Experimental Encaustic workshop with Shawna Moore

“We are all trying to get to our own place (in art).”
~ Shawna Moore

Tonight the Shawna Moore and Friends exhibit opens at Studio 303. Several FUSEDChicago members will have work up, including yours truly. You can peruse our works from 7 to 10 p.m. on the third floor of the Zhou B Art Center at 1029 West 35th Street.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

In May I attended a two-day workshop with Shawna at Jenny Learner’s studio. Shawna’s introductory video intrigued me (which is now Moby’s Everloving music video in my head), and I eagerly anticipated working alongside fellow encaustic artists.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Shawna grew up in Oregon. After studying architecture in college she lived in Santa Fe for a while, where she discovered encaustics. That locale was an overload for art, she said, and she found her personal aesthetic after moving to Montana, which is more isolated. Shawna feels that having a sense of art history helps inform her work, but she stressed that each individual must determine what type of (formal or informal) art education is important to them.

“I need to know who the modern painters are and woman painters.
Encaustic painting attracts women.
I feel I should steep myself into art history.”
~ Shawna Moore

On day one we discussed studio safety at length. Because we work with heat and fumes, ventilation is critical when working with wax. Shawna also recommended using gloves as we work with oil paints, and to scrape away from our bodies as we handle razorblades and sharp mark-making tools. We were given some great handouts, and most encaustic painting books discuss safety in your studio-set-up as well.

“We live in a world with little control.
In the studio I am the queen of the world.”
~ Shawna Moore

Shawna starts her paintings with beeswax and colors the beeswax as well. It is not as shiny and hard as encaustic medium, which makes beeswax a good material for experimenting, she said. Local beekeepers can provide beeswax bricks, and there are resources online. She does recommend using encaustic medium (a combination of beeswax and resin) on the top layers for longevity of art work.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Recently, Shawna has also started working with R&F Paints, which distributes encaustic medium, pigmented encaustic paint, and a variety of encaustic art supplies.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Shawna demonstrated creating smooth surfaces and having transparency in paintings. The transparency is achieved by gradually tinting the beeswax or medium with a pigment stick-which creates tonality as the layers build up. We were given an overview of color theory as Shawna discussed layering.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

“You fuse, you lose.”
~ a Shawna Moore Commandment

The smoothness and texture of a painting depends on tools used. Shawna likes using the Burton Hotstick Iron (designed for snowboards), as well as torches to smooth her surfaces. I stuck to the heat gun on day one, but experimented with the Iwatani Cooking Torch Jenny had on hand on day two, which does give more control when used correctly.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

“We’re building this language,
this dialogue between us and the materials.
It becomes very personal.”

~ Shawna Moore

We were tasked with using only beeswax, painters’ grey and burnt umber to create a smooth surface. Shawna also demonstrated mark-making and creating texture with oil paint, sumi-e ink, carbon paper and carving tools, which we were to emulate.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Demonstration piece by Shawna Moore

It was fun experimenting next to Bridgette Guerzon Mills, whose work is far more opaque. Bridgette wrote about the workshop on her blog. Her work hangs next to Shawna’s in Jenny’s studio, and you can view both on Friday evening and throughout the month.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

My piece was not my own language yet, but I enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone of color and collage and doing something different.

photo and art work copyright Maike's Marvels

On Sunday Shawna recapped her Saturday demonstration for the newbies, and we added collage, color and composition to our palette, which was more up my alley. We discussed the strategic components of composition, color theory (warm vs cool tones) and creating depth.

Demonstration piece by Shawna Moore

Getting feedback on my map piece (below, Shawna’s is above) while it was in progress was very refreshing, and encourages me to take advantage of open studios for more collaborative work in the future.

photo and art work copyright Maike's Marvels

“We are all going to bring in things about the painting
that is beyond the technique.
The act of art making brings my emotions
and my experience into play.” 
~ Shawna Moore

As always, the variety of work created reflected the talent and personality of the other artists. I really look forward to seeing the work of Helene Bizouerne, Elyse Martin, Lisa Dartt, Thomas Meyer, VA dePintor, Isabelle Gougenheim, Jenny Learner, Katheen Blankley Roman, Barbette Loevy and Madeline True in one place this evening. The exhibit will be up through July 14. The Zhou B Art Center also houses more than 50 artists open studios and several galleries.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

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