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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.





Encaustic Tulip Mania circa 2015



I wish all my obsessions were this much fun.  Tulips.  After the winter we’ve had, I do believe if I were alive in the 16h century I’d have paid my yearly salary for a tulip bulb.  It was a financial bubble, of course, (it really happened) but obsessions aren’t logical.

But, thankfully, I live in this century and I go to the supermarket to get flowers.

This is a short video on a photograph of a tulip arrangement that I had photographed against a white background and then used a variety of textures and plug-ins, NIK and Topaz Impressions being the most prominent.

Then, I did a wet photo transfer on to a large board (usually I used the exact dimensions of the photograph) with the intent I was going to get to know pan pastels and whether I think they could add to my photograph.

As it turns out, I am beginning to “see” that the encaustic process ,which begins for me with my already textured photograph, can be the equivalent of a new paintbrush, or indeed a new plugin (would that they had an encaustic plug in!) when used with a combination of photo transfer, medium, and paints.  In this case, I used pan pastels thinking that their wide spectrum of hue and softness would fit the photograph better than oil pastels or oil sticks.  I think I was right about that, btw.  Ha!  I can be right sometimes!

In another lifetime, I’d experiment with the same photograph with the other paints as well.  But, I think I’ll take the original photograph and transform it in to a black and white sketch or colored pencil sketch in Topaz Impressions and then print it out with the idea to use watercolors and then another with pan pastels without medium.  Stay tuned.

I look forward to trying all possible and impossible things to try and express my version of tulip mania this spring 2015!


Birthday Encaustic Tulips get Photo Bombed by Pan Pastels.

I used a rather dramatic photo of tulips I’d received for my birthday (when you turn 70, it is nothing if not dramatic) as a guinea pig for painting them with pan pastels.  I’ve never used pan pastels before and thought they might enhance the photograph.

In addition, I decided to use them on a wet photo transfer of the photograph.  Honestly, I’m not sure that step was necessary but I simply want to continue to understand when this photo transfer process adds to a desired outcome and when it is optional.

In every case of using alternative printing and painting methods, I want to see what improves on my original photograph.  In this case, I think I still prefer the photograph, but I learned that for some other images, it might really add something.  In fact, if I took the original tulip photo before I had digitally textured and toned it, it might make the NEXT tutorial on photo transfer and pan pastel.

Creativity is the best health plan because nothing goes to waste. Nothing.  You simply make better choices in the future.

Embedding Entire Facebook Posts on Blog. Why?

I am experimenting with posting a Facebook post that included a video on my website blog. I had taken a photograph of an allium blossom that I’d paired with a rainbow carrot (they belong together, I think) and then did a wet photo transfer that wasn’t the greatest transfer ever in the history of transfers but I did rescue it with some encaustic paint, oil sticks and Photoshop.

I have tried three times to post it and three times it appeared in my post but when I checked on it a half hour later, only the text remained, no video. So, either there is a glich in their system or I’m not doing it correctly. I checked to see if the video was public, it is. I used “text” when I was adding the code. Although, it appears initially, it does not come up when I clink on the link.

So, I’ll just have to say why I was thinking it was a good idea.

#1- I wanted to see what it looked like. (I now know it is fleeting)

If you could see it, you could:

#2 You can “like” the page right from this blog post if you want to as long as you embed “post” and not just “video”.

But, I do like the “video” appearance if it showed up better.

You can “share” it and “like” the video but you can’t “like” the page from just the video embed.

I don’t know whether I’ll do this again. O, yes, I do. I won’t until they fix it or fix me. If you end up
“seeing” the post, you’ll know one or the other happened!

But, hypothetically, it’s interesting all the different ways you can use social media channels.

Creativity leads inevitably to mistakes. "Fail better" is my goal. Thank you, Samuel Beckett.

Posted by Coakley Creative Media on Saturday, April 4, 2015

Now, here’s just the video embed. Fingers crossed. It didn’t work the last couple of times I tried to post it.

Creativity leads inevitably to mistakes. "Fail better" is my goal. Thank you, Samuel Beckett.

Posted by Coakley Creative Media on Saturday, April 4, 2015

Boston Public Garden-Encaustic Photo Transfers

boston-garden-december-coakleyI am doing a “Boston” series using the encaustic photo transfer process.  The previous post celebrated the Seaport district with a ” failed ” transfer rescued by Photoshop.

If you’ve been following my posts you have seen a variety of photo transfer failures which are mounting up with such rapidity that it is amazing I’m still trying to master it!  But, I am.

Now, with the help of some videos from Linda Robertson (formerly Linda Womack), I tried experimenting with parchment paper transfers.  Why?  Because the process seemed more controllable in that you can check to see if the burnishing is working (which you can’t do with a wet transfers) and because it didn’t involve endless pressured burnishing that always brought me to the “to hell with it,” point. That being said, there was something appealing about the partial transfers that resulted from the wet transfer process.  I can see its aesthetic value as pairing with some of my images more than a more faithful parchment paper transfer.  With a parchment paper transfer, you can be as precise as you want to get.

The end result of this transfer which was far more successful than others and, yet, I still preferred to photograph it, and then layer it with another Photoshop version within my digital software before I printed it.  The takeaway for me is that I grow my comfortable with these new methods, I appear to be incorporating them into my previous skill set rather than swapping in and out of one into the other.

Next week, I am going to be learning “pan pastels”. They arrived in a box the size of a small suitcase. That looks like a lot of choices ahead!

Forget Tuna, Try the Boston Photo Transfer Melt.


Boston. Trucks. What’s not to like? I’m standing on the center strip of Seaport Blvd facing the city on a beautiful summer’s day a couple of years ago.

Yes, a beautiful summer’s day.

The development of this image was just beginning after the first click.

I’d put it through black and white filters, HD settings, all of which never struck me as bringing out the potential of the image.

Now, fast forward to today.  I’m continuing to explore the possibilities of encaustic photography. I printed out the HD image as well but decided to use the black and white image to use in a photo transfer.

These are the stages I took it through.  I am beginning to think that photo transfers to me are what polaroid transfers once were: lifting the emulsion from the backing, in heated water, and lifting the wrinkly image out of the pan with a spatula.

Yeah, I probably didn’t do that process correctly either.



Mending Broken Hearts with Photo Dog Love


My cousin who loves, loves animals sent me a photo of a friend’s beloved rescue dog who had just died.  She asked if I could give her some photo love.  So, I did.   I have no animals, not even a bird.

And, I loved doing it, too.

Really, really loved doing it.  Then, I realized why.

Years ago, as in over 60 years ago, we had a German Shepard named Toby. My brother and I loved him wildly, madly, truly. One day we came home from school and he didn’t run out to meet us. He was gone my mother said. Not sure what happened. Maybe hit by a car. Maybe a stranger stopped for him. We worried for days, weeks, months. Years later, as in maybe 25 years, my brother told me our Mother had to give him away because he was barking all day long while we were at school.

He never forgave her. My heart never mended.

So, now, I guess I try to mend other broken hearts with some photo love.

Plus, you gotta love a dog named, “Heaven”.  Almost as much as one called, “Toby”.

Here’s a short video of what I did with the snapshot. I first used the magnetic lasso tool in Photoshop to extract him from the background.  Made a separate layer.  Then experimented with textures. Picked one or two and then used the Topaz Impressions Plug In to do a sketch as well as some painting versions.  I decided to combine one of the sketches with one of the painting versions.  If you experiment with textures and plug ins like Impressions, you’ll end up with so many choices your head will hurt.  My advice is to pick one or two color palettes that you like and refine it from there.


Pat Coakley