I plug in my wax. While I am waiting for it to warm, I open my windows wide to let in the light and out the fumes. I turn on my fans. They create a breeze. I choose my music and let it flow into my studio. I gather my brushes, my paper, and my imagination. The smell begins to call to me. It is honey and birthday candles. It wafts through the room and draws me to my palate.
A blank page sits before me. Always. I cannot decide where to start. I am astounded and perplexed as to how art gets made. I look at the page and I see nothing. Yet, there is something. Picking up the brush, I decide not to decide. Just to go. No thinking. Only feeling. I put my hand to the page and the brush slides across the paper. The trail of clear molten wax shines, then dulls as it cools. Another stroke, another trail until the whole page is filled. A foundation laid. For what I do not know.
Now for the fire. The torch hisses as I move it across the page. It is a dragon licking the wax until it shines again. Fusing molecules together. Creating a bond. Then off, so the cooling can happen. I have to be careful, because here is where I often get stuck. Here is where hesitation can put a nail in the coffin of creation. Too much thought pulls me out of the flow, too little makes a mess of the foundation. I tune into the music. Pay attention to the breeze on my face. Soak in the act of creating. I inhale the smells of honey and wax.
Next, is color. The choice is random. Whatever color pops out at me. It goes on top of the first layer smooth as silk. It is riding the glass smoothly. Gliding really, in whatever direction I choose. The heat of the iron is the fusing of my choice this time, because I love to see the wax smear into organic patterns. It pushes away from the heat of the iron and clings to cooler places. Just like me, the wax tries to avoid the fire…and just like me, it is fused and bonded because of it. The result is layer upon layer of colors which blend in unexpectedly beautiful ways.
I add in leaves or papers or fabrics. Embed them. Randomly, on a whim. Or what feels like a whim. I use intuition to bond items into the wax. My eyes tell me where. Where to tear and add texture. Where to let the smooth parts stay. My gut says when to add more or when to stop. It is the stopping that is hardest. Wondering ‘Is it finished?’ is the most common question. I have ruined many a painting by continuing past stop. It is the act of laying down all expectations of what is supposed to be, to what is. Just let it be what it is. The hardest part of all.
The whole process is a metaphor for life, which is why encaustic is my medium. I can touch the pain and see it bleed into something beautiful. I watch the layers build upon one another, just like the years. They pile up, each adding to those underneath. Each bringing its own contribution. Some are lustrous, others are flat. Some are smooth as glass and others are nothing but textured tearing. Taken separately each year stands alone, but combined they create a beautiful life. A life to celebrate. The smell of candles reminds me of birthdays. Every candle a symbol and a reminder that life is fragile. That burning brightly is a better option than being snuffed out, and that both are possibilities.
I am reflective because it is my 53rd birthday and I have been afforded with 10 extra years…borrowed time. A second chance to take the colors and fusing, the smoothness and texture of life and allow God to create a beautiful work of art. Growing older is a gift. A present to be opened with great reverence and appreciation. I do not know when it will be complete, this painting of my life, but I plan to make the most of it until the artist says, “It is finished.”