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.


Before you toss them…

My Nana Anne saved every card and note she was ever given. She stored them in those plastic zipped bags that blankets come in, and after she passed away, we spent several wonderful (and teary) days going through them and making up little bundles to return to certain family members. After a few hours, we could often look at the outside of a card and guess who it was from before looking inside… we all must gravitate to the same type of greeting cards each year!

But that wasn’t all Nana did with old cards. Coming from the “Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or Do Without” generation, a stash of old greeting cards was a treasure! When I was little, if I mentioned having nothing to do, Nana would always pull out a box-ful of cards, buttons, fabric scraps, or magazines, along with some scissors and a bottle of Elmer’s and tell me to “make something.”

And I did. These were the pre-video game days. We didn’t even know what a video was. Her TV only got two channels, and one of them was PBS, and I thought I was too old for Sesame Street. So days spent at Nana’s house were constructive instead of entertaining. If I didn’t busy myself by “making something,” she’s find some work for me to do… but she’d make that fun too. :-) We’d take those old cards and cut them up to make new ones. Or gift tags. Or collage pictures. Or we would try to draw the picture that was on it.

“Be creative,” she’d say. “Imagination is a great nation.”

When I was in middle and high school, I became very interested in art, and developed close relationships with my art teachers. And guess what? They saved greeting cards too! In the pre-Google days, greeting cards were a free way of obtaining reference photos for drawing. Both of my favorite art teachers kept filing cabinets full of greeting cards, organized in manilla folders marked “Birds,” “Snow Scenes,” and “Flowers.” If I needed to know how to draw a rabbit, they would send me to dig through the “Reference File.”

So with that in mind, as I was taking down the Christmas cards this morning, I thought I’d share some ideas on how to re-use them before recycling or throwing them away…

Cut them up to make new scrapbook-style cards!
Save pictures that can be re-used, or even the sayings
from inside the cards! A box-full of card parts can keep
little hands busy on snowy winter days!

Use them to make Scrap Ornaments!
Scrap Ornaments date back to Victorian times,
when greeting cards were just coming into fashion.
Blumchen is a great resource for tinsel and other
supplies to turn your card tidbits into something special!

Make Gift Tags for next year!
Sometimes a small picture or  the saying from
inside would make the perfect gift tag!

Start an Art Reference File!
Take an old shoe box, put in some cardboard dividers,
and file greeting card pictures according to subject!
The next time your 8 year-old wants to know how to
draw a camel, you’ll be prepared!

Draw it…
Tape a picture from a greeting card into your
art journal, and try to duplicate it on the opposite page.
Or, just try drawing elements of the picture,
such as a candlestick or manger.
It really does help to see how other artists depict
simple subjects. Artists often do a lot of “copying”
as they are learning how to draw!

For a challenge, tape HALF of a picture into
your journal and attempt to finish the other side!
Or tape in a picture of a person or animal
and draw the background around them!

Make a collage using bits and pieces from old cards!
Using Modge Podge or watered-down glue,
decorate a box to hold special Christmas treasures!

Make tiny boxes out of them!
Tutorial HERE!
We had a fun girl day, many years ago,
and spent the afternoon learning to make tiny
greeting card boxes! (Hello Poe Family!)
Jo and Kate showed Nana Anne how to make them,
and we soon had oodles of precious little boxes!
We even received the one on the left for Christmas this year,
made by ladies at church! (Hi Donna & Barbara!)

There are lots of other ways to use old cards…
A quick internet search will give you plenty of ideas!

Be Creative! Imagination is a great nation!
~Nana Anne~ 

Some things are just too pretty to throw away.


I took a flying leap last night. We all got busy with things when we first got home, and then around 7-ish I thought it was about time to start something for dinner. I browned some turkey bacon, fried some apples, and was scrambling eggs when Hubby asked me if I wanted him to finish them. “Sure!” I said… “I’d love to get in my jammies and just be comfortable.” So I FLEW up the stairs, rounded the corner into our room, and simultaneously started to pull my ankle length jumper over my head. And… got my right foot tangled up in SOMETHING. While airborne, I wasn’t sure if I should clear my vision, untangle my foot, or catch myself, so I attempted all three. I would have gotten a “10,” had I landed on my feet, but I ended up on my backside, my foot wrapped in a stool I had used to open the attic stairs, with my jumper wrapped around my head.  I was still trying to assess the damage and figure out what was hurting by the time Chris and Kate made it up the stairs. Not my most graceful performance, and thankfully I’m just sore, and nothing was broken! I don’t usually write about changing my clothes, but that was definitely the most impressive thing that happened to me yesterday.

I cleaned up the website a bit the other day, and added some of the collage pictures we did with Jo’s Spencerian flourishes! In the works this weekend are kits for the papercuttings we did with the class (Nearly done!) and Lions and Lambs and Chickens! I’m hoping to pull things together this morning so I can cut at the store this afternoon. I can get quite a bit done there on a Saturday afternoon… even though it’s busy, I’m not looking at laundry or dishes!

Hope you have a great weekend!