Experimenting with substrates for encaustics, I wanted to see if I could find a substrate that would allow me to cut up my encaustic painting into smaller pieces. Typically, encaustic painting needs a rigid support to be applied to otherwise the wax can crack and flake off (plus paper can burn if you heat it too closely – yikes, dangerous!). I went on a scavenger hunt in my local Curry’s Art Store to see if I could find something that could work.
After describing what I wanted to try, the shop clerk gave me a piece of TerraSkin paper – a current Curry’s Staff Pick. She said she knew some artists had used it for acrylic painting and oil pastels, but she didn’t know if it would work for encaustics (yay, time for experimentation). When I got home, I Googled ‘TerraSkin’ and learned that it was completely ‘tree free’ – Paper Made from Stone! “Made from 75% mineral powder (ground calcium carbonate or limestone) & 25% non-toxic resin, this paper uses no paper pulp, water or bleach during manufacturing.”
The TerraSkin paper rolled out easily and flattened out. It was a very bright white colour and had a slight slick feel to the touch. One side seemed slightly glossy than the other.
I decided to treat it like watercolour paper and used painter’s masking tape to tape it down to an old cutting board to give a more rigid support. This way I could still use a heat source without burning my fingers to fuse the wax.
I did two coats of clear encaustic medium (EM) over the TerraSkin paper, fusing with a heat gun between coats. I noticed that it buckled a bit in places and the wax tended to puddle in those spots. I’m sure if I had stretched it a bit tauter with the tape some of the buckling could have been prevented. But, still not as smooth as watercolour paper though since TerraSkin paper is water resistant and it would have not been able to be stretched out wet.
Next, I applied various blues, greens and white encaustic paint (oil paint mixed with encaustic medium). I wanted to make an abstract painting with the look of water or clouds (or both together). In order to have the colours fuse and blend together, I skipped the usual step of applying a coat clear EM over the paint between colours.
This allowed the colours of the paints to mix and swirl together when I applied heat to the painted brushstrokes with the heat gun.
I coated the piece in one top coat of clear EM to mute the colours slightly and let it cool. When it was slightly warm to the touch, I peeled off the painter’s tape. You can see the clean white edge of the TerraSkin paper next to the painted wax edge.
In some spots, the wax did buckle when the tape was removed. I pressed the edges down to prevent the wax from lifting off any further.
With the tape removed, you can see the completed abstract encaustic paintng on TerraSkin paper.
Now for my next trick – cutting up my encaustic painting into small squares. I used a sharp X-acto blade, a steel-edged wooden ruler and a cutting matte.
I first cut off the rough edge of the wax that was next to the taped border. The TerraSkin paper was so flexible with the wax layer still on it, it was able to curl up without cracking the wax surface (keeping in mind there were only 5-6 layers of wax). I did notice that if I pressed too hard, I indented the wax surface with the imprint of the ruler.
I proceeded to cut up my encaustic painting into two-inch stripes. I had to press quite firmly on the painting in order to make a clean cut through the TerraSkin paper and wax layers.
After cutting the painting into strips, I cut each strip into two-inch squares and also into one-inch squares. The TerraSkin was perfect for what I wanted – the ability to render my encaustic paintings into small squares to be used in mixed media compositions!
The possibilities for using this new (to me) substrate for encaustic painting are just popping into my head!