Paintmaker Matt Kelly shares a day in the life at R&F making encaustic paint and Pigment Sticks:
Kingston, NY, is right in the center of the largest artist community outside New York City. This makes for a lot of artist activity.
One of the most delightful and hilarious is the annual Artist Soapbox Derby, which just had its 16th run down the steep hill of lower Broadway last Sunday. Brakes are more important than speed in this event, which is more of a parade of artistic ingenuity than a race of aerodynamic engineering.
Sponsored by Donskoj Gallery and the City of Kingston, the Derby attracted 28 entries and a hardy crowd that refused to let the recurring rain storms dampen its spirit. To see more photos go to the Kingston Artists’ Soapbox facebook page.
Kingston High School, just a couple of blocks away from R&F, has a vibrant art department, due in large part to its inspired and dedicated teachers. They bring their students here for encaustic workshops, and the students are welcome to come back and work on their own in the workshop room.
Several years ago art teacher Lara Giordano partnered with chemistry teacher Christine Marmo to help make chemistry relevant to art students. Shuttling between science lab and studio room, the students learn the chemistry behind paper, pigments, dyes, paints, binders, metals, and clays, which gives them a deep material understanding of printmaking, papermaking, painting, photography, ceramics, jewelry making, art conservation, and chemical hazards in art. This understanding gives them life-long tools to master the various mediums.
The students gain a full understanding of color as they study electromagnetic radiation, prisms, and the refraction of white light into the different wavelengths of colors. In order to learn about papermaking, for example, they study the intermolecular forces of hydrogen bonding between cellulose and water. Soil chemistry relates to ceramics, acid-base and oxidation-reduction reactions relates to photography, and the study of the body – the vulnerability of the respiratory, circulatory, and nervous systems, as well as of skin and eyes – relates to understanding the chemical hazards of art materials.
I often wonder what such a class would have meant to me 45 years ago when I was a disaffected high school student flunking chemistry (and not much better in other subjects) but reading Max Doerner’s The Materials of the Artist to learn how to make egg tempera and explore the properties of oil paint. It would have made chemistry relevant to my obsession with art. It would have all made sense to me, and I would not have had to wait until I was making paint to finally appreciate the underlying science of making pictures.
When Lara and Christine asked me to give my talk on the chemistry and history of painting materials to their class, I was thrilled and intrigued by the challenge of simplifying this information for young artists. I’ve given this talk to professional artists and college students, but these kids don’t take second place in sophistication, and now and then I get questions that makes me pause.
The class was at 8:00 in the morning! (Who, after all, wants to learn chemistry at a reasonable hour?) The first day we explored what is color (how color is not a thing by itself but a chemical that reacts to light), the chemistry of pigments and dyes (what’s the difference?), the components of pigments (how, for example, cobalt blue is made from black cobalt oxide and silvery aluminum), and the history of pigments from ancient times to modern. All of this gets jammed into the 40-minute class period, so it’s just a sketch. But, still, we cover a lot of ground.
The second day we discussed different mediums and their relationship to pigments – how refraction and surface characteristics of the paint film affect the hue of a pigment. A pigment has a variety of hues and opacities depending on what medium it is in. Pigment in aqueous mediums (distemper, watercolor, egg tempera) is more opaque and lighter and brighter than pigment in oil or wax, which tends to be deeper and more translucent.
It’s a real challenge, but I love it every time I do it.
Following up on the excellent pictures of George Mason and his monotypes, we thought artists might like to see some additional options in the same process. All will be covered in an upcoming workshop taught by Paula Roland, Encaustic Monotype and Beyond, December 1-4, 2009 held at R&F in Kingston, NY as part of R&F’s Visiting Artist Series.
The contemporary nature of wax, combined with the spontaneity of the monotype, opens up endless possibilities for artists. This engaging process draws you in and gets you out of your conscious mind. Ideas come from the spirit of play. It’s been called “addictive” by more than one artist and a “meditation” by others. For Paula, “ …the encaustic monotype is a stepping off point and a way to extend the process to mixed media drawing, painting and even installation art”.
Roland will help artists develop works that match their vision by suggesting various strategies, techniques and learning experiences. Despite looking easy, it can be difficult to achieve your goals! Changes in approach, temperature, paper, and even pigment to wax ratio, all effect outcome and having an experienced guide is important.
One accomplished artist who has incorporated the encaustic monotype is Tracey Adams. Her wax prints, with elements of heated drawing, are often embedded in her paintings, as shown in Imago 4.
At one of Paula Roland’s recent workshops, Kim Keller created this drawing on the HotBox, the equipment used for the monotype (no press needed!). Kim combines wax printing, drawing, and collage with paper and string.
The December workshop at R&F will coincide with a solo exhibition by Paula in R&F’s gallery. The framed and back-lit wax monotypes pictured above were shown at the 2009 Encaustic Painting Conference. For the R&F show, she will cut apart, layer, and reconfigure similar pieces into an installation. Paula will also exhibit new graphite painting/drawing on dipped paper. The opening is December 5—hope to see you there!
Paula Roland’s Encaustic Monotype and Beyond Workshop / December 1-4, 2009 at R&F, Kingston, NY
Paula Roland Solo Exhibition at the Gallery at R&F / December 5, 2009, - January 23, 2010 / Reception December 5th, 5-7 PM with an informal artist’s talk at 5pm
Join us for the opening of Sara Mast, “Excavating Wonder”, on Saturday June 13th from 5-7pm. Sara will be traveling all the way from Bozeman, Montana to give an artist talk at 5pm.
The paintings of Sara Mast explore a remote view of the world, as if seen through the technological eye of a satellite, or high-powered telescope. Masts’ work is wholly imagined, yet appropriates a range of scientifically accurate data from star charts to magnetic resonance images of neuronal dendrites. Elements of ancient languages intermingle with navigational artifacts of both sky and sea. The artist embeds layers of information that are revealed as if seen through geologic or archaeological strata. In Masts’ work, flecks of naturally pigmented wax gather and dissolve in forms that reference landmasses, clouds or cosmic dust and stars, expanding and contracting like living organisms. For more information or to view more of Sara’s work, click here.
The mission of Friends of Historic Kingston is to preserve the architectural heritage of Kingston. This heritage includes the 17th century Dutch bluestone buildings and the 19thcentury churches, houses, and factory buildings from the city’s canal and industrial era. Many of the factories and houses were built with the red brick manufactured locally at plants along the Hudson River.
R&F’s building is a great example of these red brick factory buildings. (more…)