Minding My Beeswax!

I’m working on some art credits in Painting, and really, really, REALLY wanted to find some time to try out the set of Encaustic Paints I bought this winter before submitting my portfolio for the class. I finally found a few hours to play with the paint, and thought I’d share the experience!

I read about encaustic painting last year in my art history textbook, and have been intrigued ever since. Pigment suspended in beeswax that creates luminescent paintings. The Fayum mummy portraits and early Christian icons painted with beeswax are absolutely beautiful…

Of course, I didn’t think I’d be able to come up with something that pretty the first time around! I did have somewhat of a plan for a painting, and started sketching it on the EncausticBord. I was thinking beeswax… bees… honeycomb… neat “Bee” quote.

My first thought was how to melt the wax and keep it melted. The woodstove is going, why not use it? So all the materials were quickly gathered into the living room, and I went right into “melt the wax” mode. I found out that wax melts quickly on the stove, and hardens quickly off the stove, so I spent about two hours standing within a foot of our crankin’-out-heat woodstove. It was HOT. A base coat of gold was applied with a bit of difficulty, but I got it on there. Then I tried to paint the little honeycomb pattern…

…And that wax hardened way too fast! So I pulled out the heat gun (from my rubber stamp embossing days!) and tried to melt it a bit to smooth out the glumpiness…

…And quickly created a honey-colored puddle.


After that, I resolved myself to the fact that this painting would indeed be rather abstract. So, instead of being super concerned about lots of perfectionistic detail, I just enjoyed playing with the stuff. Things went a little too quickly to take pictures… and I was a bit too messy to touch a camera… but it was fun, and I actually liked the results. I outlined the honeycomb cells with a purplish color, and then dabbed on the outline of a bee. Fortunately, I had the forethought to print out the quote ahead of time, and I cut that up into pieces and melted it on. The painting still needed a little something, so I added some gold leaf flakes and iridescent ultra-fine black glitter. And then gave the whole thing a coat of melted wax with a tiny bit of color…

All in all, it was a fun project. It was relaxing to not worry about being precise. It was messy. It was sticky. It involved a frantic run for potholders at one point. It smelled HEAVENLY. At least until I melted a plastic lid on the woodstove. I’ll try it again… and will be prepared next time around.


A Date with my Sweetie, Part One…

Last week, Hubby and I took a day to go exploring. We don’t do that often enough, but have resolved to try to go “do something” at least once a month. So we headed North, and ended up at the Delaware Art Museum for the first part of the day. Which actually ended up being pretty much the whole day, because one of us likes to read Every Single Plaque when in museums. (Name withheld to protect the guilty party.) However, the other one of us really likes art museums, so that person didn’t complain. Not one bit. We ended up seeing about half of the museum, and helped them close up. So that means we need to go back and see the other half, right?


One part of the museum focused on early American artists…

Still Life with Fruit by Severin Roesen

…And I can’t believe they let me take pictures!

I wrote a paper on Frederic Church last
year for an art history class…

South American Landscape by Frederic Church

…the paper also included Benjamin West!

The Return of Tobias by Benjamin West

There was a beautiful sculpture by John Rogers…

Coming to the Parson by John Rogers

And there was an exhibit of works on paper by a
twentieth-century Color Field artist…
I recognized her from my Art Appreciation textbook
and thought I’d better take a look…

Work on Paper by Anne Truitt

 It was definitely an exhibit that made you stand back and say “Hmmm…”
I took a picture of this one because green is my favorite color.

A guard came in and explained to my dear perplexed
Hubby that the exhibit was “Arty.”

There was a momentary bonding between the two guys.


The Delaware Art Museum has a wonderful
collection of Pre-Raphaelite art,
like this painting that illustrates a scene from
Briar Rose, or The Sleeping Beauty

The Council Chamber by Sir Edward Burne-Jones

 And an allegorical painting depicting the
composition of music…

Veronica Veronese by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

 The Pre-Raphaelites produced beautiful paintings that focused on nature, literature, and the Middle Ages. Early Pre-Raphaelite paintings had a Christian emphasis, but unfortunately as they grew toward a more aesthetic approach, they veered away from their origins. (If you read all the little plaques about them, you may get a bit disillusioned.) However, their illustrative style greatly influenced the artists of the next generation…

The Storyteller’s Art:
ReImagining America through Illustration

What a great exhibit.

Of course, Howard Pyle was the star.
He’s just plain incredible.

This is Hubby’s favorite…

The Fight on Lexington by Howard Pyle

 I liked his black & white pen drawings
that look like old woodcuts…

Lady of the Lake by Howard Pyle

 I also loved this poster for the very first
Children’s Book Week by Jessie Willcox Smith…

Illustration for Children's Book Week poster, 1919 by Jessie Willcox Smith

And I discovered a new female illustrator…
I LOVE this picture…

She Loved to Have the Children About Her by Eugenie Wireman

 Howard Pyle operated a school for illustrators in Wilmington, Delaware in the early 1900’s, and N.C. Wyeth was one of his students! What I found to be really amazing was that about a third of his students were young women! There were some beautiful illustrations at the Delaware Art Museum by these talented ladies. Go see them if you get a chance!

And of course, we had to leave because they
were starting the turn out the lights…

The Crying Giant by Tom Otterness

And it’s the end of the post too…
but Part Two is coming soon!

The End by a member of Pyle's weekly sketching club

“They were never so finely told in prose before.
And then the pictures – one can never tire of
examining them & studying them.”
~ Mark Twain, in a letter to Howard Pyle,
on Pyle’s The Story of King Arthur and his Knights~ 


A Proper Visage…

I’ve been filling silhouette orders, and one that I’ve snipped away at the past couple of days was…

A Proper Visage
(Available on our Traditional Silhouettes page!)

… And I thought that maybe it would be fun to chat a bit about what a “proper visage” is. Or was.

In the colonial period, young ladies were trained to have a proper visage. Your “visage” was your face and upper body… the part of you that might be painted in a portrait. And it was proper to keep your visage portrait-like at all times. Ladies’ faces were to be serene and have a pleasant expression. Anything that might spoil your visage, like a sour expression, was discouraged. Even your shoulders and arms were to be kept in a lady-like position, and the cut of colonial gowns helped maintain proper form, as it was difficult to raise one’s arms in a properly fitted shortgown.

The idea of maintaining a proper visage even extended to the musical instruments a lady was allowed to play. Woodwinds were definitely out, because they caused a lady’s cheeks to puff out while she was playing. And no violins either… it was considered vulgar to see a lady with her arms raised, and elbows pointed out in an awkward position. (In Europe, the Italian composer Vivaldi taught orphan girls to play violin, but they had to perform behind a modesty screen.) Playing the cello was not allowed, also because of the elbows jutting outward, but it was considered proper for ladies to play the viola da gamba, because the bow was held underhanded.

Anyway, I thought that might be an interesting tidbit of information to share with you! We learned about having a proper visage on a trip to Williamsburg when our girls were going through their “American Girls” phase. We had great fun giving them a colonial reminder whenever we saw a cranky face! The thrill did not last long for some unknown reason. I wonder why…


Have a great Friday!


A peek inside… or art on the go…

Yesterday I got one of Cathy Johnson’s Art Tip Newsletters, and it had some interesting tips and links for making your own traveling watercolor boxes! Cathy’s incredibly wonderful book Living History: Drawing on the Past  sent me in the direction of being a living history artist, and was also the inspiration for my tiny watercolor box… it’s not terribly grand or exciting, but at shows or reenactments, somebody always asks to take a peek inside! In case anyone needs to create a small “on the go” art kit that wouldn’t stand out like a sore thumb at historic events, here’s an idea…

I found an old oil pastel box while cleaning out boxes of art supplies. I chunked the oil pastels in a jar with a bunch of others, and started doodling on the box lid… sort of a “schoolgirl” type of drawing. (If I wasn’t in such a hurry, I might’ve tried using a wood burning tool to etch the design, but alas, this was most likely done at midnight the night before a reenactment, so quick and fast was the goal!) Then I just painted the design a bit with watercolors. I already had two commercial travel watercolor sets that I had never used, and coincidentally the pans fit in perfectly! (Coincidences are especially appreciated at midnight the night before a reenactment.) When they’re used up, or if I ever make another, I’ll look for some metal watercolor pans, or make some homemade ones.

Anyways, here’s the cute little box… It works wonderfully for 19th century events. Probably pushing it a bit for 18th century, but it’s better than modern!


And a peek inside…


And my “historic-art-box-to-go”…


The watercolor box fits in my art box if I arrange things just so. Another greatly appreciated coincidence.


Happy Memorial Day!


O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life! 

Remember to take a moment sometime today to remember those who gave their all for our freedoms, and for the freedom of others around the world. 

We’ve been quite busy the past few weeks, and it was good to be home in our own bed last night! (And to not have to wake up and get to work A.S.A.P. this morning!) Kate has been blogging about our somewhat soggy adventure last weekend… We were at Endview Plantation near our favorite place in the whole wide world, for the Colonial Craftsman’s Faire! Somehow we managed to take absolutely no pictures other than set-up, so please browse the links above! We had a great time despite the drippy weather, laughing with the other crafter/reenactors about buckets of water dumping off the canvas flies and floating firewood. Thank goodness for our straw hats, which acted at colonial umbrellas, for our hubby’s that don’t mind getting soaked to the bone to pack us up, and for the die-hard history & folk art lovers that braved the elements. A very wet Huzzah! to you all!

Speaking of liberty, this weekend we were at the Chestertown Tea Party, and on Saturday, we witnessed the reenactment of Chestertown’s reaction to the tax on tea…


Lots of fifes & drums, and lots of people! Sunday was a bit more laid back, and the highlight of the day’s events was the raft race…


Yep, that’s a floating RV, folks. Complete with a Redneck. I think it was my favorite. Nobody sank or fell apart this year, and I’m told that fact made this year’s race a memorable event! We also had “front row seats” for a great Bluegrass & Jug band! They were really good, and even took time to ask the kids to join in… here is a young fellow jumping in for a washtub bass solo…


We have one more adventure planned for next weekend, and then we’ll hopefully have an “adventure-less” summer! I’m looking forward to some home-making time, because things are looking very neglected around here!

Meekness ~ Innocence ~ Liberty… and Peace


Finished her today! Not exactly sure what I’m going to do with her, but the papercut version is hot on her heels! This Lady Liberty is taken from a motif on Edward Hicks’ Peaceable Kingdoms… I gave her a flag because I thought she needed one. 

My mind keeps returning to the subject of peace… and it’s come up quite often in our conversations lately, both at home and with others. Peace on this earth is not easy to come by, but knowing that our heavenly Father is in charge of our lives gives us a peace beyond human reasoning. He can redeem any situation and use it for His glory. He can make beauty out of ashes. He can create something out of nothing. As humans, we’re looking at the bottom of a beautiful tapestry. From our side, we see a bunch of tangled threads and knots… but some day we’ll see eternity from God’s perspective and truly understand the concept of a Peaceable Kingdom.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you:
not as the world giveth, give I unto you.
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
~ John 14:27 ~ 



Framing Secret…

Hello folks! Hubby and I were doing some framing this morning, and I caught him in the act of “tightening backs.” I thought I’d write a quick post in case any crafters out there would be interested in making the backs of their framed artwork look nice and finished! 

About a hundred years ago, my first stay-at-home-Mom-money-making-effort was being a consultant for Creative Circle… a company that sold craft kits through home parties. My first “party” ended up also being my baby shower (That was a surprise… here I was teaching a bunch of giggling ladies how to do counted cross-stitch, and they were getting ready to yell “SURPRISE!”) and I didn’t last long with that job, because:

1. Jordan was born, and I realized that being a Mommy was a bigger job than I expected.

2. I also realized that standing up in front of a crowd of ladies made me very nervous. (Still does, but I don’t feel like I’m going to faint anymore.)

3. I also also realized that it takes LOTS of networking and pressure to get people to have parties in their home, and I wasn’t cut out for that at all.

Anway… to shorten a story that’s getting so long that you probably forgot what the point was… one of our Creative Circle training sessions was about picture framing. It was actually just an afternoon where one crafty lady showed a bunch of us how to frame needlework. This next tip was the best, the most useful, and the most fun. Try it. You’ll like it.

The backs of pictures are not usually seen, but it just feels good to finish them off nicely. We use heavy weight brown kraft paper as a backing, and glue it down with a thin layer of Elmer’s Glue. After years of framing pictures, we recommend you get the thickest stuff you can find. The thin stuff is nearly impossible to work with and just when you get it done, you’ll pick the picture up and stick your thumb through the back and you won’t be happy. 

Cut your paperbacking just a little shy of the picture frame size. It tends to stretch a bit when damp with glue. We run a bead or two of Elmer’s (depending on the frame width), and smear it with our fingers to cover the entire frame back. We usually are framing more than one picture, so go ahead and glue up two or three pictures… letting the glue get a bit tacky helps. And you don’t need globs of glue… too much will squeeze out around the edges.

Now for the fun part… your paper back will most likely be wrinkly. Take a squirt bottle filled with water and wet the back. Not soaking wet, but definitely wet all over…


Then, take a hair dryer, hold it at a low angle or very close to the picture, and dry it… 



(I have no idea why that picture insists on being sideways.) The paper back will shrink right before your eyes, and very quickly your picture back will be tight as a drum!


The wetting/blow drying process is actually pretty fun, and sort of relaxing. And if you have a lot to do, and a bit of Tom Sawyer in you, it’s pretty easy to convince family and friends to help.

Safety tip: Don’t hold the hair dryer directly on the paper or stick it into a puddle of water. Whenever water and electricity are both involved use caution!

Color seems…



Just wanted to share a small treasure I found yesterday when Mom and I snuck out to an antique shop… I found a book published in 1972, called Color Seems. It’s a children’s book, and has all the markings of spending its days on a public library shelf. Its cover bespeaks “library book”… it’s that ugly hard-board-covered-in-fabric stuff that all children’s library books were covered in during the 1970’s. There are lots of smudges and fingerprints and dog-eared pages and even a few scribbles that made me think twice about paying $10 for it. (Probably should have dickered there a bit.) BUT, Oh! The story line.


It is pure first grade, which is exactly where I was in 1972. Each page has a thoughtful one-liner about color, and for all that it doesn’t make sense… to the right person, it does. Or at least it did to me.


Makes me wish I had a bunch of 6 year-olds sitting in a circle to read it to, and then we’d go play with paint.


Oh, that I had wings like a dove…

Hello all! Just wanted to share with you the papercutting that finally got finished on Monday… it was based on Psalm 55:6, which I think I heard quoted in a movie (John Adams, maybe, near the end? Excellent movie… but the Mom/squeamish female in me must tell you to skip any scenes that involve tarring & feathering, surgery, or various love scenes in France!), and then happened upon it again a few days later while reading the Psalms. The picture has been swirling around in my head ever since I read it, and it’s one of those pictures that just had to be.


Oh, that I had wings like a dove! for then I would fly away at be at rest.
~Psalm 55:6

Here’s a detail of the hands… they were my biggest challenge…


 And here’s where they came from… I chased Kate down and took a picture of her hands for reference!


Digital cameras have got to be the artist’s new best friend! I can remember scouring through a filing cabinet full of reference pictures in my high school art class, or taking pictures on vacations, hoping one of them would be just right once we returned home and remembered to develop the film. Now if you need a reference photo, you can snap it and have it printed in a minute or two.

Another neat trick for artists… Switch a digital to black & white, and play around with the contrast, brightness, and exposure settings a bit. It lets you see, although exaggerated, just where the shadows are! I actually forgot about doing this when painting the Fly Away cutting, and I can see places where I would have added a little darker color. It’s always a bit scary to put a paintbrush full of Payne’s Gray next to a light colored painting, but the shadows are what brings it to life. Kind of like real life… it’s hard to appreciate what is bright and beautiful until you’ve experienced the lack thereof!



A very great big huge THANK YOU!!! to our dear friend who stayed up half the night to fix my banner! You went far and above the call of duty!

Look who visited the art room…

Kate found a new friend in the art room the other day… usually critters in the art room are of the spider sort of species, but this little guy was a little friendlier looking!

A blue-tailed salamander! He was a fast mover, but we caught him under a drinking glass for this photo op. He was very glad to be released, and hasn’t ventured back inside again.

The house is beginning to look like a house again, as the dust settles from the past couple of weeks. We did have a furniture moving episode this week… I think the men are hoping the new baby has finally settled into its proper resting place. I’m still wondering. Think “Flight of the Bumblebee” on a baby G with the lid open only four feet away from where I’m currently sitting. Wow.


And speaking of babies, take a look at our sweetie pie. Have you ever seen a more handsome little guy? Oh wait, his brother was pretty cute too! And their Mom knows just when to snap those pictures! (Keep snapping Jo, they grow up quickly!) Can’t wait to get my hands on them both! (And to see my girl!)

Well, this post is a little on the random side! Have a good night!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow, behind it, yet within our reach, is Joy.

Take Joy!

~Fra Giovanni~