it rested on the only wall space in my tiny apartment, I did what I do to recharge, I went outside into nature. I went for a hike and though about how grateful I am to live in Colorado where I can hike. I took out my paddle board and honored feeling home sick for the waters of Michigan. I too rested and when I came back inspired and energized the rest came hard and fast.
Adding the obvious ... Trees
Though Aspens don’t grow in Michigan, and I have yet to see a Birch in Colorado the two trees are similar enough for my untrained eye to find their similarities comforting. Both represent homes I return to sometimes to give my energy sometimes to recharge myself.
I used a variety of mark making techniques I picked up at a recent Flora Bowley paining workshop. I love how working with a new medium (I'm not a painter) can inspire and translate into your own personal style. My takeaway from her workshop was "Do the next one thing you can think of" She clearly understands how overwhelming trying to see the end can be and "Don't get too attached" In her process of layering paint you often sacrifice one area for another". I like to think of it as giving up good for better.
Layer upon layer of Pan Pasetls and light fusing were added to the top layer until opacity was created in the focal points of the center star and outter leaves.
Knowing from the start... there would be a yellow leaf
You can’t talk about personal energy and not acknowledge the sacrifices that are sometimes required. Those sacrifices are represented in the yellow leaf and is a reoccurring symbol in my work. I’ve claimed the yellow leaf symbol as my own after hearing the tail of the mangrove tree sending its toxic salt intake to one leave until it turns yellow and dies.
Up until this point, I have always placed the one yellow leaf in the lower right corner the place where an artist would add their signature. For this piece I made a concisions decision not to take that on as my own. I told you I was learning boundaries.
In the end the yellow leaf was placed in the upper right corner as a symbol of optimism.