Find us on Google+

The Art of the Allium

To Be Or Not To Be An Encaustic Dragon

I am into my fruity phase. Pears and Dragon Fruits this week.  First up, dragon fruit.  Photographed them.  That was the easy part.  Then, what to do?  The encaustic process?  Or, Leave it be?


I decided to do both but with different images.  The encaustic photo transfer image was the yellow textured and painted background.  Why?  Photo Transfers of lighter and bright colors seem to work better with my textured and digitally painted photos.  I textured the photo on left first.  Then, brought it into Topaz Impressions.  Worked on several choices, Van Gogh 2, Jim Salla Oil, Georgia O’Keefe 1 but ultimately went with an odd choice: Obscurity 1.  I hardly ever use that one.  But I liked what it did to the background and the exterior fringe of the dragon fruit.  Then, I layered that look with the textured one and masked in the details of the center of the fruit as all of that had been obscured in “Obscurity”.

Then, I did a photo transfer.



After letting the transfer dry thoroughly,  I put a layer of the wax  that is meant for a topcoat or basecoat only.  It dries clear. Very different than the regular encaustic medium. I tried this instead of varnish for reasons mentioned in last post about My Encaustic Flat World.  After the wax layer was dry, I used an oil stick to fix the holes and to enhance the fruit color.  A little blast of heat gun from higher angle than I’d use on a straight mounted photo!

So, now, I’ve got these two pondering to be or not to be and meanwhile my bosc pear got over-heat-gunned by someone.  Oy.  Word to the Wise: A photo transfer is much more vulnerable to the heat gun than a straight mounted photo.  So, the Bosc Pear will have to wait to next post.

Encaustic Flat World


Here’s what I know for sure after months of experimenting with encaustic photography.  For me, the encaustic world is currently flat.

Certain of my photos work very well, but not always in conventional encaustic ways.

For example, when it comes to many of my garden photographs that I prepare in Photoshop with digital paints and texture, a simple photo transfer on to a warm encaustic substrate is the look I like best. I prefer the embedded nature and feel of the image into the wax substrate  to simply attaching a photo to the board and then waxing over it and adding pigment. And, I definitely prefer it to printing and framing it.  Some photos are further enhanced by a layer of wax and pigment, but surprisingly, I,  more and more, find myself wishing I had simply left it alone.

I am worried, though, that if I leave it without any layer of wax, the colors might fade or chip, so I am going to experiment with adding a thin layer of varnish over the weekend.

It is unbelievable how much experimenting I have done to feel competent in the art of the transfer as well as how to use the properties of wax to enhance my images.

Of course, folks once thought the world was flat, too.  So, I guess this encaustic flat world I have now is what I think I know for sure until proven wrong.

Encaustic Keys to the Past Video



I took a circuitous route to this final encaustic piece of my father’s leather key chain that I found one day in the basement.  Here is a short video of the different stages but it is one of the first encaustic experiments where the final stage was in encaustic!

Mr. Turner Comes to New York City

I finally saw Mike Leigh’s movie about the British painter I love, “Mr. Turner”.  Yikes.  I decided to do a sunset photo of NYC in “Turner” like fashion but stopped short of grunting and spitting on it.




“Rescue” Photography May Be My Niche

I decided to walk myself through the steps of making “Twilight” New York City and perhaps it’ll benefit anyone trying to walk their own creative path.  One pattern for me in trying to develop my own aesthetic (as well as skills) with this encaustic medium is clearly to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  I have done enough of them now that I am deciding my aesthetic may be more akin to going to the animal shelter and picking out a rescue animal.  An abandoned or abused animal is in the shelter (my failed photo transfer or encaustic painting) and then is rescued by a sympathetic soul (me and Photoshop) and starts a new life.

This is only the latest example of taking what I feel to be an unsuccessful encaustic endeavor and turning it, through Photoshop, into a more successful (to me) image.  For another example of this same “rescue” process see this post titled, Forget Tuna Melt, Try a Boston Encaustic Melt.

For this video, I narrate the different stages with some candid aesthetic commentary like “Wow. This is God Awful.”

Deconstructing Twilight in my Encaustic City



The art day had not gone well. Three photo transfers, two parchment paper and one wet matte paper transfer.  The NYC skyline was the wet transfer and a scan of my father’s old leather car and house key ring and a group of five laughing men in bathing suits and cocktails at a suburban home circa 1960’s were done on parchment paper.


The latter photo I found in my parents photo album and it reminds me of the TV series, Mad Men.  I can imagine those actors with these bathing suits, holding these cocktails.

The parchment paper transfers did not work as well as I had hoped.  Both images might work better in a wet transfer or simply as a print I mount directly to an encaustic board to be waxed and then painted. So,  I’ll redo those tomorrow.  The 13 x19 print of these “redo’s” I did this morning. I’m still trying to figure out why exactly they didn’t work. Both images had a balance of light and dark but it may be that the toner on my laser printer is running low.  It is flashing that message but I usually ignore it.  Maybe, this time, it REALLY is low.

At any rate, this brings me to the city photo transfer.  You may remember that the last we saw of this encaustic city was this hot mess of last week.


The new wet transfer of the same city view without the sky came out well.



I had seen several paintings this week in addition to the initial muse of Leah McDonald’s students’ cities and I knew I wanted to try and create a more abstract city scape.  The color of the two paintings below I wanted to try verging with the abstract of the two encaustic students. The first painting is by a Romanian painter,  Cornelieu Baba.


The second painting is by a contemporary painter William Wray, entitled “Paris”.


Both these paintings stuck in my head.  And, I had a working idea to try and blend the slight abstract of Leah McDonald’s students New York City with the color and more muscular abstract architecture of the painters’ work.

Here is the Leah McDonald’s students’ work:



So, all of the above led to “Twilight City”.   I think you can see some of the influences I’ve mentioned and am not sure, even now, whether I am finished with it.

encaustic-city-coakley-1000In the end, I painted the transfer but didn’t think it stood on its own.  So, I photographed it.  And, then blended it within Photoshop with two additional photos, one of a slightly different NYC skyline and the other an abstract of a row of radiators I had photographed at MOMA years ago in an exhibit of the contents of an entire Chinese house!  I knew I’d use it one day!



I added a selection of textures and then printed out the photo in a 12in by 8 inch print on Hahnemule’s rice paper along with another version I did of the original encaustic painted city.  The rice paper would absorb wax if I decide to go that route but for now, my palette is turned “off” and I’m just going to look at it from time to time over the next few days.

“Mad Men” is my next project.  I’m laughing just thinking about it.  I hope it doesn’t take me two weeks like this project.  And, I’m still not sure I’m done.

Encaustic Garden In a Box & A Big Hot Mess


declutterencausticThe declutter gene has finally been activated in my world!  And, not a moment too soon.

I started by putting all my 4in x 4in practice boards of fruits, vegetables, and flowers in a 24 x 24 in wooden cradle board.

Oh, there’s a Queen Mary one, too, to the left of the dancing zucchini wearing a savoy cabbage hat.  Doesn’t everyone need one of those?

And, oh yes, an encaustic cupcake  made with a stencil in the far lower right.

My encaustic cities project is an epic floppity flop so far, but hope springs eternal.

Too much heat gun, too little aesthetic.  Could be in the dictionary as an example, literally, of “a hot mess”.  The one positive? I did it on cardboard instead of a wooden cradle board!

But, it’s given me some new ideas on how to approach it.  Honestly, even failures can inspire me after, of course, a new line of swear words have been introduced into the universe.





















To save my creative week, I did a photograph of some freesias in my silver pitcher that I then sketched and textured and did a photo transfer that I quite liked.





















All to the good.  Feeling proud.  Then, when I applied the wax, I messed it all up to the point that I now have to start the whole transfer over with a second print.  But, I can tell you this: I am getting really, really good at photo transfers and for those who have followed me from the beginning, you know that I had a long way to go.

So, that’s where we are in the studio at the moment, although it is a whole lot more sorted looking today than when I started.

News alert!!! I just found the plastic coffee measuring scooper that I’ve been looking all over for the last month in my encaustic tools tray!

If you are discouraged about your creative efforts take a listen to Martin Bailey’s recent podcast on developing your style.  Lots of truths that apply to any creative endeavor but particularly to encaustic photography.  We need to put in the time and expense before we get anywhere close to where our aesthetic matches our skills.

Here’s the link to Martin Bailey Podcast.



The Aging Secrets of Flowers




I love to layer photos of the same flower taken in just the same position, at approximately the same time of day,  in the same vase, over several days, sometimes a week.  Then, I layer all of the photos and use “Auto Blend” within Photoshop.  I used to do the blending all myself which took bloody hours sometimes if I had multiple exposures.  This “auto-blend” feature is now my “go to” application when I have multiple exposures of anything, but especially, time lapse photos.  This is a red tulip aging gracefully.

I look forward to the leaves and petals drooping because that will translate into mysterious shadows and ghost flowers once I’ve compressed all the layers together.

My cousin gave me a smoothing-wrinkle potion the other day.  I’m supposed to put it on my face after moisturizer but before make-up.  The exact opposite of time lapse photography.

It’s supposed to keep me morphing into a younger version of myself with the proper applications. Hmmm….now, I know in my head that’s impossible, but I put the potion on anyway but I’m thinking this as I blend it into my face: Flowers are wiser at this whole aging process.

They just look as graceful as possible until they keel over.

Encaustic Cities Before the Encaustic





Inspiration came this week  from Leah McDonald’s blog to resurrect my New York City photos of visits past. Now, that’s a workshop I would love to take!

She featured a couple of her students who had recently taken a workshop and two pieces were of New York City and one was a collage with a macro flower tucked in the corner.

That was all I needed to get the wheels going.  I love when that happens!

This is a two part series on my “Encaustic Cities” and there’ll be another on the “Encaustic Macro Flowers” if I don’t keel over first.

I haven’t done the encaustic part yet as I’ve learned to take some time preparing images first. Using encaustic is time consuming and if I spend some time with the image BEFORE I start to embed it in wax and paint it, I am always in a better position to use the encaustics more effectively both aesthetically, as well as more cost effectively. Slowing myself down with encaustics is always, and I mean, always, a good thing.  It simply helps me be a better editor.  It is like writing your thoughts down in order to figure out what your thoughts really are.

I am going to do the encaustic in two different ways just so I can learn the advantages and disadvantages of this waxy medium.

I wanted to take a photograph that stood on its own to give me a sturdy base and then try to begin the enhancement of certain qualities.  This took some experimenting.

It is very similar to my old days in the darkroom with film.   The development of an image could vary significantly with what qualities I wanted to feature.  I could ruin the image right from the start if I didn’t develop it properly, and limit my aesthetic choices down the line, so this is analogous to my new digital development and work flow.

In this digital world, the tools we have are significant. I’ve been doing this a long time.   I want to use my own skills as wisely as I can and learn new things at the same time. I know, for example, that I can do some layers and textures better in Photoshop than I can with encaustic layers.  But, I also know that there are encaustic layers that simply can’t be duplicated within Photoshop.  So, getting the two to live together harmoniously is my goal for this project!

So, blah-blah over with–with this image, my intent is to emphasize the variations of structure and color in these buildings and to give the sky an equal visual weight that complements it but does not compete with it. I want there to be a unity, in the end, to all the moving parts.

I call it the “Hmmm….” stage.  How to begin?  This stage can last several minutes or days.  In this case, it was several minutes.

I decided to take the three separate images that I had taken in three different exposures and make it into a rough HDR image within Photoshop.  I do not often use HDR , if at all, really, but for this purpose– since I have in mind the whole encaustic and painting process that shall follow–I feel fairly confident that a photo transfer of an HDR version of this photo shall give me the image base I need.  I used the “surrealistic” mode within the HDR menu because it accomplished the definition of the buildings in ways I think shall not be totally softened by the future layers of wax and pigment.  Personally, I prefer encaustic images that reveal through its mysterious properties rather than conceal through them and it is a default guiding aesthetic. Others may have totally different approaches, but this is mine.

OK.  So, once that image was created, I knew I would print it with and without textures.  As that is where I want to experiment with encaustic layers.  I’ll do one photo transfer and another mounted without transfer. I’ll also print a tissue paper print or perhaps a layer of both printed on silk and keep them at the ready after the encaustic process has begun.

My goal is to understand the visual differences of these methods.  And, when they are worth investing the time and expense and when they are not.  In the long run, it is worth the investment of time and materials if I can figure this out.

In order to do that as precisely as possible, I extracted the skyline cleanly from the sky in the original image and put it on a separate layer.  I took my time to make this extraction a clean one as I’ve rushed this stage on other projects and been sorry down the line.  As with so many damn things in life, if you do it right the first time, you’ll have fewer woes down the line.

Now, in my digital file, there’s a clean transparent layer where the sky once was.  Perfect for beginning to experiment with textures.

It helps me “see” the final digital image as well as where I might want to go with the encaustic layers to come.

Here are fifteen examples of this experiment, beginning with the screen shot of the transparent layer.  I shall choose only one to take me into Encaustic Cities, Part II.

This is going to be a totally time consuming and fun project that I won’t be able to begin until Monday due to weekend obligations. If you want to vote for the one you’d use, leave a comment and a “like” on my new Facebook page:  Here’s a short video with #’s on each one so you can tell me your preference.


But, the whole project shall be percolating beneath my surface over the next few days and will probably be the better for it on Monday,  the 20th, the running of the Boston Marathon.

I’ll probably have sneakers on as I sit burnishing the photo transfer of Encaustic Cities project, part II.





Pat Coakley