May 17, 2011

I just had to try these new 6"x8" panels out--interesting format to work with. 

Color Experiments with Encaustic - Beginning another grid made of 6x6" panels

Working with color in encaustic is unlike anything I've done before.  There is a definite learning curve.  It isn't watery like watercolor, but flows like watercolors when you heat the surface.  Most of the colors are opaque unless greatly diluted with encaustic medium, again, the opposite of what I've done in watercolor for so many years, when I used the opaques so sparingly.  Like acrylics, there isn't a lot of time to work, not because the encaustics will "dry," but because they'll cool.  Heat becomes your best friend; I prefer using a torch to a heat gun because it doesn't blow the surface wax around.  There is a vibrancy and surface lustre which continues to draw me in.  It is a constant add, subtract, layer, scrape, gouge, fill in process which I enjoy for its malleability and unpredictability.  This is the beginning of another potential grid of color.  I want each piece to stand on its own, but also want the grid to work together.  My hope is for the panels to speak to one another, as individuals.  We'll see what happens in the next few months!  Above are two panels in warm colors layered over cool.

I naturally gravitate toward cool colors; using warm colors feels a bit out of my comfort zone.  I love Morgan Freeman's narration of "Through the Wormhole."  In one of the episodes, which describe cutting edge discoveries and pursuits in understanding the universe, he references the "particle zoo."  This would be a collection of particles you get when you blast a neutron apart (or is it a proton?  I can't remember, but like the idea of lots of particles!)  This piece reminds me of a particle zoo.  A distant goal is to work really large; perhaps 32x40" panels or so, in encaustic.  Getting the DVD series of "Through the Wormhole" would be a great inspiration for a new series!

Panels 5-7 of the 9 panel grid
 I worked on these panels about a week ago and finally got around to taking photographs of them.  Each panel expresses ambiguity, while the composition attempts to push the lights, midtones and darks into different permutations.  It is challenging and fun to work with what I hope is a sensitive line, and values which create movement and energy.  For me, the feeling is rather dark, turbulent, ominous; perhaps a bad dream or a dark day.

May 4, 2011

Beginning the Grid

I started this series of drawings about a week ago.  They were a lot of fun and it is freeing returning to abstraction and focusing on sheer emotion.  I get a feeling of turbulence, a tossing and turning, and am happy with my continual state of ambiguity.  Byron thought it could be the sea, or sky, or microscopic.  I like that it is not literal.  These drawings were done with an aquarelle pencil, which needed to be continually sharpened, and played with line in various sections of each grid.  I then used permanent black ink in large areas.  The ink I used was kind of disappointing; not black black, kind of blotchy black.  I need to remember that.  But now that I've started, perhaps I'll stay with it.  We'll see.  The next step was to glue each drawing onto a 10"x10" cradled baltic birch panel, and then layer encaustic medium and then graphite powder.  A little wintergreen oil rescued some of the lights that got too dark.  Lesson learned.

May 3, 2011

Six Encaustic Paintings in the Works Today -  One Finished

Remembrance, 24x18"

I'm continuing to explore working with color in encaustic, and as always, trying to find the kind of mark making that feels like me, and feels "right."  Working in color in this medium is still new; the shoes aren't broken in yet, but I'm enjoying the process of learning and don't have too many blisters yet.  Continuing to think about how to equate or express emotion with color, line, texture, shape is a good challenge as it is a wide open and neverending pursuit.  As in music, I'm trying to discover the major and minor keys, the harmony and discordance.  But good or bad (results), it's really all good, as I'm learning, learning, learning.  This piece, as with most of my color encaustics done in 2011, have been painted over failed grad work--failed photos, failed encaustics, so it feels really good to be under this piece, but as in the others in which I've worked this way, I let a little bit of the photo peek through.  It continues to be a challenge to photograph finished works or works in progress due to the shiny wax surface, so I'm including some closeups, which I find inspirational for future paintings.


April 21, 2011

New Encaustic Work - Post Grad 2011

Primordial, 28"x28", Encaustic, Oil, Graphite

Quietude, 18"x18", Encaustic, Oil

Absolution, 24"x12" Encaustic, Oil, Graphite

I am slowly but surely crawling out of my post-grad cocoon.  The last few months since graduating in December have meant regeneration, thinking about new things, submitting to venues, etc.  I was drawn to work with metals at first, so began working with copper, brass, aluminum and a very small amount of silver.  It figures the price of silver is a record high just as I develop an interest in using it, but it forced me to consider other options. I love the 3D sculptural nature of working with metal.  Unlike drawing or painting, it requires that additional dimension, nurtured early on when I took 2 sculpture classes with Brad Allen at the University of Montana (Metal casting, (I made 3 sculptures, one each of aluminum, iron, and bronze) and Blacksmithing).  I love to see how each metal responds to cutting, shaping, heating, etching solutions, and various patinas.  While working with metals on a smaller scale, I discovered there is a jeweler in me that I never knew about.  I then remembered long ago, a few mentions that my Grandfather, on my mother's side, was indeed a jeweler, and my mother and her step-sister secretly played with black diamonds behind the shoji screen.  Such a fascinating anecdote to discover so late in life, but I love the story and hold on to it.

I am now ready to continue working on a series of encaustic pieces I began about a month ago.  

Encaustic painting involves painting with molten beeswax combined with damar resin crystals. Encaustic layers are added gradually, and fused with heat using either a propane torch (my preferred heating method) or heat gun. This heating process is what gives encaustic painting its name, which means "burning in" in Greek. This is an ancient medium, originating over 2000 years ago. Examples from antiquity include the Fayum Mummy Portraits from Egypt, discovered in the late 1800s, completely preserved to this day. waxes and damar resin in the medium of encaustic. 

I saw my first encaustic piece about 4 years ago and absolutely fell in love with the lustrous, shiny surface.  The piece I saw hung in a gallery, and I was mesmerized by the colors and smooth texture.  I really had to find out what it was, and did, and now encaustic is probably my favorite medium to work with.  All of the above pieces are recent and the encaustic medium has been applied to baltic birch panel--mostly failed pieces from my grad school days.  I found I can recycle them, so I do, very happily.  Most of the old grad work had photomontages on them; the cool thing I am finding is that I can get bits of these layers to shine through in the final work.  It gives a bit of mystery, color, and occasional line(s).  In fact, I liked the photomontage as an initial surface so much that I took an old print from my thesis show that wasn't the right colors (much to my dismay, at the time it was printed out), and adhered it to a large new panel.  The print had unusual colors; i.e. dark, deep reds and an aqua color, and these suggested the palette I would use.  When the piece was finished, a small portion of the print showed through the layers of wax, which added a nice effect.  "Primordial" is the painting which evolved from this early start.  I recently dropped this 28"x28" painting off at the Holter Museum of Art in Helena, MT for a show and auction in May and June, 2011.
Two other newer encaustic pieces are "Quietude" and "Absolution".  I am thinking about emotions, moods, states of being, as I work toward a collaborative show coming in September, 2011 at the Brink Gallery in Missoula, Montana.  Although I'm not quite sure these will be part of that show, I find it a good topic to dwell on; expressing feelings and emotional states through color, texture and shape.  "Quietude" for me probably is my answer to what "Disquietude" is not; the heavy and thorough examination of that topic of the last two years lead to it's antithesis, simple, clean, quiet.  

"Absolution" means formal release from guilt, punishment, and obligation.  I looked the word up when I heard it sung by "MUSE," a rock group most people would be surprised I like.  But it was the title of one of their albums I downloaded, and I kept playing their song "Absolution" until I literally couldn't get it out of my head (must stop doing this!).  I feel the meaning coincides a bit with how I am feeling upon achieving a goal I didn't know I had (working toward the MFA), because it took me so many years to finally realize there was an artist in me, and that artist needed a lot of professional help (i.e. a formal art program), and when I finally broke the barriers (the voice saying an artist doesn't need training), I came out feeling a bit of absolution.  Unfortunately, it isn't permanent and must be nurtured through belief in one's self, the continuance of one's true purpose(s) in life, and total honesty with self.

The journey continues. 

December 14, 2010

DISQUIETUDE - a Few Installation Shots

Gallery of Visual Arts, University of Montana, December 2011; Installation shot in Main Gallery

6.9 Billion, 7ftx6ft, fingerprints on resin coated panel

Becky Garner looks for her fingerprint in "6.9 Billion"; fingerprints on 7ftx6ft resin coated panel

Homeland Security, TSA Confiscated Knives and Scissors, 7ftx12ft
To see the whole exhibition, artist statement, and press articles, visit

September 28, 2010

DISQUIETUDE (title of thesis exhibition)

Disquietude explores the wide range of psychological, social and global ramifications of living in the age of terrorism.  The unifying thread that ties the work together is an ambiguity in each piece, which provides a safe haven for each viewer to consider and reflect upon the many emotions and repercussions of terrorism, before, during and after it has happened.  The imagery represents the duality we must face in today's climate; life vs. death, security vs. vulnerability, anxiety vs. peace, hope vs. despair.  Combining photography, printmaking, encaustic and installation, my aim is to allow a multi-faceted approach to the many ways we interpret the status of our well-being at any given time, amidst a constant barrage of media referencing the last, current or impending attack from terrorists, at home or abroad.
     The past two and one half years have allowed me to home in on perhaps one of the most important challenges of my own life, dealing with death, trauma, and pain, and discovering the beauty that lies beyond.  Terrorism has become a metaphor for me personally, as it represents horrors in unspeakable forms, which leave behind a plethora of darkness, psychological fallout and death on many levels, in this case individually and worldwide.  What ultimately gives us hope and the will to persevere is the human spirit and the contemplation of what may lie beyond.

September 20, 2010

6.9 Billion--almost finished!

The two 7' 6" panels have been bolted together and this piece is almost finished.  What remains are prints from a few more participants, and making sure the two sides are balanced.

September 19, 2010

"6.9 Billion" - in the making...

Over 25 people helped make these two panels, each 4' (ht) by 14' (width)
when bolted together end to end.  The plywood surface was coated with
four coats of gesso (regular and sandable), and the fingerprints were each
placed on the surface using archival, permanent ink.

After the resin is mixed (two-part resin),  I have about 20 minutes to mix,
pour, smooth out (with spatula) and torch with butane over the entire surface
to remove bubble that rise to the top when heated.  I then wait overnite to
knock back the shine with steel wool (0000 grade).  Once both panels
are sanded to a satin finish, more fingerprints will be added to balance the
two sides.

It's a long reach with the butane torch.