I really enjoy texture in abstract paintings. In my past large-scale acrylic abstracts, I used a combination of raw canvas pieces and acrylic modeling paste applied onto my canvas to build up the base texture. Once the texture was dry, I could paint with acrylics paints and mediums and not have to worry about the texture cracking or flaking off the canvas.
I wanted to have this same texture with my encaustic paintings, but without the added expense of having to build up such a deep surface of wax first. I had been reading about the use of plaster with encaustics, both from an encaustic artist point of view (Daniella Woolf – ‘The Encaustic Studio’), and from plaster artists’ point of view (Stephanie Lee & Judy Wise – ‘Plaster Studio’).
The plaster artists’ approach intrigued me, since they used acrylics paints (already have loads) and drywall mud (lots on hand from my husband’s building projects), with a final top coat of encaustic. I wanted to see if I could get my heavily textured abstract with the buttery richness of encaustic (and not break the bank!).
I decided to make a diptych (two panel painting) – the paintings could be stand-alone, but would work together as a complimentary pair, both color-wise and texture-wise.
First step, to spread a thin layer of drywall mud (pre-mixed wall plaster). I really enjoy this step – it feels like you’re frosting a cake.
Once the mud was spread out evenly with the spatula, I used a trowel (from Home Depot) that is meant for applying adhesive for ceramic tiles. It had quite large, square teeth giving a nice set of parallel grooves in the mud. I used a second trowel with smaller, triangular teeth to create a finer set of lines in the mud.
After creating very linear patterns in the mud, I wanted to break up the uniformity of the lines by imprinting circle patterns. I used a set of circle cookie cutters (set of 3, different sizes). I twisted the cookie cutter to get a wider circle impression in the mud.
I repeated the same process with the drywall mud, trowels and cookie cutters on the second panel, but in a different design. I left the panels to dry for at least 48 hours to make certain that the plaster had cured.
Once dry (at least 48 hours), I started to coat the panels in a base coat of red acrylic paint, adding a bit of water to it in order to have it spread more evenly into the plaster grooves.
Next, I used a complementary wheel color, green to contrast to the base red coat. It was really different for me to work in acrylics again after working for the past year in encaustics – the acrylic paint stayed wet! But, this allowed me to create nice blends of color and tone-on-tone that I hadn’t quite mastered with encaustic painting.
I let those colors dry and then brought out some metallic acrylic paints that I thought would really make the texture pop. I stayed with the warm tones, and choose copper and gold colors. I mixed the metallics into the reds and greens, but felt that the iridescence was lacking.
Next I used the copper and gold directly onto the painting as highlights. Now, the texture was defined with the highlights and shadows of the complimentary colors.
Happy with my acrylic painting, I prepared the clear encaustic medium (EM) for the final top coat. I brushed a thin layer of melted EM across the grooves.
I now noticed a potential issue with a textured surface and encaustic painting – the wax pooled into the grooves and started to level them off, becoming cloudy in the process. Not a look that I was going for!
I tipped the wax coated panels at a 45C angle and slow melted the excess wax off the panel. I had to rotate the panel a full 360C to keep the wax from puddling into the grooves. Finally, I had the clear, transparent glow of encaustic with the colors of the acrylic painting show through.
I called the finished abstracts, ‘Moons of Mars’ I and II. The colors and the circle shapes suggested the alien landscape of a faraway planet. You can visit my finished works at my online Etsy store, ‘Lexi Reid Studio’.