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Wax on

With my first art fair of 2012 just a few weeks away — SoWa Open Market on Sunday, May 13 — I’ve been thinking about new ways to present my photographs. For the past five years I’ve been using a pretty traditional approach, selling my work matted or framed, and I wanted to find an alternative.

Printing on canvas is a popular option, but it doesn’t feel right for much of my work.  The texture of the canvas can make photos look like paintings, which is effective for a lot of images, but generally I want my photos to look like photos.

Photo showing brushes for encaustic painting

Encaustic paintbrushes resting on a hot surface.

So what to do? I started looking into mounting my photos onto different substrates. (Substrates always strikes me as a ridiculously complicated way to say surfaces, but I digress.) I spoke with some framing shops in the area, visited printers, talked to fellow photographers, and spent a lot of time on Google looking for inspiration. I considered mounting my photos on GatorBoard, Sintra, or Dibond, but rejected the option. Yes, the works were ready to hang, but they looked too unfinished, the mounting materials were often not acid-free, and the final image was not protected from UV rays or accidental bumps.

Then I started exploring options for mounting photos directly on wood, and thanks to some very helpful people at Dick Blick, I learned about mounting boards, archival adhesives, and acrylic paints. Fun stuff, and you’ll see some of the finished works at upcoming shows.

But the real aha moment was making the connection between encaustic painting and photography. In very simple terms, encaustic paintings use pigmented wax, but the approach can be extended to incorporate photos, written words, and a world of found objects. So now I’m taking an encaustic painting class at the New Art Center with a goal of integrating my photos and wax. After two classes, I am both frustrated and hopeful. Frustrated because I want to throw off the training wheels and create gallery-worthy works from the start.  (This, unfortunately, has not been the case.)  But also hopeful because I think I’ll be able to bring my photos into this world of glowing wax, either as collages, mixed media pieces, or photo transfers.  Can’t wait.

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