When I picked my kids up at school this afternoon, I hurried them to the car because I had an appointment. “Is it a doctor’s appointment?” they asked. No, it was an artist appointment. I love the way that sounds: artist appointment. I had an appointment with Stephanie Hargrave, an encaustic artist who admired my work at the Ballard ArtWalk; she asked if I would be interested in arranging a trade: my felt for her encaustics.
We spent half an hour looking at her work and learning about her process as she showed us around the small house where she has her studio. Much to my delight, the kids were very interested in her technique. When she offered to complete an in-progress piece featuring a chrysanthemum detail I’d admired, Owen thought she was offering to fire up the wok and finish it on the spot. He really liked her acetylene torch. I think she opened some wide doors in his brain. Artists…shoot…flames?
At home, we had a brainstorming session to come up with ideas for Lance’s birthday card; Sophie was distressed that she still hadn’t made anything for him the day before his big day (this is the girl who makes cards for her friends’ fathers, and has memorized the birthday of every child and half the parents in her second grade class). As I tried to console her with my own tales of artist’s block and the sudden lightning strike of inspiration, the bolt knocked me on the head. Could we make our own encaustics minus the acetylene torch and toxic fumes?
I pulled out our largest iron skillet, turned the heat to medium-low and pulled out a bag of broken crayon bits. Once the pan was warm enough, the crayons softened and the color flowed. It was like drawing with the saturation of markers and the smooth touch of oil pastels. Imagine coloring with butter. How fun! After trying my first drawing, I realized the skillet was making the job more difficult than necessary, and since our oven has recessed burners in the cooktop, I got rid of the pan and just put the paper right on the burner. Note: Sophie is resting her left hand on a coaster as a small concession to safety.
It wasn’t long before Lance came home from work to find the table covered in crayon wrappers, sketch pads, construction paper, and art! After watching for a few minutes, he couldn’t resist trying it himself. In true encaustics, artists lay down multiple layers of wax, sometimes etching the wax or overlaying prints between the layers. I decided to try my variation of that idea by layering different colors of crayon in the leaves.
I can’t tell you how great it feels to be making art with my family again! It has been too long.