I have wanted to explore a relationship between painting and printmaking, but because I have a limited time every year in which I can collaborate with the printmakers of the David Krut Workshop, any practice based approach to this has not been possible beyond a few weeks a year. In early 2016, however, I decided to find a printmaking approach I could do in my own studio. In the past, at the David Krut Printing Workshop, I have worked with etching onto copper plates and monotypes using perspex sheets. I was of the opinion, however, that incorporating these forms of printmaking into the studio would not be ideal for one main reasons: I did not want to use a printing press and the baths of water or acids required by etching, and by monotypes that use perspex sheets. I realised that I should look for printmakers who are experimenting with printing in non-traditional ways. I read a book titled Installations and Experimental Printmaking by Alexia Tala (2009), and from this book I learnt about encaustic monotypes, and the potential for this process to create multi-layered, mixed media collages.
Encaustic work is based on the heating and cooling properties of beeswax. When coloured beeswax is heated up it melts, and when heat is taken away the wax cools down. The basic process of creating a print is the following: you draw or paint with encaustic colours onto a heated surface, you place your paper onto that image, you press down with a baren, and then you lift the print. An image that is created with the liquid state coloured beeswax, therefore, can be lifted with paper, and becomes set on the paper as soon as it cools down. The unique properties of beeswax makes encaustic work very versatile and useful in a variety of image making approaches.
To make encaustic monotypes, you need to have a hotplate to melt the wax on, and from which to lift the prints. The hotplate needs to be an anodised aluminium plate, since the anodisation prevents the pigments from reacting with the aluminium and producing uncontrolled discolourations. This plate, however, needs to be heated up in some way. I have seen several designs for homemade hotboxes that are created out of a wooden box which is lined with metallic insulation padding to reflect the heat emitting from 100-watt light bulbs set on a dimmer switch. While I did consider this type of hotbox, I did not want to have the hassle of light bulbs that may blow out, and I wanted a sturdier construction. I decided to design and have fabricated a simple oven on which to place the anodised aluminium plate.
The colour bars that are used for encaustic monotypes is a mixture of beeswax, dammar resin and pigment. To get a better understanding of these materials, and the ratios needed to create the encaustic colours, my first step was to consult my copies of The Artists Handbook of Materials and Techniques, by Ralph Mayer, and The Artists Handbook: A Complete Professional Guide to Materials and Techniques by Pip Seymore, and later, my copy of Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide to Creating Fine Art with Wax by Lissa Rankin. Not knowing what an encaustic colour stick would feel like while working with it, I decided to purchase a set of encaustic colour sticks. Once I had these presidents, I decided to started to source the raw materials needed to make encaustic colour sticks, and I started making my own.
First Tests of Monotype -Drawings with Encaustic Colour Sticks
My initial research indicated that the encaustic monotype process provide the possibility to work in layers that set quickly, build up relationships of opacities and transparencies, and enable me to incorporate printmaking techniques in the painting studio in a way where I could challenge the images I am making in the studio, by learning about potential images in one process through an association with the partnered process. What I am excited about the encaustic monotype process is the immediacy of the printed image, and how my paintings could be influenced by the unpredictability of this process. The following images are a collection of test prints that I made as soon as my hotbox was fabricated. These prints are made using encaustic colour sticks and soft pastels.