Thanks to guest writer Mesha Koczian for today’s post
Today’s artist, Manuela Kalestiantz, created an encaustic piece, primarily using carved relief rather than painted color to build and define her composition. Encaustic techniques have been around for thousands of years. The method was first used to plug the holes between the boards of boats to make sure they were buoyant. Encaustic as an art form has been rediscovered relatively recently and is a favorite for Manuela Kalestiantz. She works with purified beeswax. The wax comes in white (bleached) and the natural color (yellowish) in a granulated form. It’s mixed with damar resin that’s collected from trees in India and East Asia. This resin looks like rock candy or crystals in solid form. Manuela mixes her medium using a 1 to 8 ratio (2oz resin to 1lb wax). She first melts her wax at 160 degrees and then adds the resin and raises the temperature to 175 degrees. This is mixed until smooth and blended together. The mix, or medium, is then poured into tins or cake pans to await use. In the solid form, the medium is called a “cake” which can be set on a hotplate to be melted and mixed. The melted version can have pigments added to it. Pigments come in powder or solid bars and are mixed to the desired opacity.
Birch wood panels of any desired thickness are used as the base. Treating the panels with encaustic gesso allows the wax to really adhere to the board and prevents breakage. The medium is either brushed on slowly in layers or poured on using a frame and set to dry overnight. Each layer that is brushed on or added needs to be fused using a heat gun. “You know it’s fused when you see the shine,” says Manuela. Lots of things can be done to the medium like adding thin pieces of napkin with a design on it or even yarn or leaves. Wax is layered over the material, creating a translucent effect. You can cover or expose the material as much as you want.
“I want my work to just get up and talk to me,” explains Manuela, “I love letting my imagination flow.” She uses sculpting tools to carve out pieces and adds more medium to build up other parts. She also uses oil pastels to color over the grooves to add an aged look. Using a combination of carving, adding pigments, and multiple layers, Manuela gives her work life with depth and texture that capture light and create shadow.
Click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.