Diver or Wader? What’s Your Mixed-media Style?

How do you approach a new (or new-to-you) art medium? Do you wade in slowly, reading up on everything there is to know, researching the tools on the Internet, maybe taking a workshop?

Or do you just grab the basic supplies and dive in, learning as you go and buying specialized materials as needed? 

There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, and many people probably fall somewhere in between.

encaustic collageI have to say I fall into the latter category. I'd like to say it's because I'm spontaneous and free-spirited, but the word that actually describes my approach is "impatient." I see a shiny new colorant or a twist on an old technique, and I want to make art with it NOW. So what if I don't have all the supplies or actually know what I'm doing…I'll make do. 

Such was the case a couple of weeks ago when I decided to try my hand at encaustic (hot wax) collage. I got a notion to try it, cobbled together the other necessary supplies, had some success, and now I'm addicted.

Now is when I want to get my hands on all the "correct" supplies and learn more than the very basics.

Research. So I've been doing some research. Not only did I re-view (again and again) Amy Stoner's "Encaustic Collage" WorkshopTM  video, but I got my hands on a copy of Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch's book Encaustic Workshop: Artistic Techniques for Working with Wax. Patricia's book is comprehensive, with information on the basic tools and techniques, mixed-media variations, and how to assemble and display your artwork. She also wrote a terrific article in the January/February 2010 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. Between those two sources, I am now well-versed in the basics and beyond.

gaignat encaustic collegeWax. There is beeswax and there is encaustic medium. Beeswax comes in refined and natural. The main difference is that the refined variety produces a clear finish while natural beeswax has that warm, honeyed look. It's really a matter of preference.

Encaustic medium is beeswax combined with damar resin. The resin hardens the wax, raises the melting temperature, and prevents bloom (turning white).

Application. You can brush on the wax, in which case you'll need a natural bristle brush as synthetic bristles will melt. You can pour wax over your collage or dip pieces in it. Or, you can paint with it, using clear or pigmented wax and a stylus. Pat Gaignat wrote an excellent tutorial on using a stylus with encaustic collage in the November/December 2009 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. Using a stylus allows you to pick up wax and drip it or draw with it, which sounds like a fun option to me.

So far, my preference is for using encaustic medium and a brush, so I plan to stock up on the medium this week during the 15% off sale in the Interweave Store. But I can't wait to try out all my options.

So, which method do you prefer: jumping into the deep end or wading in slowly and carefully? Something in between? Everybody into the pool (aka Comments section) for a discussion!

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