24 January 2008

More Bird Art

WoodBird, 2008, encaustic on driftwood, 6" x 2" x 30"

Another piece working with bird imagery - albeit in a very abstract manner. Although it is not very apparent in the photograph, the lines for the bird follow the grain patterns (head and body) and cracks (legs and feet) in the wood. You can sort of see this in the abstract feet of the bird. On the actual piece of driftwood the grain is very noticeable - with some of the grain swollen by the long submersion in the Mississippi River, and some parts eaten away by that submersion. In the photograph the dark circles are knots in the wood.

Some of the colors here are from my own paints. The colors that I have been making have mostly been from pre-ground purchased pigments that I have mixed with melted beeswax and damar resin.

When Abelisto's hives get established I will try using our own beeswax and propolis instead of damar resin. Propolis is a substance created by bees that is made up of resins found around the blossoms and buds on trees and at sites of wounds on trees. The bees change it chemically a bit, and use it as "glue" for sealing gaps in the hive and covering foreign objects. They use it to weatherproof the hive. Propolis is what gives beeswax its color and odor. Abelisto thinks that early encaustic painters probably did not add tree resins to their paints, but that they incorporated propolis into the mixture. It could have been purposely added, but most likely it was just part of what would have been considered wax, which would normally happen in a wild or unframed hive. If an analysis of the paints in early encaustic paintings was done, the scientists may have mistakenly thought the resins in the paints had been added - especially if the research was done by someone who did not know that much about bees. If a person was using purified beeswax you would need to add resins. The resins keep the wax from "blooming" when subjected to temperature changes (think refrigerated chocolate bar).

Just thinking about it I realized that since I am mixing my paints using unpurified beeswax I may not need to be adding damar crystals anyway. The ratio of wax to damar crystals should be between 8:1 and 10:1 by weight.

Of course I could be totally wrong about this. I will have to experiment with it. One thing is for certain; any paintings I do will certainly be subjected to pretty substantial temperature changes. Right now the house is hovering around 60 degrees (on purpose, that is what we set the thermostat at - outside is below zero, for the 13th day in a row), and during the summer it sometimes gets above 90 inside (we do not use air conditioning). So if my paints are going to be prone to blooming I am certain to see it.


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