Evolution of an Ugly Duckling

Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Blog | Comments Off on Evolution of an Ugly Duckling

The Wyndham Art Supplies in Guelph announced its Annual Silent Art Auction (the proceeds go to send children to subsidized Art camp and classes), with this year’s theme “Endangered or Extinct.”  The store donated 50 10″ x 10″ wood panels on a first come, first served basis.  I managed to snag a panel and was inspired to go the extinct route – all the way back to the dinosaurs.

The fossil I had in mind was of the Archaeopteryx, a feathered flying dinosaur, that some hypothesize is a possible link between the dinosaurs and birds (dinosaurs didn’t become extinct; they just evolved into chickens…).

Archaeopteryx fossil - Berlin specimen

I printed one of the fossil images onto tracing paper, trying to decide whether I would imbed the image into the wax (straightforward) or do an image transfer (more tricky).  I went with option C, trace the image on the reverse side with a graphite crayon.  I wanted to try this technique after reading about it in Daniella’s Woolf new book, “The Encaustic Studio.”

The Encaustic Studio by Daniella Woolf

After tracing over the image with the graphite crayon, I burnished the image onto the prepared encaustic wax surface with a bone folder.  I had used earthtone colours of wax to give a ‘fossil’ tone to the panel.

Graphite crayon used on reverse of fossil image on tracing paper.

Bone folder used to burnish the graphite tracing onto the encaustic wax surface.

The image transferred perfectly!  These was really easy to do and opens up the door to transferring gesture drawings or other sketches to future encaustic works – but first, I need to focus on this piece.

Graphite tracing image transfer onto encaustic wax surface.

I sealed the graphite transfer with a layer of clear encaustic medium (EM) to prevent it from becoming smudged.

Clear encaustic medium used to seal the graphite image transfer.

Next, I scratched through the graphite image down to the base of the wood panel.  Following the grooves of the incised surface, I filled the scratched area with brown oil paint.

Scratching through the graphite image to the base wood surface.

Rubbing brown oil paint into incised image in encaustic wax surface.

The excess oil paint was removed with a paper towel and linseed oil, leaving a clear image of the fossil in the wax.

Archaeopteryx fossil image in encaustic wax.

Using some collage elements, I started to build a nest for my ‘bird’.  I used pieces of dried grass (taken from the woodlot across from my house), eggshells (from breakfast, cleaned and with the membrane removed), and my favourite encaustic collage element – feathers!  These were all added around the central fossil image with clear EM.

Building a nest from collage elements - dried grass, eggshells and feathers.

After several layers of wax, my Archeoptyrx was a bit faded.  I decided to enhance the skeleton by carving it out and filling it in with melted brown encaustic paint.

Adding brown encaustic paint to carved wax surface.

The excess wax which pooled above the carved out section I removed using my sharp, curved pottery tool.  Once all the excess wax was removed, I fused the surface (easier to scrap off the wax prior to fusing it) with a heat gun.

Fossil's skeleton emphasized with brown encaustic paint.

I felt my painting at this time was too bottom-heavy, and I needed to balance out the feel to the work.  I found a nice silhouette of geese flying in a V-formation, and also printed out the text to Han Christian Anderson’s ‘Ugly Duckling’ story.  At first I was going to simply cut the words out (printed in reverse with a laser toner printer), but my husband convinced to ‘bend’ the words like the blades of grass in the painting.  With his help, we took a picture of the painting, made it the same size in Adobe Illustrator and on another layer, customized the look of the text to follow the curve of the grass.

Laser toner printed words for photocopy transfer onto encaustic wax surface.

In addition to printing out the words in reverse, I used a piece of wax paper to assist in the burnishing (another trick from Woolf’s book, The Encaustic Studio).  Before I had simply rubbed the back of the paper directly onto the wax surface, but the wax paper made it much easier to rub harder (without wrecking the paper) and ensure a better transfer of toner on to the wax.

Printed words and bird images aligned on wax surface for photocopy transfer.

The finished work, “The Ugly Duckling” will be dropped off at the Wyndham Art Supplies for May 24, and stayed tuned for the Auction announcement.  Come check it out and bid on varied 50 original pieces – I can’t wait to see what the other artists have done with their wood panels!

"The Ugly Duckling" by Alexandra Reid