Mixed Media, Encaustic and Acrylic: A Figurative Painting From Start to Finish

Following the good example of some fellow artist/bloggers, it is time to share a little bit about my working process. 

The piece featured in this post is part of a new body of work called “Impressions”. This series began in early spring and is inspired by what I see during walks here and there in Gibsons.  From mini eco-systems, alive with tiny blooms fighting their way through weedy overgrowth, to hauntingly beautiful forested trails.

The work is based upon the impressions that remain with me days, weeks and months after these outings.

The canvas I am working on today belongs to the part of the collection I am calling “Carole” as each piece is an impression retained from an evening walk with …Carole.

Working with wax for figurative paintings is a little challenging, as the wax tends to cool very quickly making it difficult to give a sense of fluid organic movement.  Today my focus is on developing a technique that will accomplish that goal.

I always begin a new piece by working the encaustic levels first.  My tools are a medium sized hand iron, a small seam iron and Crayola Crayons.

Tools used

The painting starts as a rough sketch of the main subject in an “S” composition on acid free foam board.

Rough Sketch

Next, I melt the wax in an outline of the sketch.

Outline in Wax

Using the seam iron, I begin blocking in the figure. Careful control is necessary, using the iron to push and pull the wax to give a contouring effect that mimics brush strokes.

Blocking in under layer

Once the figure is blocked in, wax is applied to the background areas. Keeping in mind that I will have to use atmospheric perspective to give the painting depth, thus contrasting lights and darks will be very important.  Atmospheric perspective is a method of giving perspective to a painting using changes in tone, value and color. Using this method usually produces a blurred effect to the background.

Adding background color

After the main areas have had their wax applied I begin to color block the background and build out from the figure using the small hand iron.  The colors I start with will be greatly altered after some glazes with acrylic medium.

Under layer for background

In addition, it is important to leave some white space in preparation for the next step.

Leaving white space

Working with the blocked in areas, I use the seam iron to pick up wax from thick patches and press it into the white space.  Pressing the iron loaded with wax down flat and then pulling it up quickly leaves an impression of thick undergrowth as well as a beautiful impasto effect.  At this point, I also start to form the impressions of plants and grass by drawing through the wax and dragging it. This is also the next stage for the figure as I begin to lay down an overcoat of wax as shading, again using contouring strokes to add form.

Depth and shading

It is now time to change mediums and begin to work in the acrylic.

Adding Acrylics

This starts with a light wash of Quinacridone Gold to build intensity.  Then a series of glazes are applied over the shaded areas increasing color and strength as well as shape and perspective.


White acrylic is then applied to areas in order to bring more light to the painting.

White for Light

From this point onward, I work back into the painting with wax, dropping small areas of color, blending them with the seam iron and finally pulling the wax to form blades of grass; creating the foreground.

Working back in with wax

The final step is one last golden glaze to pull up the overall intensity and make it glow.

Finished Painting

Looking back at the last “Carole” painting I think I see some improvement in the movement quality.

Carole #1

Just a note in closing to say that Carole does not actually walk naked in the woods (to my knowledge) it was simply that she seemed to be a natural part of the environment.

That at least, was my impression.


2 thoughts on “

  1. Pingback: Mixed Media, Encaustic and Acrylic: A Figurative Painting From Start to Finish | Ramona on Art, Life & Kicking the Cat

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