Miniatures with a Japanese flavour


The next miniature exhibition is approaching, so I have been gathering the works I intend to submit. I can put in two framed works and two three-dimensional works – one of the 3D works is in the miniature awards exhibition at the moment, but can be exhibited again as the two galleries are not close together.

The exhibition is called ‘A Brush with Japan’ so all the works will be inspired by Japan or Japanese gardens and will be held at the Gosford Regional Gallery. The gallery has a long cultural connection to Japan, and is surrounded by the Edogawa Garden which is laid out in the Japanese horticultural style.

My works are not Japanese in any literal sense, more representing my feelings and impressions of Japan. These ideas have suffused most of the work I have done this year. Above is my favourite piece, more of the piano keys. I have now painted eight or nine of these, and I have selected the three above to work together in one frame. The title for these is ‘Three Obi’, and I am very grateful to my blogging friend Julie Podstolski for suggesting it. Julie has a long and deep interest in all things Japanese – see her amazing drawings here.


The second framed work I made when I was experimenting with encaustic earlier this year. The support is Ampersand Gessobord, and there are layers of oil paint, Neocolors 2 – which are water-soluble oil pastels – and wax. The layers are built up and scraped back to reveal colours hidden below, a process of discovery and surprise. To me it suggested windswept snowfields, so that became the title.

This three dimensional work has been shown on this blog before, but a little more work has been done to it, just general tidying up and refining. I have another wonderful blogging friend, Poppytump, to thank for the title of this one, ‘The Hidden Secrets of the Geisha’. She came up with it when I last showed this, and to me it sums it up perfectly. There are little objects hidden within each part, and these are all stored away in the shelves. For some of Poppytump’s wonderful photos, sketches and poetic words, see here.


The last piece is ‘Architecture in Japan’ which I wrote about in my last blog, made from interlocking pieces of prints.

The works will be submitted at the end of this month, then I will be off on a long camping trip. I will be taking my sketchbook and my camera, so will do blog posts as and when I can. So please come along for the ride!


Encaustic orchid


More experimenting with encaustic – this painting has been in the works for a while, and has been subjected to other experimentation.

It is on board, and after preparing the board with gesso I did a loose drawing on it inspired by an enlarged photo I took of tiny Western Australian native orchids, in their natural habitat. Next, I took to the board with my Dremel (an electric tool that has small interchangeable heads for engraving, drilling and making other marks). I carved out some of the pencil lines and some texture, such as in the centre of the flower. As the board is quite hard, it was not easy to control the resultant marks so they became fairly random and not particularly smooth. The next step was applying some oil paint, before adding encaustic wax, then more scraping back, scratching and layering paint and wax.

I’m still not sure if it is finished – it has quite a rough quality to it and I think it will take time for me to decide how I feel about it. It belongs with the other paintings in the 30 x 30 cm series (see here, here, here and here).

Oil and encaustic on mdf board, 30 x 30 cm

Playing with encaustic


‘Encaustic’ is a painting term I have known for some time, without knowing a lot about the technique. The works I have seen have a wonderful textured quality, and sometimes an almost ghostly depth to them.

One of the friends I regularly paint with, Cindy ( see for some of her work) took part in a winter school last year in encaustic, and so promised to pass on her knowledge and provide some encaustic mix for the rest of us to work with. The mix is beeswax melted with a small amount of a solution of damar varnish crystals marinated in gum turps. Apparently there are many recipes for the mix, and it can be bought ready made. It starts off as a solid block, placed in a saucepan over low heat. When it melts, it’s ready to use. There are as many ways of using encaustic as there are artists, but we simply painted random streaks of wax on our prepared surfaces, then added paint and scratched and scraped into the wax. The paint can be rubbed in, wiped off, layered. The wax can be layered as many times as necessary, or even used almost as a mask and scraped right back each time. I enjoyed it more than I could have imagined. Not every attempt was successful, but this was a chance to get a feel for the materials.

The image above was on mdf board (14 x 14 cm), which had been sealed with gesso, then a simple, fairly abstract painting started in oil, which was quite dry before I started doing the encaustic. First I painted on wax, then oil paint in some areas, gradually building up layers and scraping to create texture and form. Totally unexpected imagery can result.

distant_web cave_web snow_web drought_web

These four smaller images are 8.5 x 6 cm, so qualify as miniatures. These were done on Ampersand Aquabord, a rough textured prepared surface. The initial colour was applied using Neocolor 2 sticks, (water soluble oil pastels) then moved around with water. Once it dried I could add more wax, and more colour, either using the sticks or oil paint. It seems the only incompatible medium is acrylic paint, Cindy was using washes of ink to great effect. The world is your oyster with this medium – I think there are more experiments to come!