Harbor at Peggy’s Cove, 13″ x 28″, oil pastel on Hardbord
Sunkist, 12″ x 12″, oil pastel on Encausticbord
Patricia Isaac is a life long artist and taught for many years in Massachusetts before settling into work as a full time artist in her favorite medium: oil pastel. She is a founding member of the Oil Pastel Society and nationally recognized for her work. Patricia shares how she came to find Ampersand and why it is a favorite material for her work.
“I had been using sanded papers for my oil pastels and wanted a way not to have to mat them, so I gessoed some masonite, but really found the surface too rough. I purchased some Ampersand panels already gessoed while in an art store one day. I really liked the smoothness with just enough tooth, so I was hooked. I also received a sample of the Encausticbord™ when it came out. I loved the surface, but find I can only do small paintings on it as the larger sizes are cradeled. These are my 2 favorite surfaces. I blend my oil pastels and the smoother surfaces work. I use Sennelier, Holbein and Caran’Ache oil pastels exclusively, and I am able to build many layers on these surfaces. For a long time I was an oil painter, but when I found oil pastels I never looked back. For me they are the best of both worlds, drawing and painting.” Patricia can be found online at her website and blog and her work at the ET Wright Building in Rockland, MA.
All things Ampersand, Karyn Meyer-Berthel Artist & Social Media Specialist Ampersand Art Supply Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.
Encaustic is a beeswax-based painting medium that is worked with heat. Painting with encaustic is a multi-step process. First, the paint must be melted, or liquefied. Next, the molten paint is applied to a porous surface. Then the applied wax is reheated, or fused into, the working surface, allowing it to form a good bond. As a final option, the cooled paint can be buffed to bring up the luster of the wax and resin. Basic Setup Suggestions:
• You will need a clean level counter or worktable to put a heated palette on. When setting up your worktable take into consideration the space that your palette will occupy and give yourself extra room for additional materials, like heat gun and works in progress. • You will want to make sure that your work area has proper ventilation. Exhaust fans in windows, cross-ventilation, or a studio ventilation system are all good options. It is important that you have a source of fresh air in your workspace. Though not unpleasant to smell, wax fumes should be treated like solvent fumes. A well-placed window fan should be adequate for a small set-up. • It will be imperative that you have adequate electrical outlets available for use. Consider that you will have a palette, possibly a heat gun and/or other tools that will require electricity and it will be helpful to position your workspace accordingly. • Keep in mind that anytime you use heated tools/equipment it is recommended that you have a burn kit and a fire extinguisher on-hand for safety purposes.
Tools & Equipment:
Heated Palette: The heated palette is an essential tool to the encaustic artist. It provides a surface to heat and mix encaustic paint and medium on. Less expensive alternatives to purchasing a custom palette include electric skillets, crock-pots or electric griddles. Regardless of the palette you select, it is important that it be equipped with temperature controls.
Palette Surface Thermometer: It is crucial to be able to monitor the surface temperature of your palette. A surface thermometer can easily assist you in monitoring the temperature of your palette (the safe working temperature for encaustic paint ranges from 180-200°F).
Fusing Tools: As you apply layers of paint to your support you will want to fuse (or re-heat) each layer to ensure that it is adhered to your ground or substrate. It is important to fuse between layers to prevent them from separating. There are two methods for fusing; either indirect (heat gun, torches, light bulbs, or sunlight) or direct (tacking irons, spatulas, heated brushes, plaster tools, palette and paint knives, etc.)
Brushes: Use natural bristle brushes only; synthetic brushes can burn and melt on the palette.
Mark Making Tools: Any type of mark-making tool will work with encaustic paint. We recommend etching, wood carving dental, sculpture, and clay working tools.
Supports: For best results, encaustic should be painted on a rigid, absorbent, and heat resistant surface. Examples include: wood (maple or birch plywood), heavy watercolor or printmaking paper glued to board, or raw canvas glued to board (avoid pre-gessoed canvas boards). Three-dimensional or sculptural work that is porous and rigid can also be used. Plaster, stone, wood, terra cotta, or cast paper are all acceptable surfaces to work on. (We here at Ampersand recommend Encausticbord as the best option as it is designed specifically for encaustic painting.)
Soy or Paraffin Wax: There are two options for clean-up, either Soy or Paraffin wax. We recommend using soy wax for clean-up because soybeans are a renewable resource, while paraffin is a petroleum based product. An additional benefit to using soy wax is that it can be washed off with soap and water leaving brushes supple.
Palette Cups: Great for keeping melted waxes separate on your palette. R&F carries heavy aluminum and steel alloy rectangular palette cups in two sizes (sm/lg) to fit 40 ml and 104 ml cakes.
Encaustic Paints: There really is no general recommendation for a starter palette of colors, since different artists have individual preferences, but we recommend that you choose a good balance of opaque and transparent colors. Try starting with a red, yellow and blue, and build from there.
Where does Encaustic Wax come from and how is it standardized for artist use? Beeswax is secreted by wax glands in the bee’s abdominal area and used to create the honeycombs of the hive. Pure beeswax is composed solely of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Its natural color when it is secreted is white. When beeswax is harvested from the hive it is often contaminated with impurities, which discolor it. At this stage it is called unrefined or crude beeswax. Unrefined or crude beeswax is colored in a range of earthy hues from yellow to black. This coloration is caused by pollen, propolis (resin), and dirt. If you use unrefined wax for its color, it is important not to assume that the color is permanent because the color is organic matter, which is not necessarily stable in light and is subject to fading, darkening, or a color shift. These are reasons why you would most likely want to use decolorized, white beeswax for encaustic. You may wonder how does the wax get whitened? Artist manufacturers avoid the term ”bleached beeswax” because it implies the use of chemical bleaches. But the wax industry uses the term for the mechanical as well as the chemical methods of decolorizing beeswax. Chemical bleaching is not the best choice for artists for two reasons. For one, chemical bleaching (which uses either potassium permangenate & phosphoric acid or sulfuric acid or various peroxides) does not always mean removing the colorant. In many cases it simply masks it. It is often used to whiten colorants that non-chemical bleaching can’t, but these colorants can later return to their original color. Furthermore, chemical bleaching can be harsh on the wax, creating free fatty acids and making the wax more reactive to pigments and pollutants.
Sun bleaching exposes the wax to the ultraviolet light of the sun, which breaks down the colorants. This is a gentle and effective method of decolorizing the wax. The process, however, is expensive on an industrial scale because it requires so much space, but it is also the most accessible method for artists who want to bleach their own wax on a small scale. Filtration is a process in which the wax is forced under high pressure through filters of activated carbon and clay that absorb the colorants and take out all foreign matter. Filtration is preferable to chemical bleaching because it maintains the structural integrity of the wax. It is also, in the long run, the least expensive and the most practical of the three methods. It is the best choice for artist material. Pharmaceutical grade beeswax is a standard set by the government that certifies that the wax meets certain chemical requirements and that it is pure beeswax. The chemical standards (such as its ability to be saponified) are of importance to the cosmetic and pharmaceutical use of beeswax. For the artist, the real importance of pharmaceutical grade beeswax is that it is a guarantee that the beeswax has not been adulterated with other waxes (such as paraffin or microcrystalline), rosins, stearic acid, or tallow. However, the term pharmaceutical grade does not refer to the method by which it has been decolorized. Artists should seek out wax that is both guaranteed 100% beeswax and filtered or sun bleached. And, in case you’re wondering, R&F uses only pharmaceutical grade filtered beeswax. Taken from the Encaustic Resource Center and written by R&F Handmade Paints. Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.
“Good materials are crucial for good art – not only for the in-the-moment experience, but also for the legacy of the work. Much of my work has been collected by museums and corporations and residential clients, and so I feel good that I use the best of everything. I am a very loyal customer of R & F Handmade Paints, the pioneer in encaustics and oil pigment sticks, and now a partner with Ampersand Panels for their Encausticbord.” ~Leslie Neumann
photography by George Blanchette
Florida artist Leslie Neumann, knew as a young child she was an artist, remembering drawing when she was two and three. During her freshmen college year, in the midst of family tragedy when she lost her only sibling in an automobile accident, she found herself committing to fine art full time. Reinventing herself, she transferred to the California College of Art to receive her BFA and later moved to NYU for her MFA. After years of living and teaching in New York, St. John’s University in Queens, Leslie moved to the Gulf of Mexico in Florida to work full time as a painter and active environmentalist.
Installation at Firebirds, photo by Nancy Rankin
Leslie’s love of landscape came with her move to Florida. The figurative work faded away as the lush Florida vegetation and native bold colors caught her attention. “I never gave myself permission to distort the figure- as did Francis Bacon or Willem DeKooning or Pablo Picasso, although they were my favorites, but I have no problem painting the landscape on my own terms. While my landscapes are representative to a degree, they are quite abstract. Paint is always the first and foremost consideration, not depicting something accurately,” Leslie explains. “In the last decade, I have added a cosmic dimension to my landscape-esque work. It seems natural to me to be thoroughly immersed in the hot, primitive wetlands- and then to drift effortlessly up into the nether regions of space, where we are released from time and gravity.” Leslie began her journey as an oil painter, but found that her large impasto passages took years to dry. In 1989 a friend gave her “some wax” to try and she never looked back. The combination of the oils and wax gives her the impasto she likes along with the atmospheric and diaphanous look of the oil sticks. She explains further, “I also love how you simply cannot predict what will happen with wax. You put it down, but then when you heat it up to bond it to the surface of your substrate – anything can- and does happen. You must be fully present when you work with wax, not just for the fire and safety aspect, but because you’re making seat-of-the-pants decisions second by second. I love the surprises. I swear that half of what I end up with is a gift that comes from the materials!”
photography by George Blanchette
Besides the numerous corporate and private collections around the country, Leslie’s work can be found in Firebird restaurants around the country as she was commissioned from the national chain’s opening to create original work for each location. You can also find Leslie online at her website, to see more of her collection and videos of her philosophy. All things Ampersand, Karyn Meyer-Berthel Artist & Social Media Specialist Ampersand Art Supply Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.