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Saturday, February 13, 2016
The Experimental Artist Discovers a New Technique
One of the reasons I became an artist was for the sheer exhilaration of exploring techniques. I must admit that I was bored at first. Painting on a one dimensional surface was fun for the first month and then after I'd done it several times I wanted more. I began working with three dimensions almost from the start. Dimensionality in art fascinated me. Seeing something take form from different angles lent an endless fascination to everything I created. Suddenly the skills gained as a one dimensional painter exploded onto the 3D surfaces.
From that point its been a constant exploration of new ideas, new techniques and experiments in every idea I could conceive and turn into art.
For me, finding a new technique or combining two techniques to form something totally new is almost like a drug high. I will dance around the studio for hours when I stumble onto something. And I've been dancing a lot tonight. Several years back I went through what I call my "wax phase". This came right after my "luminescent phase". The Wax phase started out simply because I was poor.
I'd read an article about encaustic art. The technique of using wax to create art. The idea fascinated me. But after some quick research I realized that it was also an expensive art and way beyond my means at the time. A few days later I was randomly watching videos on YouTube of artists and art ideas and I ran across a fellow who was showing how to make a rainbow by gluing crayons across the top of a canvas and then melting them with a hair dryer so they dripped down the canvas, merged and formed a cool rainbow.
So if it worked for this, why couldn't a crayon be used for more advanced art techniques like I saw in the encaustic article. Well I admit it seemed sort of trivial and childish to me at the time. But I thought why the hell not, at least I can play around a little and maybe get into true encaustic art later.
So I bought a box of crayons. The first thing I did was strip the paper off of them which the fellow in the video didn't do. He left the paper on so the wax would drip straight down. My first few experiments were pretty freaking cool. I was hooked right from the start. The way the wax swirled and the colors blended was amazing. But the moment the wax cooled it lost its beauty.
Experiment ended. Failure. Abort.
In my previous luminescent phase I'd made friends with a substance well known to crafters. Mod Podge. And I'd some great success using this in some very unique ways. So out of curiosity I decided to dab some on the wax. Much to my amazement the color and vibrancy popped out the moment the Mod Podge dried. Woah....here was something new. I hit the ground running with about a million crayons, a soldering iron, hair dryer and a gallon jug of Mod Podge and spent the next 8 months doing nothing but melting crayons, getting burnt a lot and making some kick ass art.
About the 4 month into the wax phase I discovered something new. I discovered that crayola made a metallic crayon. I lost a lot of sleep that week because I couldn't pull myself away. I'd already converted to metallic acrylics for almost all my painting work. Metallic crayons were more than my tiny brain could handle and I think I shorted out for a days. A few weeks later I had bought every metallic crayon I could find. I'm not kidding you, I wiped out the shelves of every store I could find them in.
Mind you I had not moved into a total sculpture phase yet. I was still working on canvases that were more like hanging sculptures. I eventually moved out of the wax work phase as a body of work and moved on towards other phases and eventually into total sculpture work. I hadn't really left the wax work behind but I hadn't really found a place for it in the sculpture work I would proceed into.
But no technique leaves me once its part of my work and I would occasionally bring out the crayons and train art interns in the techniques and keep my skills fresh.
So move up to this present week. Wax work was several years behind me. The focus for the past 5 months had been on driftwood sculptures. In the Driftwood phase I'd already created 30 or so sculptures involving driftwood pulled directly from the Mississippi River.
I started work on a large faerie creature laying length wise across a piece of arched driftwood, 5 feet in length. I wanted something unique for this piece so it would be unlike other pieces in the driftwood series. Suddenly I wondered what it would look like using metallic wax. Could it even be done? The piece was huge. Would the wax adhere properly? It was possible, but I'd have to do an experiment with a smaller piece of driftwood first and see what I got. I had some smaller pieces prepped to be painted and figured I could try it out and see what it looked like, and woah....the way the wax melted into the crevasses of the wood and left a metallic surface coating was breathtaking. But the amount of Mod Podge it would take to cover the big piece would be ridiculous. So what about polyurethane? Would a gloss spray work the same way? It not only worked, but it created a hard shell coating that eliminated any chance of chipping or marks on the wax which was something the Mod Podge did not do nearly as effectively.
And there it was in front of me. Something totally new, found through experiment and the blending of techniques and ideas. If this tiny sculpture looked this good, what in the hell would I get tomorrow when I blended more colors on a broader surface?
I guess we'll just have to see, but I doubt I'll sleep much tonight thinking about it and finding more ways to utilize this new knowledge.
Experimental art is truly one of the most satisfying art forms out there and something I hope to continue through the lifetime of my career as an artist.