Making a Good First Impression

Posted by on Jan 11, 2012 in Blog | Comments Off on Making a Good First Impression

My challenge – to use various tools and implements to create a textured surface in my encaustic painting.  I’ve been collecting a few different tools and wanted to see the type of effects that I could make on the wax surface of the primed wood panel.  In addition to tools that I found in the hardware section of Home Depot (paint scrapers, tile cement trowels, wire brushes), I had some typical fine art tools (pottery carving tool, palette knife).  I had also purchased an interesting encaustic tool on eBay – the “Encaustic Hot Wax Stylus”, which came with three different tips: pen, brush and paddle.

Tools for making different textures in the encaustic wax surface.

I used the pottery tool first – the pointy, needle-like end.  I pre-warmed the wax first with the heat gun (just enough to make it pliable but not liquid), and then wrote a few words in the wax.

Writing words in the encaustic wax with a pottery tool.

I flipped the end over and used the curved carving end to make broader writing strokes in the wax.  The carving tool was helpful to clean up the wax ‘crumbs’ from the writing to make it more visible.  I then used the Hot Wax Stylus ‘pen’ tip to write in the wax.  Since the pen tip was already hot (it has an on/off switch), there was no need to pre-warm the wax.  However, I did have to be careful with my speed and pressure while writing – easy to drag it through the wax too quickly, or have it melt down to the wood panel through the wax.  The ‘paddle’ tip worked very similarly to the pen tip, but made broader strokes (more like a calligraphy pen nib).

Writing on the encaustic wax with the pen tip of the Encaustic Hot Wax Stylus tool.

I couldn’t remember where I found this tool in the hardware section – I think it’s a type of rasp or file, used to smooth wood.  It made interesting markings in the wax, but only in small sections.  Dragging it could be good, although it did clog up quickly with wax.

Wood file (rasp) tool making small impressions in the encaustic surface.

I used two types of tile cement trowels, one with pointy teeth (shown below) and one with blunt teeth.  The pointy teeth made much clearer impressions in the wax, while the blunt teeth one was more subtle. You could make interesting wave-like marks by zig-zagging the trowel through the wax.  The key to a making a ‘good impression’ was having the wax be warm enough to be pliable – easier to drag the trowel through smoothly.

Sharp teeth on the tile trowel 'bite' into the encaustic wax surface.

The wire brush made a subtle texture on the wax, but clogged up quickly.  The paint scraper/comb made really nice sharply defined grooves in the wax.  This was my favourite of all of the the hardware tools I tried out.  Since the ‘teeth’ of the comb are very long, you could drag it further through the wax without it getting gummed up.

Grooming the encaustic surface - better to brush or comb?

My next challenge will be to try out different methods of adding colour to this textured wax surface.