“West of Twilight” released by Reverb Worship.

My album “West of Twilight” has just been released by Reverb Worship, the renowned “fine purveyors of quality limited edition psychedelic folk drone wonderment.” You can purchase it by following the link or through ebay, but don’t delay, as I’ve noticed that most Reverb Worship releases sell out rather quickly.

http://www.reverbworship.com/news_2_10.html

http://www.ebay.co.uk/…/KATJE-JANISCH-WEST-OF-…/261962345770?West of Twilight CDs

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Adventure with Encaustic, Part Three: Mixed Media Techniques

Encaustic has an ancient history, but here in present, new traditions of modern encaustic continue to evolve. Mixed-media artists in particular go wild with encaustic because it is so versatile. In part three of “Adventure with Encaustic” I want to mention a few of my favorite combinations.

It is possible to make or purchase transfer paper and use it to transfer intricate designs or even photographic images to the surface of your encaustic painting. It can be quite difficult to render an image with delicate linework in encaustic, so using the transfers has its appeal. I tried this once. Sadly, the first time I fused with my heat gun, the design “blew away.” I’m sure with more practice, or perhaps a different fusing tool (a tacking iron perhaps?), I would be more successful. However, my next experiment with collage caused me to lose interest in transfers. I found that paper added to the encaustic surface absorbed the wax and became almost completely translucent, providing an easy way to create detail without altering the surface texture very much. Use thin transparent paper for best results, but avoid vellum and its kin, which lack absorbency. Rice paper for sumi painting works well.

I had read online about pan pastels being used in conjunction with encaustic, and since I had a few lying around, had to give it a try. Pan pastels are pastels which come in round eye-shadow-like pans which are applied with sponges which resemble make-up sponges. I found that they work remarkably well with encaustic, as you can blend smoothly over the encaustic surface. If for instance you wanted a blue sky, the easiest way do do so is to smooth blue pan pastel over the wax. I saw a couple artists online (one was Sharon DiGiulio) who used dark shades of pan pastel to darken the edges of the encaustic painting and create something of an aged effect. Regular stick pastels don’t work the same way.

Oil pastels and wax pastels also lend themselves naturally to encaustic, as do oil bars or pigment sticks. Although I mentioned earlier that one should not use crayons for encaustic, this is not entirely true. One should not use children’s crayons for encaustic painting. Artist quality crayons are sometimes referred to as “wax pastels.” Since many of them are water-soluble, you might find them listed as “watercolor” or “water soluble” crayons or wax pastels. Wax pastels are similar to oil pastels, but are somewhat harder, while oil bars or pigment sticks are oil paint in stick form. Be aware that oil pastels, unlike oil paint, never dry; therefore you mustn’t use them on the top surface of an encaustic piece. Always make sure that they are encapsulated within a layer of wax.

My hands-down favorite adjunct to encaustic painting are the metallic and iridescent Pearl Ex Pigments, which come in little jars of powder. They mix easily with molten paints, although they tend to settle to the bottom, so stir frequently if you want your homemade pans of paint to be consistent in color throughout. I have also used my fingers to apply the powder to the surface of the painting prior to fusing. Pearl Ex Pigments come in many colors; however, since I mix my own encaustic paints, I often find I can create a metallic version of a color by simply adding pearl white.

Here I conclude my short series on encaustic painting. Encaustic painting is proving to be an exciting adventure for many artists. I did a lot of research before I embarked upon encaustic painting, so I hope some of these tips or suggestions prove useful. If you decide to take up encaustic painting, please be sure to do your own research, particularly with regard to safety. Have fun, and maybe I’ll see your work online someday!

Yew Tree in Churchyard

Yew Tree in Churchyard

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Adventure with Encaustic, Part Two: Materials

Now that you have an idea what tools you need, it’s time to examine materials.

Although I saw a handful of people using stretched canvas for their paintings, because encaustic paintings are brittle, it is important to use a rigid support. Nowadays there is a support made specifically for encaustic called EncausticBord, and naturally I bought some to get started. Itty bitty ones because I couldn’t afford anything bigger. EncausticBord is wonderful, but pricey, so I went hunting for something that would fit in my budget more easily.

It didn’t take long to find some products that worked well. My favorite are the Joe’s Prime Cradled Painting Panels and Joe’s Prime Extra Fine Art Boards (http://www.cheapjoes.com/papers-and-boards/wood-and-hardboard-panels/browse-by/brand/cheap-joe–qt-s.html)at Cheap Joe’s. Even less expensive are these thinner MDF panels (http://store.academyart.edu/paper-board-films/art-board/mdf-panels.html ). Like the Art Boards above, there are dovetail slots for hanging conveniently.

I don’t know about you, but I need my encaustic paintings to start white. That’s one big advantage of using EncausticBord—it’s already primed with encaustic gesso. The translucent wax over white creates bright vibrant colors that catch the light. The first thing I tried was use white encaustic paint to create the background. There were three problems: (1) I used a lot of expensive white encaustic paint. (2) The coverage was patchy, which became worse after fusing. (3) When I added subsequent layers, they wanted to mix with the white, ruining the color. This can be avoided by adding a separation layer of encaustic medium; however, now even more material is being consumed wastefully. I was reluctant to shell out for the previously mentioned encaustic gesso, so I investigated alternatives. On Youtube I found a video which showed how to mount paper to board for use in encaustic (I believe it was Jon Peters). He recommends using light colored wood and heavy paper because after the paper absorbs wax, it can become somewhat translucent and allow the color of the wood to show. Well, I simply wasn’t happy with the results here. I want my white to be a pure snow white, not off-white. In addition, it looked a bit patchy as the paper didn’t absorb the wax uniformly (My fault?). So for me, there was only one way to go: encaustic gesso. I’ve been content ever since I started using it. Make sure that you don’t try to get away with regular gesso. Regular gesso isn’t absorbent.

Naturally, in order to work in encaustic, you will need encaustic medium and paint. There are reasons why you can’t just use plain wax or crayons. Well, you could, but the art you created probably wouldn’t hold up too long. There are two big companies known for making excellent quality encaustic paint, so I picked one and ordered a relatively inexpensive beginners set. However, it just so happened that all my other materials arrived before the paints did, and I couldn’t wait to start. I had read online about how you can make your own paints with encaustic medium and oil paint. Since I had a set of oil paints and a small amount of encaustic medium from the local art store, I gave it a try, and was extremely delighted with the results. The paint I mixed was very translucent since there was relatively little pigment, but translucency is one of the effects I like best in encaustic. If you want opaque paints, you will probably get better results with the commercial brands, as they are very pigment dense. You have to be careful when making your own paint. Never use an oil paint that contains toxic pigments. Some pigments should not be heated, or they can become toxic.(Was it Prussian blue?) Zinc white is said to curdle, so don’t use that one. As usual, do your research first! It is also recommended that you put the oil paint on a paper towel overnight so that some of the oil will be absorbed. Naturally, you could also use pigment powder to make paints, but I didn’t have any of those lying around.

Check back soon for part three, in which I’ll describe fun multi-media techniques for encaustic.

Wave

Wave

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Adventure with Encaustics–Part One: Tools

 

Having recently taken up encaustic painting—painting with molten beeswax–I thought it would be fun to share my experiences. But first the disclaimer: don’t take up encaustic without doing a lot of research first, as the materials can be dangerous to work with if you don’t know what you’re doing. Consider taking a class if possible. Since I’m just a beginner, I’m not going to go into much detail, but I’ll let you know I got all my information from the Internet—don’t forget good old Youtube. This will part of a short series. Here’s the first installment.

Why encaustic? There’s something about the texture and sheen of wax that’s irresistible. I can remember as a child playing with hot candle wax—sticking my finger in it, letting it solidify, and then peeling it off. I also well remember drawing with wax when creating pysanki. I love the translucency of encaustic paint and the shine that you can achieve with polishing. Although you can achieve a similar effect with acrylic paint, it’s just not the same.

Expense can be a problem. I was intrigued by encaustic, but couldn’t figure out how I could afford all the equipment and materials. The research definitely paid off, as I found some less expensive alternatives to the ideal or recommended set-up.

There are a couple of common methods of working with the wax. Some artists use irons, some use hot plates and others use an encaustic stylus with a variety of tips. I started with a hot plate and got a stylus later—I have no experience with the iron method.

If you go the route I did, it is recommended that you purchase a hot plate or stylus that comes with a temperature regulator so that you don’t exceed the correct temperature range. Encaustic medium and paint gives off toxic vapors when heated and will smoke if it is too hot (Ventilation is a must). Since I’m on a budget, I bought the cheapest pancake griddle I could find and got to know its temperature quirks. For some reason, it starts off really hot and then gradually cools, so I always start it off low and gradually increase. Similarly, I purchased the least expensive stylus I could find, using both “encaustic” and “hot wax” as search terms. When it gets too hot, I switch off briefly.

Every layer of wax that you add needs to be “fused” or melted together, and there are a couple of methods to accomplish this. I use the indirect (not touching) method, which requires a hot air gun. I understand that one can also use a tack iron directly on the wax (direct method), but I have no experience of this. So what hot air gun to buy? I read about people who were happily using inexpensive embossing guns; however, others stated that embossing guns don’t get hot enough to fuse properly. It was recommended that one buy the gun with variable fan speed and temperature control, and this time I followed the recommendation. However, when using the gun, I use the lowest fan speed and a lowish temperature. I understand that embossing guns are about 600 degrees, which is around the same temperature I keep my expensive fancy gun on. So I’ve concluded that I probably could have gotten by fine with an embossing gun. However, if you are planning to do big fun abstracts in which you blow the wax around, you’d need the better gun to get the results you want. As for me, I’m often annoyed when my details blow away, despite using the low fan speed and trying to be quick.

Check back soon for part two, in which I’ll go over materials.

Encaustic Wave Miniature

Encaustic Wave Miniature

 

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Four Great Instruments for the Musical Beginner (Part 2)

(Now I’ll continue where my last post left off  by providing some brief information about the mountain dulcimer and the ocarina, the last of four instruments recommended for musical beginners.  Part one of this post can be found here.)

The next instrument up for discussion is the mountain dulcimer, also known as the Appalachian dulcimer. It is an American instrument with Germanic roots. It has three to four strings and has frets like a guitar, except that the frets are diatonic rather than chromatic. If you run down a string playing the notes, you will be playing a scale. Once again, it is easy to learn how to play simple melodies. The lack of chromatic notes means that notes are more likely to harmonize with notes on other strings; in other words, it makes for pleasant noodling. Try fretting a note while strumming across the strings. Chances are it will sound nice. Then switch to another note. And so on. There are variations on the dulcimer called “walking dulcimers.” These have a long thin neck and with the aid of a guitar strap or the like can be played while standing upright. One well known brand is called a Strumstick.

Finally, we have the ocarina. The ocarina is a South American vessel flute which traveled to Europe hundreds of years ago and is now known worldwide, partly in thanks to the video game “Zelda, Ocarina of Time.” The ocarina has a beautiful pure sound due to the relative lack of overtones and normally does not overblow, so it won’t shriek as much as a recorder. There are two basic styles, the round or “pendant” style with six or so holes and the linear style (either inline or transverse) with nine to twelve holes. I could go really in depth here, but I’ll spare you for now. What’s really neat about the round style is that tablature music books exist which show how to play songs through pictures alone. With so few holes, it is very easy to follow the changes in the fingering diagrams, and once again, even an eight year old can do it. Once a person is ready to tackle written music, it is time to switch to the linear style of ocarina. The fingering is very similar to that of the flute or recorder, so what is learned is transferable. Be very careful when purchasing an ocarina. There are many decorative ocarinas for sale which are not capable of playing music. If all the holes are the same size, you know you have a decorative ocarina. Online you can find plenty of advice on purchasing an ocarina from TON, The Ocarina Network. Two good brands include Focalink and TNG. I buy most of my ocarinas from the May Tune store on Ebay. In the US you can also buy ocarinas from STL Ocarinas. If you are buying an ocarina for a child with small hands, order a soprano C or soprano G model.

This has been a brief introduction to the charms of some of my favorite folk instruments. If you have never learned to play an instrument, I hope you will be encouraged to try one of these!

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Four Great Instruments for the Musical Beginner (Part 1)

Learning to play an instrument can be an expensive, challenging and time-consuming proposition. However, it doesn’t need to be. There are four instruments which I recommend over and over to people who are musical beginners: the kalimba, the lap harp, the mountain dulcimer and the ocarina. These four instruments stand apart because of the ease in which one can produce a beautiful tone and pick out a simple melody. The first three are diatonic instruments, which means they produce the notes of a familiar scale without including all those confusing chromatic in between notes. While the ocarina is capable of playing chromatic notes, it is optimized for playing a major scale. Playing a song can be as simple as one, two, three or C, D, E if you label the notes.

Kids can have a lot of fun on these instruments without breaking their parents’ piggy banks. Usually all that is needed is an instructional songbook children are good to go. If a child isn’t ready to commit to the practice that goes with taking music lessons, playing these instruments can be a good way to develop music skills.

These instruments aren’t just for the musical beginner, however. On the contrary, you will find musicians around the world who have selected one of them as their primary instrument and have worked to master it. Because they are so easy to learn, experienced musicians will probably be able to express themselves on the instrument in a short amount of time, enjoying the inspiration that comes from discovering a new voice.

The kalimba is a board or box with metal tines which produce notes when plucked. Kalimbas have been played in Africa for well over a thousand years as an essential part of a rich musical tradition. The best kalimbas I have played are Hugh Tracey and Catania models. You can purchase them from Kalimba Magic’s online store, which also includes vast resources for kalimba musicians. Ebay is also full of vintage Hugh Tracey kalimbas, though be aware that older is not necessarily better when it comes to kalimbas. My Ebay kalimba needed repair, which I learned to do at Kalimba Magic. It is a simple matter to label the notes on a kalimba with a sharpie and then play with a numerical song book. Younger children might enjoy improvising on a six note kalimba in pentatonic tuning.

The lap harp has a very old history and is known by many other names. Call it a medieval plucked psaltery if you wish, just don’t call it a toy just because First Note used to make them. “Song sheets” are what make this an easy instrument to play. Simply slide a sheet under the strings and follow the dots to play a tune. It’s so easy a kindergartener could do it! Actually, a kindergartener might need a little help, but they’ll catch on quickly. A small inexpensive lap harp called a “Music Maker” or “Melody Harp” is available for purchase. Make sure you order plenty of song sheets to go with it. Of course you don’t absolutely need the song sheets to be able to play it. I put stickers on mine so that I could quickly identify the notes.

(As this post is turning out to be lengthier than I expected, I will continue the discussion of the next two instruments in another post.)

 

 

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