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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.


Anatomy of a Photo Sketch, “Earth Moving Spring”



I drive by these pyramids of earth and unidentifiable mounds of soil on the way to Whole Foods to buy a chicken and radishes.  I stopped and put down the passenger window and the sweet smell of mulch trickles into the car. Maybe this is the place where all the garden shops will get their soil and mulch so gardeners can begin spring and leave thoughts of this winter behind?

Yay!  It deserves some photo love, plus, there’s a truck.  Reason enough to take the photo. But, there’s a car wanting to get by me and so I have no time to do multiple exposures.  My camera is always on manual and despite knowing I should put it on automatic for just such instances as this, I rarely listen to my own counsel. Sigh.  One snap will have to do.

This is what the original photo looked like.


If ever there was a photo that needed some help, this is it.

I decided it was, at its heart, not a photo or a painting, but a charcoal sketch.  I applied one of the sketch options within Topaz Impressions plug-in.  This sketch feature won’t get as much written about it as the painting modes, but it is a light years improvement over other sketch options I’ve used.  ( I don’t get paid to say this, btw).  I used some Nik filters after to define the sketch a bit more. (They don’t pay me, either). I just like to tell you about the stuff I like. Period.


Then, since it is finally March, and the sky was indeed a bit blue and it was 57º, I layered in a blue sky texture (not the original sky) that had some white clouds to mirror a bit of the snow atop the dirt pyramids and the truck’s cradle.

But, that didn’t quite capture what I wanted either. Since, it was a day where hope was in the air, along with the smell of mulch, I wanted a bit more hope in the sketch.

I’d recently seen a watercolor painting on FB by Trevor Chamberlain from the UK with a pinkish sky and a darker toned boat harbor landscape. I loved it.

So, I thought, “Hmmm… I’m gonna give my earth moving landscape a bit of a pink sky texture instead of blue.  Just like that lovely harbor scene.

Ok. I’m done. For now.

Otherwise, it still would have had a tinge of despair in the photo sketch that suggested January. And, I’m not going back there. No way.

But, I am going to try and keep my camera on automatic when I’m in the car.

We’ll see.

Addicted to Art

Rarely, do my addictions make me laugh. But, this painting below by Philip Guston did just that.

I’m not a smoker nor a painter but I do like my treat tray and making my own art and looking at others’ art all the live long day. Sometimes, it really does feel like I am strapped to the mast of a ship in a gale, or in a straight jacket or, as in the case of Guston’s painting, just the total hilariously (and frightening) passive lay-me-down and pull-the-covers-up tyranny of these things.

On other days, tho, it feels just fine.  And, encaustic cupcakes taste terrible so that’s a plus.

My Encaustic Jabberwocky Garden

Learning encaustic photography is so far, for me,  a 360º trip from Photoshop to Encaustics back to Photoshop.

I am trying to see if I can complete a piece in encaustics and so far my track record is not stellar.  Partly because my skills need more practice but also because in some cases I simply prefer the digital photograph to the encaustic one.

I began this experiment  with one of what I call my “Jabberwocky/nonsense” images:   an allium blossom and a rainbow carrot. No, of course, they don’t make sense but I liked the whimsy of it and the contrasting colors and textures.  I believe Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem “Jabberwocky” was meant to be untelligible but whimsical.  In fact, I think he even asked the publisher if they could publish a mirror image of it to further make his point!  They said, “No, it costs too much to do it.”

So, in that Lewis Carroll spirit, I textured the image with the idea that I was going to transfer the image (printed a mirror image) on to a waxed 4 x 4in board.  I did the transfer. Not totally successfully but better than some of my others.

I painted the image with encaustic pigments and oil sticks and then scrapped too much of the carrot away with a potter’s scraper.

The whole point of my jabberwocky is that you need to know it is a allium and a carrot to appreciate the whimsy, so having a “sort of” yellow something underneath the flower wasn’t conveying the nonsense part.  I didn’t think just a little strategic dabbing of yellow color with paint was going to do it, either.

So, I photographed it as it was and then layered the original image over the encaustic photo and ended up with a digital photo of the encaustic piece.

Later, I’ll print this and mount on another board and see if a layer of wax and pigment color around the edges will be the final form.

Stay tuned.


Truck Photo Love on Rt. 140 in Bellingham, Ma.

brightwinter-coakley-tex2Driving a truck this winter must be simply hell.  Just in my cul-de-sac alone, the UPS truck can no longer just drive in and circle back out.  He has to back in and deliver his packages from only one parked position. There just isn’t room for him to turn around or go anywhere else due to the piled high snowbanks.

So, today, I took a series of photos but the one with the big truck caught my eye.  The sun was out, the sky was blue and white but it was midday and the sky and the snow seemed to be the same hue and exposures on the fly were crazy due to wide spectrum of light.

So, I decided to correct as best I could the exposure range and began with Nik Filters and tried a Topaz Impressions painting filter ( I love this new filter btw) and ultimately ended plugins with the Macphun Tonal Pro black and white filter.

The blue sky I decided to texture in at the end lightly with two different textures: one a tonal one and the second,  a sky texture of similar ratio of white clouds and blue sky.

It’s not perfect but I showed some truck photo love in this harsh winter of 2015.




Every Sunday, I listen to CBC’s Writer’s & Company

Here’s why. Her interview with Nick Hornby today and his new book, “Funny Girl” which does indeed sound wonderful but the podcast delves into so many things, why his character is obsessed with Lucille Ball, why he turned from writing about mainly men, “About a Boy” “Fever Pitch” “High Fidelity”  to women characters like the one in his new book, as well as wanting to write the screenplay for Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” and they cover theories of art (at the very end and fabulous) and why his creative spirit is drawn to one thing and not another.

And, as usual, Eleanor asks writers question that go beyond their craft and inspire anyone to be more creative or, even, to live a bit better life.

Worth it to subscribe even if you are not a reader. If you are a reader, it is mandatory!

An Encaustic Skirt Made From My Wastebasket


I am going to begin doing some collage work and started in my favorite bin of inspiration: my wastebasket.

Step 1:

The pleated paper is the result of an end of the day smear of fine art paper on the heated palette containing these left over earth tone colors which had been used on a separate piece.

After several days, I looked at the paper and said, I don’t think I’m going to use it and put it in the bin.  

Step 2: And, then, I said  “hmm..” it might work in a collage with a large piece of fine art paper that I’d used several months ago as a rust transfer of an old measuring tool and a rather large handled drill.  The color tones were similar and complimentary.

So, I took the encaustic paper smear out of the bin. 

Step 3: Put it into the paper shredder and it began whirring, but stopped.  I thought it was stuck.  I pressed the reverse button (my favorite direction, actually) and up came this pleated skirt.

Happy accident because I was going to need a “skirt” photo for a blog post on my daily blog, Art of the Diet.

Step 4: I hauled out the large piece of rusted paper and lay the pleated skirt on it, tried a few different placements, and decided this was the best for now.  I’ve not adhered the “skirt” yet as I have a feeling more is to be arranged with it.

But, I like it. As is.  And, I love that it all started in my wastebasket and found a home on my rusted paper of many months ago.



Anatomy of an Eggplant Encaustic Photo Parm



I am experimenting with photo techniques such as transferring a photo image on to a wooden cradle board with several layers of wax underneath and then applying several more layers of wax medium over it. The aesthetic point being to enhance the colors and textures within the photo.

As you can see in photo #1, my photo transfer skills are not making headlines and only leave parts of the original image.  I am one who actually prefers partial transfers but this is doesn’t even qualify as “partial”.

I learned from one of Linda Robertson’s videos that if I had warmed the wax on the substrate a bit more before applying the transfer and burnished with more detail pressure, the transfer might have been more successful.  She also burnishes with a the edge of the spoon at a 45º angle, almost like scraping at it.  She also demonstrated a wide variety of transfer papers and that may also be the future question to ask: which transfer paper would serve the particular image better?  If it has darker colors, certain papers don’t work as well, for example.

And, the best advice, I think she gave to me, was take your time with transfers.  In most cases of transfers that are not working, speed is a factor.  In fact, she said, almost all encaustic pieces benefit from slowing down. Also, if you want the entire image on to the wax why not collage it in rather than transferring it?

But, what I think I learned from this failed transfer was that the original photo mounted on the board would have worked just as well.  It was textured and colored in its original state and even the properly transferred bits on the board did not enhance the original.

One reason this is a critical question for me to ask is that burnishing properly and taking time to do it, takes shoulders of a fullback.  So, is it worth this effort for each photograph I’m considering?  That is going to be my future question as well.

I decided, “Ok, rather than print another regular print, I’ll print out the image on tissue paper and cover the transfer and we’ll be good to go.”

That would be image #2.  The print turned out to be a bit muted and dreamy but I actually liked the effect and knew I could enhance the colors later with oil pastels or oil sticks.

Image #3 shows the image after wax medium has been applied.  The tissue paper crinkled in ways I’d not seen when it was laid out and seemed to have a mind of its own when it came to my “smoothing” techniques.  Since the partial transfer does not qualify as a smooth substrate, I made problems for myself by disregarding that rule!  Embedding tissue paper on to an uneven surface brings trouble. No doubt, I could heat it up again and try to smooth it out, but heating tissue paper has its tolerance of “heat” manipulations as well and I think the evil-doer is really the substrate below!

So, I know this process is mastered by others and I’ll continue to try and learn the best papers and procedures to do the transfers but, for now, I think this original photograph is best aesthetically served by a tissue print without the wax!

I photographed the tissue paper print resting over the partial transfer and photographed that. Then I did some digital enhancements and ended up with something I may like better than my original photograph.  The next step is to do another tissue print and embed that directly into waxed substrate (without the transfer) and adding wax and pigment to that to see if it adds something to the original Photoshop version.

Stay tuned.  There’s still hope that encaustic can enhance the image, but in the case of this image, photo transfer is not worth the effort or expense of materials.



Creativity: Talking to the Birds

birds-meeting-coakleywThis morning I was in the process of trying to write a blog post for my new daily blog at Art of the Diet and an image in my catalogs didn’t jump out at me so I looked out the window.

My theme was focus and since photography is all about that, I looked around.  When I saw my neighbor’s birds gathering on her shrub, I grabbed my camera and took several photos of the visiting birds, coming and going and staying.  I varied the focus and the shutter speed.  And, in the end, I layered the images together and had an image that had just one bird in sharp focus but others leaving and another just looking around.

It fit perfectly and even helped me clarify what i wanted to say.  You can read it here.

Creativity sometimes is effortless.  Other times?  Not so easy.

Pat Coakley