Wednesday, November 2, 2016

WONDROUS WAX!

This article was published in Encaustic Magazine, online, in 2015

Wondrous Wax!



The most compelling, even haunting, force propelling my images is an unquenchable thirst for recording and expressing transformation.  I try to synthesize different influences in my life into a rich and complex imagery that tells of the connection between the outer experience of daily life and the inner world of a developing spiritual heart.

From the time I was a child, I felt that there was something, an “essence “ to be found.  The vehicle I chose for my quest was fine art.  It is my yoga. My artistic expression has centered on painting and drawing, and, over time, I have included in my arsenal of media the following: oils, acrylics, watercolor, soft pastels, all drawing processes and intaglio printmaking. Wax is the newest member of my family.  It grabbed me in August of 2010 with its amazing translucency and ability to synthesize my diversified methods of developing paintings.

When I first began working with wax, I limited myself to black & white media on 8”x8” 8 ply museum board glued to panels.   The fact that I had no history with this medium, had looked at very little work done with wax and had never really established any criteria for “ good or bad” encaustic painting, gave me incredible freedom to play with this medium in a way  that I have not felt with any other.  What if?  has become my internal mantra.  I trained myself. I purchased several informative books on Encaustic and went at it. Soon I began making medium and paint.  My experiments focused originally on incorporating a variety of mediums before I applied the wax. I gradually became more adventurous and experimental, waxing and layering with multiple mediums. I was and am fascinated by the both contemporary and primal sensory feel of the wax.  I draw, layer, scrape, carve and melt. These pieces have a unique presence and I have found I enjoy a smooth look to my work, as it enhances the multiple mediums and layers I attempt to include in my finished pieces.

In order to achieve the quality of layering that is so important to me, I needed to find a fixative that would seal both dry pastel and graphite images both before and after I applied a wax layer. I experimented with a fixative that I have been using  for over 30 years for my soft pastel paintings and graphite drawings.  It works beautifully and is very simple to make. The ingredients are ½ fat free milk and ½ 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol.  I apply the fixative with a Pre-Val paint sprayer, (which consists of a jar and small canister of butane gas) , purchasable at any paint or hardware store.  The sprayer releases a fine mist and usually works very well to seal both under the wax and on top.  The beauty of this fixative is that, when applied and allowed to dry, it really seals the graphite powder and/ or soft pastel images. The alcohol evaporates and the casein of the milk holds the particles intact. In the image below, Triange 7, the graphite triangle was applied on top of a fused wax layer, fixative was sprayed on it, and allowed to dry (there is a water component in the milk).  The image was lightly fused and a layer of clear medium was then applied on top.



 Here is a sample of one of my graphite drawings- Graphite Dream

One of my 12”x12” encaustic  pieces,  Playtime, incorporates a ground of Joint compound, layered with graphite , alcohol wash, sprayed  with fixative, waxed, with multiple graphic tools layering the piece.




Below is  Breaking Free , another graphite/ encaustic piece( 12”x12”). It was first coated with encaustic gesso. When dry, the surface was sprinkled with water.  While wet, graphite powder was thickly sprinkled over the panel, the excess shaken off
( best done outside!) and allowed to dry. When dry, the fixative was sprayed on the piece and again allowed to dry. Clear medium was then applied to the surface  and fused.  I continued to work on top of the wax with various mark making tools, including water based graphite sticks, marking pens, graphite powder through stencils, some soft pastel.  I do spray with my fixative whenever I have added dry media, let dry,  fuse and then apply clear medium.


 

 I am often asked about my images- my content.  While I work I form narratives in my mind that tell the story of the piece, much like a novelist creates characters or a composer clusters notes.  It  is an integral part of my process.  And titles are poetry for me.  In fact, they also become a summation of the journey  I taken in the evolution of the piece.  I work with images that resonate meaning for me and always view them in relationship to each other.  In essence, I tell a story through my images, with or without incorporating text.


 It is my hope that the viewer responds to the totality of the piece, its visual energy, whether or not one can articulate “ the story”.


 My works have usually employed recognizable content and are represented in ambiguous spaces, watery and atmospheric.  My experimentation with images has evolved with an understanding that there is a kind of internal logic linking certain forms with each other, a logic that, perhaps, belongs to the world of archetypes, and definitely forms its own iconography of symbols.  Pieces are layered and developed over an extended period.  Sequence, chronology and time play a significant role in these works, regardless of the medium. There is often an intentional blurring of boundaries between the physical and the psychical- this is what sustains my interest and what, for me, continuously opens up future possibilities.

I am an artist who is also an art educator.  Teaching art became a significant aspect of my art practice very early- right out of graduate school. I have had the privilege of working with a great variety of students, and it is true that the instructor learns more from the student than does the student from the teacher. My orb of teaching has included artists ages 5-92-, mostly in art centers and private studios. While I teach many classes and workshops to adult students, my  work with children holds a special place in my heart. One morning a week I teach art to first graders in a private school. I have maintained a rich affiliation with the Meher Schools in Lafayette, CA for many years.  I actually set up the initial art department when the school first opened and have a deep regard for its educational philosophy. One afternoon a week I teach high school students in an independent home schooling program offered through a local school district and have done so for the last 12 years.

There is a careful balance required to maintain both a full teaching schedule and a professional art practice.  I do not find it easy. I view the pendulum swing between the two as part of a perpetual continuum, sort of an eternal see-saw, in which I am continually striving for balance. I hold myself to very high standards and am not easily satisfied with my work- in any medium- It all seems a visual record of my journey toward a deeper understanding of   Why Am I Here?

Here are 3 recent pieces that form a series for me: - all are 24”x30” on cradled panels



                                   Happy Crossing


                                    And Mama Says….


 And the newest one,
   Up, Down or In the Round?


“ All those things of the spirit and the mind, thought to be so nebulous, so other, find expression through the hand, taking up a material existence in the world.  And what is achieved bears no relation to normal calculation of means and ends- the means so paltry- canvas, stretchers, pigments, whatever- the ends so vast- powers, glories, ecstacies of pleasure and terror. Painting proclaims the true incarnation, the union of matter and spirit… .  Through the hand- this is the crucial point.  Painting presents us with an image of the world reconstituted
( emphasis mine).( P.23 Richard Hennessey, Art Forum Magazine, May 1979)



BIO:

Mira M. White is a painter with an exhibition record both domestic and international, and has been an art instructor for over 30 years.  Her professional responsibilities include a full teaching schedule of classes and workshops in multiple media.  Currently teaching at Lafayette Studio in Walnut Creek, Studio One Art Center in Oakland, Richmond Art Center and the Mendocino Art Center, she also organizes and conducts numerous workshops in Pastels, Watercolor and Mixed Media, including several painting workshops in other states and in France.





Sunday, October 16, 2016

EXHIBITION NEWS AND STUFF

Here it is October 15, 2016 and I haven't had anything to say for close to a year.  And really, all I want to do is post exhibition photos from my show at Rasmussen Gallery which opened last nite.  Many of you are not on Facebook, so here they are:




















Saturday, December 19, 2015

Reflections 2015

     It has been a full year since I last posted-- and quite a good year it has been! New teaching venues include the Richmond Art Center, Healdsburg Center for the Visual Arts , Marin Museum of Contemporary Art and an increased number of workshops in other states.  I did a 3 day workshop in Dunedin, Florida and I was treated so well!  And they want me back in 2016.  I also am scheduled to teach at the Bascom Art Center in Highlands, North Carolina and a Pastel workshop through Dakota Pastels at their art center in Mt. Vernon, Washington. ( For more info on my upcoming workshops, please visit the workshop link on my website.) My wonderful workshops  at the Mendocino Art Center continue.  These folks are extremely supportive of my work and I respect their continued efforts to accommodate my artistic needs.

     I was honored to be one of 6 featured artists in an Encaustic Magazine quarterly-- an online venue with a free subscription. In addition, I am currently exhibiting one of my encaustic pieces at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art in an exhibit called Another Way To Keep A Diary.  It is a very rich and varied representation of professionals working with wax!  Hmm, sold my huge drawing in the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art National Drawing Exhibition and am scheduled to teach an Abstracting the Figure with Mixed Media there in April 2016. My solo exhibition at the Mendocino Art Center in May yielded new contacts in Healdsburg.

     I ended my 13 year consultancy with Venture high school in June. District office policies do change.... I loved working once a week with home schooled high school students in drawing and painting.  Very rich experience.  One door closes and another one opens...so it is said.

     Stay tuned for more commentary-- hopefully it will not be a full year before I post again!

Friday, December 19, 2014

ADDED THOUGHTS ABOUT ART & TEACHING

I am an artist who teaches.  Not all artists enjoy the dialogue that connects teacher with student.  It can be a draining process.  I, however, find the dialogue enriching and stimulating, a really vital part of my creative expression.  My students and I learn from each other; in fact, I learn quite a bit more than they do!  Just think, throwing out ideas to a group of creative minds- I can actually feed off their creativity-- it inspires mine!

My life has been pretty much devoted to developing and refining my skills , both in the technical realms and in my world of content-- finding fresh ways to put into a visual context my world view, my feelings and perceptions of both the world within and the external world.  This inquiry intensifies in depth and in breadth, in the use of materials and what I try to say with these materials.

This pursuit  now reaches into its 50th year and will never settle into a plateau.  Creative growth demands continual becoming.  I have a point of view, a vision. My art is my yoga. Now, with all this experience, the self critic that emerges within me  non stop, to keep me from repeating myself, that forces me to speak authentically, to keep my work fresh-- it is these qualities that draw students to my classes.  They know I will speak truly, honestly, and, usually, very much to the point.

My classes are for serious students who want to grow in their artistic work.  And I welcome you to join me.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Wonderful Wax Workshop in Mendocino July 26-29, 2014

Here are samples of work by my workshop participants:
Gerald Barnes   Encaustic/ Pastel 8"x10" panel

Barbara Hansen Encaustic/ Watercolor  8"x8" panel

Pat Ferrero    Collage/ Mixed Media/ Wax 8"x8" panel

Kathleen Zeppegno      Encaustic/ Mixed Media/ Panel 8"x8"

David Gray        Encaustic  approx. 4"x12" panel

Margaret Skiles      Collage/ Encaustic 8"x8" panel

Susan Mann    Encaustic/ Mixed Media 12"x12" panel

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

2 New Beginnings


I just purchased a 2013 refurbished Imac and am having a very skillful person load this creature up for me.  We worked all day Monday and I spent 6 hours today manually transferring e mails to a workable system..

I finished at 1 pm and went into the studio to begin 2 new paintings.  I have avoided these canvasses, which had tentative images upon them,; I just couldn't muster up the interest in the work that was there-- so- yesterday, before my computer person arrived, I covered both paintings with molding paste.  Well, today, after 6 hours of picky computer stuff, I delved into these new pieces with great energy.  Here are my new beginnings:

Acrylic 41"x48"
Acrylic 46"x48"

Monday, June 9, 2014

My New Skill: Painting Restoration........ The Turn---- has turned.....

One of my favorite paintings got damaged during my recent exhibition- the hanging wire broke and the painting fell straight down.  It didn't sustain any very serious damage, just chipped paint in about 8 places.  It seems that the fall just added to a problem with the painting.  I had made the mistake of using cold wax with the oil on a flexible  surface.  And I believe the addition of the wax contributed to the cracking-- big learning!

Oil paint films are brittle- canvas is flexible.  That should be a no brainer- acrylics on canvas, oils, wax on panels.  SOOOOO--- yesterday I held my breath while I transferred the painting from a canvas to a cradled panel.  No small feat, as this painting is 48"x36". 

When I took the painting off the stretcher, I lined the stretcher up with the newly purchased panel and found about an 1/8" discrepancy- panel slightly bigger.  I prepared the back of the panel 2 times with Lineco PVA glue and the back of the painting 1 time with the same stuff.  Yesterday I lined up the painting, laid glue down in about 12" sections, as I laid the painting over the glue, with freezer paper on top and used my new $ 45 heavy roller to press canvas surface onto the panel.  When I was done, I applied as much weight as I could on top-- buckets of water, rocks, boards, and left it for about 5 hours.  It looks like the adhesion is good.

This morning I had to make the decision to slice off the sides of the canvas- I couldn't figure a way to apply the glue to get good adhesion.  So, I turned the painting on panel face down on a smooth surface of freezer and wax paper, coated the back of the panel with PVA, then took a new razor and sliced the sides of the canvas off so the panel edges would be clean.

I just finished mixing a stiff paste of marble dust and stand oil and applied it to the sanded, chipped areas.  Now it has to dry, is hanging in my hall wall.  What a process!  I don't want to repeat this process again!

The fun part will be painting the patched areas.  Since its a textured painting I am hopeful that it will evolve without too much stress.  Sides will be painted the same colors as before.  Tune in for my next report!

 The Turn, oil/ cold wax on canvas