Saturday, October 6, 2018

In Residence: Pat Spainhour at Evans Encaustics

An artist residency sounds promising, an opportunity to experience the peace and quiet of a country setting, bask in creative energy, and produce lots of art. However, that is what I experience every day in my studio, located in rural North Carolina. So, for my residency, I went to the big city of Atlanta.

By Pat Spainhour

Last year I went to discover Evans Cold Wax Paint at Evans Encaustics. The artist residency consisted of being a guest in the home of Hylla Evans, owner of the company. I was surrounded by inspiring art while working in her private studio. Evans Encaustics factory was located nearby. At my disposal, I had every color of the product, palette knives, brushes, paper, and wood panels. I was overwhelmed with the choices and was eager to create.

Pat Spainour with a cold wax painting in progress. Photo: Paul Spainhour

Hylla introduced Evans Cold Wax Paint, by demonstrating how to get the paint out of the tube with a crimper. There was no instruction on how to use the paint, other than do not use heat. I started with printmaking, as Hylla watched like an eagle, perched on a stool. I received encouragement, questions, and praise, as I began this artistic journey. Soon it became clear, Hylla wanted to watch me work, to see what discoveries I could make with her paints.

Explosion, 2018, cold wax monotype, 14 x 10 inches

The prints were made by using a brayer, rolling out the cold wax paint on a sheet of glass, manipulating the colors, and then pulling a print. The process was exhilarating and my mind was flooded with ideas and possibilities. I observed that drawing on the back of the paper, while still pressed into the layer of paint, produced exciting lines. Trying to push this concept, I worked late into the night, with the eagle watching.

Continuing the discovery, I switched to using the cold wax paint directly onto paper, art board, and wood panels. Working with a palette knife, I experimented with layers and drying time. Using a sgraffito technique, I exposed layers beneath. The painting progressed quickly, as I did not need to take time for fusing with a torch, necessary in traditional encaustic. Again, no instruction, but Hylla was pleased with my progress.

Two cold wax paintings, both 8 x 8 inches
Above: Flow; below, Foliar 

Following the residency, I continued to work with the medium for six weeks, immersed in the quiet of the country, as I returned to North Carolina. Working on wood panels, I used the cold wax paint as I would traditional oil paint.  I created an underpainting using tinted encaustic gesso. Then using a soft bristle brush, an acrylic brush, I worked to blend colors in a wet into wet technique. Although this method of painting was time consuming, I felt the results were successful. I was satisfied being able to achieve depth through use of highlights and shading.

Since that time, I have found ways to incorporate Evans Cold Wax Paint into my preference of work, encaustic monotypes. Often there is a need to complete an area on a monotype, composition wise, but I do not want to use a heat source, which might disturb fine detail. The cold wax paint can be used to paint into the monotype, without leaving a halo of wax, which often appears as a grease spot. The paint, being wax based, is compatible with an encaustic monotype, as long as this is a finishing step, and no heat is applied.

Reflecting on the experience, I enjoyed the challenge of working in a new medium and feel that my artistry expanded. Working exclusively with one product was exhausting, but a rewarding journey. This artist residency challenged me to, as I often tell my students, “learn something new every day.”

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