Portrait of a Grand Mother
12" x 12" Encaustic and oil on board
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.
Despite that I may not account for all the colors in an underpainting I always begin with the intention and plan to include some representation of red, yellow, blue, black and white in every painting.
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.