Encaustic Portrait of a Woman

Portrait of a Grand Mother
12" x 12" Encaustic and oil on board
Commissioned Portrait

I just finished this little portrait (it is only the second portrait I have done in encaustic paint). I really love working in this medium because is so "immediate" compared to the way I usually work in oils.

For those of you who have never seen this process, here's how I began this portrait:

I gessoed a 12" x12" cradled (so it won't warp) birch plywood board. I used "Holy Grail Gesso." Do NOT use "regular" gesso - the encaustic paint won't "grab" onto the surface.

Holy Grail can come in different colors (if you order enough). I get mine from Evans Encaustics.

I use cadmium orange under very dark colors (like black). It adds "life and luminosity" where it is allowed to peek through.

I establish my main design values with a mixture of raw umber + white Holy Grail Gesso in different values.

On top of the Holy Grail Gesso, you can see my pencil drawing marks - the encaustic layer will cover them.

In this very first stage - the composition has to "work."

This is the first layer of encaustic paint. I was trying to establish the general value and color of the finished areas.

Of these two considerations, value is always the most important.

I always do my drawings on acetate so I can see through it. I used this drawing to transfer portions of the drawing for the Holy Grail layer and am reusing it to bet the details on the encaustic layer.

I will use and reuse this acetate drawing to keep checking throughout the construction of this painting to be sure that I keep the sitter's likeness.

To transfer my drawing to the encaustic layer, I use a sheet of tracing paper much like a piece of old-fashioned carbon paper.

Long ago I rubbed a white pastel into the surface of this tracing paper. I have a stack of sheets of different colors that I use.

Although this tracing sheet gets ratty looking with age, it works to transfer drawings to just about every surface for oil painting, encaustic, watercolor, etc.

Sorry I don't have more pictures of each stage but I layered oil and encaustic...until it was "finished."

I think that showing the early stages is far more important to this particular process.

I also like a "fancy" frame - just like the ones I put on my traditional oil paintings.


Hylla Evans said...

It's so generous of you to share your process, and it's fun for me to see the new home for my Holy Grail! Thanks!

Toaster said...

This is wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing!