Everything changes in life, we seem to be given exactly enough time to become attached and familiar to most things, before they either vanish, or just play out in our lives and pass from our days. The older I become, the more I am aware of this facet of life. I often wonder what life would be like if we were in control of the changes in our lives, would we ever allow change or just stay comfortably still and stagnant? Something to consider when you feel you need a change in your art or your approach to art. It is at this point the urge to move will overtake the urge to stay, and the journey takes a new path.
I often feel as though I am making great strides in my work, only to find in the end, I have made an elaborate side-winding path back to a familiar place in my art. I feel there is no better creativity instruction than to push into strange and unusual places in your work, either with your approach or in you thought process. Much of my art comes from memories embedded deep in my mind, often a dream, but usually a reality that I abstract onto a two dimensional surface. In this painting, the memory was the tornado that hit Yazoo County last year, it took almost a year to have this come out in my work. I am not sure of the reason it has decided to surface, but I am sure there is a psychobabble term for it; somewhere in the many millions of books on fear and loss of control.
I began this painting as a figurative piece but for some reason, I never felt a connection with the figurative aspect in the painting. I have learned by trial and error if I cannot resolve the disconnect to my work, then it is time to start anew on the painting. In the process of layering and especially if you are working in beeswax, there is always the opportunity to go in a totally different direction with my work and this one did just that. The more layers I added, the more I was drawn to the texture that was evolving.
I decided I really liked the way the painting was progressing, it seemed to be embodying the feeling of land and the tornadic movement over the surface. I could have left well enough alone but why? I thought I would give it a shellac burn. It seemed to fit into the theme of this piece rather well, as it was another way of destruction in itself. I grabbed my shellac, the painting, and my torch and headed outside. The process for achieving the shellac burn is to let the wax cool. I then took a paper towel, although you could use a brush, and dabbed a good bit of shellac on the wax surface. I lit it with my torch and let it burn itself out. It burns the shellac and the wax together and makes for some extremely wonderful textures as it burns through the surfaces of the layers of wax in odd and wonderful ways. You have to be very careful with this process; always take it outside, and place it on a non flammable surface like brick or stone. An important note to make is be careful to not handle the painting too quickly after you perform the burn, often it is still burning , even though, you cannot see the flame. I left mine for about ten minutes, to make sure it was extinguished. There are lots of YouTube videos on shellac burning here is one by Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J05aRHkca3Qng.
The layering and burning in this process gave this painting some of the depth and destruction I was trying to embed into it without being too literal about it. I titled this painting “Vortex” , as I felt all the while I was painting it, that I was being being pushed and pulled in an emotional vortex, as I struggled with the wax and the thoughts and memories of the tornado that evoked the impetus of this painting.
This painting is available for purchase at Nunnery’s Gallery 119 in Jackson, Ms., and if you are in the area please go by and see the painting in person as the pictures cannot fully convey the depth and complexity of the painting. Thank you for reading my blog and I hope you will give encaustic painting a try.
To see more of my work please visit my website: http://www.cathyhegman.com