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Irreverent Encaustics #4 . . .

Today is the day! I plan to start each blog entry with a photo of the view from my studio.

Here’s the view from yesterday. This is Baby girl and her friends.  Her mother China was raised here and Baby Girl was born here. She’s four years old and loves white bread. I give her a couple of slices every morning.

Here’s  the view from the studio today, 30 degrees outside and we have a wee little snow! The Barnie rooster just brought his two favorite ladies around to the front for a photo op.

We’re almost ready to burn some wax! But first let’s discuss encaustic tools and materials and what you’ll need to get started.

Unfortunately encaustic art requires a whole different set of tools. I’ve put together a list of what I use most often in my studio and I didn’t run out and buy it all at once. If fact most of the tools I use are not necessarily made for encaustic art at all but they’re tools that I find work best for me.

I’ve put together a list along with photos of my suggestions (why I like it/why I don’t) and links to the items that can be found on Amazon.com. If you purchase anything from an Amazon affiliate link I have provided here I will make a few pennies (and I do mean a few) maybe even enough to buy more wax and a little corn for the deer! I love encaustic art, I’m in my studio almost every day and because I sometimes take a little different approach to encaustics, I’ve long thought about an encaustic blog. I hope, as you get to know me, you’ll realize my only objective is to pass some of that encaustic love on to you!

That said, please do use the links I’ve provided not just as a purchasing point but as an exploratory tool. Let’s say you click on the link I have listed for a heat gun . . . I’ve listed that particular heat gun because it’s the one I use and it’s one I’ve had good luck with. I teach encaustic classes here in my studio and if I’m using one tool I have several others just like it. So, let us say you have clicked on the link I’ve provided for the heat gun, you’ll go directly to that heat gun on Amazon. BUT, if you scroll down a bit you will see many other heat guns that are available. Some will be more expensive, some less. Some will have more reviews others less. You WILL need a heat gun but you don’t have to buy the one I have suggested.

Fire extinguisher . . . Smoke Alarm . . . Enough said!

I will never suggest tools or supplies that I haven’t personally used myself, many of them I use daily and you’ll see them in my photos and videos . . . And I will only suggest an item that has a 4-1/2 to 5 star rating. When I buy online, I’ve learned from experience, to pay attention to the reviews.  I almost always buy from Amazon because of their great return policy, which I have used many times.

Whenever I can I’ll tell you about a less expensive alternative if that is what I use. I may have a photo up of a particular item but will tell you to search from that link. Encaustic tools and materials are expensive. Enough so that many artists that would love to try encaustics simply don’t because of the cost involved. I started out with a very few tools and materials and so can you.

I still use cat food cans and sardine tins for pigment pans. Although, I have, long ago, thrown out the clothes pins and paper clamps I once used for handles. After dropping a few pans of hot wax I confiscated a batch of spring clamps from my husband’s work shop and never worry now about pre-releasing a pan of hot wax!

Right now, before we go any farther . . . Make a note to yourself, to remind (often) your spouse or partner of the health benefits of eating sardines on a regular basis! You will need the cans! OR, get a cat.

Here are a few unorthodox tools I use in my encaustic art. When I first began working in encaustics there were no encaustic tools, not that I ever knew about. After a few years along came an encaustic griddle that I absolutely had to have. If I remember correctly it was an R&F product which consisted of a one burner hot plate screwed (with four bolts and wing nuts) between a piece of wood and an aluminum plate. And it cost almost $200.00. I had to have it. I still have it, I’ve never used it. I did turn it on once to make sure it worked but I prefer my $50.00 counter top pancake griddle. JoAnn’s has a beautiful encaustic hot palette/griddle for $600.00, looks pretty much like the one burner R&F hot palette, a hot plate under a piece of aluminum. I may be mistaken, it could be way more hi-tech, I’m just going by the online photo, haven’t bought that one, not gonna.

There is a downside to the counter top grills (as well as many of the other hot tools I use) their thermostats are unreliable, they cycle up and down. It gets too hot and turns itself off, it cools down a bit and turns itself back on, etc. I’ve had different ones over the years and it seems to be that way with every one I’ve had BUT there is a fix for that. A power regulator. In fact all the tools and griddles I use I run through one power strip plugged into the heat regulator. I first set the regulator at 200 degrees, plug the power strip into the regulator then plug my grill and tools into the power strip. There we go, a solid pulse of power, no powering up and down, and all the tools are the same temp.  Another beautiful aspect of this arrangement is . . . If you get a power strip with an on/off switch, with one click you can turn off ALL you hot tools at once. After setting paper towels on fire (twice) I will never leave my work area for any reason without first flipping that off switch.

The first countertop griddle I used I bought on eBay. The first handheld hot tool I used was a cheap wood burning tool. Although I’ve bought many different tools, irons, griddles, etc over the years, I still prefer my countertop cooking griddle, my travel iron and a wood burning stylus to most of the expensive ‘encaustic’ tools. Encaustic medium and pigments, the one place where we can’t cut corners, are costly enough.

My number one piece of equipment is no longer being made. I use it daily. It’s some sort of electric wax melting pan and just the perfect size to keep right next to my work area for melting clear wax which I use almost constantly. I have several of them and can only find them on eBay, as far as I know. They have been marketed under several incarnations and names, always the same exact design, most recently they were sold under the Ranger name. When they first came on the market they were $20.00 or so. I have paid up to $40.00 + tax for one on eBay when I was desperate. I use them for classes. Today I checked eBay and there were four available. A couple at around $30.00 and a couple more up for bid. If you want to start out doing small encaustics this is a must have. Do what you have to do to get one, even two if you can. It’s called a Melting Pot by Suze Wienberg, was sold by Ranger.

Today I’ll list what is needed to prepare a palette for an encaustic piece as I do, using materials that I use. All the pre-cut wood palettes and slabs you can order here on this site, just go to ‘Browse Work’ and click on supplies. The wood cradles I buy on Amazon.

First we’ll prepare the board. You can use either Encaustic Gesso or . . . Why not try my preferred method for small works. Canson 140# watercolor paper on a cradle or wood panel. I buy over sized pads so I have less waste. First measure your board then measure the size of watercolor paper to fit the board and cut the paper.  Next apply the Best Test Rubber Cement to the board and then apply a coat of the same to the back side of the watercolor paper. The back side being the side down as you tear it from the pad, the bumpiest surface goes up, the shinier side goes down . . . Apply the rubber cement to the shiny side and let both sides dry completely.  Be very careful with the next step . . . There’s no second chance with this step . . . Without touching paper to wood, visually align the two and slowly press the glued sides together.  Place a piece of copy paper over the top and burnish or otherwise press the paper to the board to assure a good adhesion. It’s best in the beginning to cut your paper a little on the large side and trim after this last step because using rubber cement in this manner does not allow for repositioning and all the repositioning type glues I have tried do not stand up as well for encaustics.

First you’ll need the board backing or panel. I have the 5”x 7” panels and 4”x 4” and 5”x 5” blocks for sale here under ‘Browse Art & Supplies’ and the cradles you can find on Amazon. If you’re just beginning I would suggest you start small. Just remember to buy the best size watercolor paper to fit the pieces you will be doing so as to not have waste. Here are the cradles I prefer and they come in various sizes . . .

Although I buy the rubber cement in 32 oz cans I keep a small glue pot handy and refill as needed from the larger can. These small bottles also have an applicator brush . . .

Here’s the larger 32 oz can. I never buy anything larger. This size will last a couple of months . . .

Do check around on this watercolor paper because some of the best bargains are the 3 packs. it depends upon the size wood panels you want to use. For instance if you want to use 5”x 7” wood panels buy a pad such as a 10”x 14” that will give you four pieces of paper per sheet without any waste. If you planned to work on 5”x 7” panels and purchased an 8”x 10” watercolor pad you’d only get one piece of paper per sheet and have lots of waste. Canson is not as expensive as some other watercolor papers but is perfectly fine for encaustics.

If you’d want to give encaustic gesso a try, and I suggest you try both, the gesso and the watercolor paper. Just to see which you have a personal preference for. I really don’t think one is any better than the other for any reason, it’s just that I prefer the paper and maybe that’s because I also love watercolor and still do a little watercolor now and then. When using the gesso I always apply three coats and dry between each coat so it seems to me that the gesso takes a little more time.  Here’s the encaustic gesso I use . . .


A quick and easy method to finish off the edges of your panel or board if you use watercolor paper is to trim the paper closely then sand down the edges. Holding the board in your hands, using minimal pressure, sand in a downward motion against the paper edge to soften the sharp edge.


The last step to the board preparation is to finish the raw sides. I most often use a black acrylic paint all around the side edges. Rarely I’ll use a white or gold but most often black. Apply with any old brush, I usually use my finger.

That’s everything you need to prepare your ground for encaustic painting. Next entry we’ll get to the wax!  Stay happy and healthy and create some art!

La’Nelle

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Irreverent Encaustics #3 . . .

January 2, 2021

Both creeks on our place are running today. We even have a waterfall! Ok . . . It’s only a 1” waterfall but still . . . Here’s a couple of photos taken from the daily dog run. They  run, I ride in the cart! Ebony the black Lab tries to drink her way across and Contessa, the Papillon waits for the cart. Contessa thinks she’s a farm dog.

I’ll get to the art in a few days, I promise. I’m waiting for the camera tripod I ordered a few weeks ago. Surely it will be here soon.

Stay healthy and happy and create some art! Stay safe!
La’Nelle

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Irreverent Encaustics #2 . . .

January 1, 2021 . . .

The view from my front porch this morning on top of Fox Mountain in the middle of the Ozarks . . . Brrrrr . . . That’s ice, not snow. 
I’m staying toasty in the studio straightening things up a bit, getting ready to start a new encaustic project to blog about.  I plan to take photos to show the progress as I go along. Still haven’t quiet decided how to proceed. Perhaps I’ll start with something small and simple . . . Not too complicated in the beginning.

Mail delivery here has been a little off lately, UPS, FedEx as well as the USPS have had some problems. I’m still waiting on two orders that should have come two days ago. One is for a tripod for the camera I hope to use for photographing the encaustic pieces I’ll be working on. Can’t have a art blog without photos!

Happy 2021 everyone! Stay safe, stay healthy and create some art! See you again real soon.

La’Nelle

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Irreverent Encaustics #1 . . .

December 31, 2020 . . .

Today, the 31st of December, 2020 is the date of my first blog entry. Ever. I’ve been thinking about doing this for years and now, suffering withdrawal from family and friends because of the Covid Virus, I find I have the time as well as the inclination.

I’m an encaustic artist living in the beautiful Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Moving here from South Texas (Hurricane Katrina did it for me) I’m so in awe of all the changes that occur as one season ever so subtlety morphs into the next.  Any time of the year, there’s a painting everywhere I look!

As I write the posts for this blog, I realize I’m not only writing about art or painting, little snippets of life experiences and opinions have a way of rising up within whatever subject I’m writing about. So- if you continue reading you’ll probably learn more about me than you ever wanted to know.  Mainly, I’m old and I have an opinion about everything and don’t mind sharing my opinions.  I still use terms such as . . . Eeeeeeek and Haha when composing emails and I’m about as computer literate as a screwdriver but I’m learning. I hate bigots, racists and homophobes and I love animals, nature and this world we live in which you will probably find reflected in my art as well as my blog.  This blog comes to you via 77 years of experiences and what I’ve learned from those experiences, good or bad, right or wrong.  I do hope you will respond, I’d love to hear about your experiences and your opinions!

An artist all my life, I was a graphic designer and began my career back in the 70’s, before computers . . . Back when I had to call a type setting order in to a business in another city to have type set for a particular project then go to the bus station in the middle of the night to pick it up in order to finish a magazine ad by deadline the next day. I often think— if I had just had a color copier back in those days I could have ruled the world!

I did have the opportunity to meet some very interesting people during those midnight visits to the bus station.

I also worked in television, designed the sets for all our little local programs . . . Dialing for Dollars, Morning Magazine, etc as well as redesigning our news and weather sets every year or so. I was responsible for all the art used for our PSA’s (Public Service Announcements) and anything art-wise used in a commercial. Later I opened my own advertising/marketing business- La’Nelle Gambrell Advertising Art.

Art shows and competitions were important back then and I participated as often as I could. As the only woman in town in the ‘Ad business’ . . . Think Mad Men . . .  It was always a thrill to win an award. OK— I’ll say it . . . It was always THE best feeling in the world to beat out one of the guys that had the luxury of entertaining male clients where I, as a ‘respectable’ woman in those days, er . . . uh . . . could not go.

Those days seem like another lifetime. Now retired, I live on this beautiful Ozark mountaintop where I’m lucky enough to have my wonderful art studio (thanks to my husband Joe) and I’m able to watch the leaves turn and the deer race around the pond while I melt wax and burn shellac!

I’m in my encaustic studio almost every day working on something. I‘m always experimenting with different tools and mediums and techniques. Sometimes I have eureka moments and other times dismal failures but always I have fun plus I learn something in the process. I’ve learned a lot through the years by trial and error and via this blog I hope to impart some of those successes and maybe even save you from some of the failures!

Back when I started in encaustics, there was very little information out there. No YouTube videos, no How-To books. The only modern day encaustic artist I’d even heard of was an artist living in Mexico, Eshwan Winding, who is a very fine artist and does beautiful encaustic work. I found her before I found encaustics. I was looking online for some rather obscure recordings by a famous big band era trombonist named Kai Winding . . . I found the recordings and also discovered his widow, Eshwan, the encaustic artist, living and teaching in Mexico. She had some of her work online as well as a blog at the time and even though I never traveled to Mexico to take her classes I learned the basis of what I needed to know to get me started with encaustics. She was my inspiration. Who knows, perhaps this blog may inspire someone to give encaustics a try!

This is it, my first installment. Within the next few days I’ll add more content. I’m thinking I’ll start with a description of whatever I happen to be working on and I’ll list the tools and supplies I use. I’ll also tell you why I have chosen the particular tool or material I use, what I used when I first began my encaustic journey and how/why I evolved into using what I use now. Most often the tools I use these days are much less expensive than what I thought I had to have in the beginning. I could have saved quite a lot if I had known then what I know now. I’ll try to pass on some of those tips, tricks and techniques, even, dare I say . . . Secrets? I mean, why, at my age am I holding on to them? Haha!

I’m hoping you won’t be too critical of my writing style or the content . . . I’m sure to veer off the topic of encaustic art and tell you about my 20 year old cat Abigale who is nearing the end of his life. He is pretty much on my mind during these, his last days. I probably won’t be able to resist posting videos (probably bad video) of the two big rack, buck deer that come late at night to eat the corn we leave . . . or post photos of the moss and bracken that grow on the rocks here that look like alien, microscopic forests.

If you’re struggling with a particular encaustic dilemma  or have a question go ahead and ask, I’ll be glad to give you my opinion. If you have suggestions for future encaustic topics, please let me know. I sometimes think I’ve seen it all so to speak but probably not, still I’ll tell you what has worked or hasn’t worked for me. See ya next year! Hope 2021 will bring us all health, healing and happiness. Create more art and stay safe!

La’Nelle

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Encaustic Art

Encaustic art has survived for over 2000 years, longer than any other painting form and is still exhibited in museums around the world. If you care to learn more about the origins of encaustic art consider searching for Fayum Mummy Encaustic Art.

I’m 77 years old, I’ve been an artist all my life and encaustic art is my passion! By purchasing my encaustic art you allow me to continue to paint every day and I appreciate that more that you will ever know!