How do you stretch your artistic brain?

After a tough, non-artistic stretch this summer, I’ve not felt very excited to begin the next linoleum print. If I’m honest, I haven’t felt that excitement for a while.

Last winter, I came across encaustic monotypes by Paula Roland in the book Installations and Experimental Printmaking by Alexia Tala.  Roland used long scrolls of sumi paper and printed them with encaustic paint. Encaustic paint is a mixture of beeswax, damar resin and dry pigment. This paint is melted on a heated surface and paper is put on top to absorb the wax and pigment. It is a fascinating process that I’ll come back to in future posts.

Melted wax and pigment scraped together after a monoprinting session.

In May, I travelled to Santa Fe, NM to take a four day workshop from Roland. I was the only student who had never worked in encaustics, and Roland was kind enough to let me experiment and make lots of “newbie art,” while providing gentle guidance. I was amazed at how exciting and yet tiring it can be to learn something new. As adults, I think we shy away from trying new things, especially if we sense that we will not automatically be good at them.

Back at home, I finally got all of the accoutrement for encaustic printmaking (more about later too.) Now to begin…

Wow! I find I am still very much in the learning phase.  My original intent was to think about ways that this technique might harmonize with what I am already doing. At this point I have no idea if it will…


Experiments from this week.

One of the problems with my studio practice up to this point is that there is very little room for creative exploration. I find reduction printmaking a pretty linear process.

With this problem in mind, I’ve been rereading three favorite books on artistic practice. I realized I need to have time each day to lose myself in the creative process. Stephen Nachmanovitch in Free Play would call this flow. Encaustic monotypes are perfect for this. Yet I’m still making lots of “newbie” art. So I decided I would spend at least one hour each week day just experimenting. I use small pieces of paper, and gather them up at the end of the day to see what worked best, what was surprising, and yes, what was dreadful.


Three great books for all creative types.

I’m giving myself several months to do this. Maybe at some point I’ll have a breakthrough. Or maybe I will become motivated to do new lino prints. I have no idea.

Have you undertaken a new activity, especially one that is scary and unknown?