An Experiment Looking for Color

Since my last post I have been doing a lot of pondering about what color is exactly and about what it means to my artistic process.  I began looking through a lot of books on artists materials, on pigments and about mixing paints for some answers.  Books like Gottsegens, The Painters Handbook and Ralph Mayers,  The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques,  are full of pages of text with no pictures and a lot of information.  Exploring these sources I have come to realize that I know something about glaze mixing and a little about the theory of color and the visible spectrum but not too much about making paint or mixing pigments.  Honestly, this investigation had raised more questions than answers for me.

All of this new information was and still is a bit overwhelming.  I found myself frozen in a moment of possibility and complexity.  I felt greatly affected by all of this and was flooded with the feeling of where to begin. What binder to use, what pigments would be best, where am I going with this and why?  To move forward, I decided to start with materials that I already had and was somewhat familiar with.   Having some experience with the oxides, stains and ochers used in coloring glazes I took some of the pigments from my glaze studio to begin.  I fire ^6 oxidation (2232 degrees Fahrenheit); the glaze palette in my studio  consists of blues, greens, yellows and browns. All thought I am trying to get away from dark earth tones I decided to make my first painting pallet with the colors I already know.  For a binder I decided to start with wax.  The encaustic painting processes seemed somewhat similar to the glaze processes.  Like glaze, the wax binder and pigment melt together when heated and cooled to hold the pigment in place.

For the first experiment I wanted to see which binder I would prefer; synthetic paraffin wax or natural bee’s wax.  I took a muffin tray and filled one side with paraffin and the other with bee’s wax.  After melting the wax I added the pigment.  Because I had six pools of melted wax, I decided to choose three colorants:  (1)Turquoise Masson Stain 6364 (2) Red Art (3) Yellow Ocher.  This testing process is very similar to experimenting with glaze colors.  First the base recipe is developed then, one can play with getting the color right.

The information this experiment yielded was that  I prefer the bee’s wax to paraffin as a binder or base because of its texture, even thought it adds a bit of yellow to the color.  The pigments are more soluble in the bee’s wax and it smells better.  The pigment that seemed to be the most consistent was the Turquoise Masson Stain.  It was smooth and it mixed well with the bee’s wax, the color was warm and rich.  Because of the pigments I choose, I created a very dark earth tone pallet.

For the next experiment I will try working on a red and making the yellow and blue brighter.  I hope that my next test painting will be more vibrant with the goal of leading to richer red glazes.  After all, these experiments started because I wanted to bring brighter richer colors to my sculptures and understand color better.

Journey (test #1 with paraffin)

Planting the Seeds of Inspiration (test #1 with bee’s wax)

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