Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Wednesday Experiment :: Ink transfer to encaustic wax

I'm coming to realize that I don't think outside of my parameters as much as I should.  I tend to poop along in my studio and work on what I know.  I've talked some about stretching and pushing creativity (here), to try some new things and see where they lead.  It seems to be kind of a mission for me here in the moment.  So, here's what I found::
Yesterday, I stumbled upon the youtube video by Randy Purcell on transferring ink onto wax.  Its a process that I know, however haven't visited for a while.  I've added the video at the bottom of the post if you are interested in watching it.

 I decided to give it a try.  Randy's concept of this procedure is more than I have seen.  He uses magazine pages for his ink source.  As a wax artist, I know that magazine pages and wax don't really mesh due to the slick nature of the paper.  Wax doesn't really bond with it unless you sand it, which will then distort the image.  But.... I have never thought of using the pages for the ink and creating mosaic paintings with strips of paper.

The process is pretty simple. 
  1. First, cut your shapes from magazine pages and place the paper on your wax background.  Be sure the side that has the colors you want is the side next to the wax (face down). 
  2. Second, burnish the paper to the wax. I used the back side of a spoon. 
  3. Carefully sand the top ink off the paper, being sure to not go through.  This removes the slickness from the page and leaves the raw paper exposed.  In the photo above you can see the two to the left are sanded and the one on the right is just through steps one and two.
  4. Take a carving tool and carefully clean up the dust around the edges of the paper.  It is showing as gray in the photo above.
  5. Once you have cleaned up around the edges of your paper, use a heat gun to warm the paper and the wax to help transfer the ink.  I did try using a flame and it worked too, but you have to be careful not to heat it so much that the wax comes through the paper and sets it into the painting.

The final step is to wet the paper with water and rub the paper off leaving the ink which has transferred to the wax.  There is a point at which you can rub too hard and start damaging the ink transfer.  I went ahead and used my flame torch to set the painting after I removed the paper, but you can see in the first photo that it caused the ink to crack and move a bit even though I was careful.  So, a heat gun may work a little better. 
Its important to remember that the ink is just sitting on top of the wax which means that it is a little delicate.  It comes off with linseed oil and it scratches easily.  You can put a thin layer of medium on top to protect it. However, that will dull the colors a bit.  There is a wax sealer(here) that can be used.  I have never used this product but it looks interesting.

Above is Randy's video.  This is a great example of the importance of sharing what we do.  Some artists are worried that if they give up their procedures that they will be copied.  I really believe that since art comes from within each of us with its own unique voice, there is no reason to be worried about being copied because it just really can't happen.  However, by sharing techniques, we all benefit and can take it in a direction that suits our needs.  Thank you Randy for sharing!  


  1. This is so cool! Thanks for sharing! I wish I had time to break out the encaustics again today, just to give this technique a try. I've encountered a handful of artists who don't want to share their techniques. It seems so silly to me because each artist's work will be unique, and we can grow collectively as artists. Most artists seem to be very generous souls, though, and I'm continually amazed and inspired by that. :)

  2. your piece turned out wonderful, such an interesting process, thanks for sharing how you did this.


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