71 Listening to our own voice


RECENTLY I purchased a set of encaustic paints. I was always somewhat intimidated by the medium, which I viewed as arcane and unnecessarily difficult, but felt there might be something to learn from the process. I purchased the necessary tools to heat and apply the colors (which are blocks of beeswax and damar crystals mixed with raw pigment). After doing a small study on a 6″ x 6″ panel I prepared a 24″ x 24″ piece of oak plywood. I lightly sanded the surface and barely stained it with a thin coat of Red Iron Oxide acrylic which I thinned to a watery consistency. I set out my colors and began painting.


The first hour was fairly frustrating as I didn’t know how to rapidly apply basic patches of flat color. But once I applied a layer of wax over the entire surface the painting began to proceed smoothly. I was fascinated to discover that after applying several coats of varying colors I could heat the surface with a heat gun and paint back into the hardened pigments. The reheated paint was surprisingly buttery, not watery nor waxy as I anticipated. The process was enjoyable although I missed certain techniques I routinely use in oil painting. However, a surprising state of mind fell over me as I continued painting in this new and challenging medium.

 Since I had never studied the art of encaustic painting all I could do was follow my intuition. True, I had plenty of experience painting. A solid notion of the importance of values, hard and soft edges, and the relationship of color and composition all gave me a decent head start. But paint that liquified and dried at will was alien to my experience. As I painted a tree I didn’t think this is how Edgar Payne would paint this tree because I had never seen a tree painted in encaustic by Edgar Payne. Nor did I think Maynard Dixon would paint sagebrush like this. Because of this silent inner world that suddenly engulfed me I became keenly aware of all the voices that whisper, sometimes shout, as I practice what I previously thought to be a highly individual form of painting.

This experience showed me how I shackle my creative endeavors by allowing such voices to create a harsh and dogmatic inner world. This was particularly enlightening since I previously viewed myself as essentially immune to the intrusion of such inhibiting voices.

I suppose it is natural that a myriad of illusory voices direct our painting. Especially since we often foster an imaginary world where our favorite artists play the roles of mentors in abstencia. No doubt these self-constructed tutors help us with our artistic development. But we must be able to turn off such internal voices when they inhibit us from developing a truly individual art.



Brad Teare © 2011

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Updated: 4th December 2020
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