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Further details on Canadiana Characters Series, 2009
Encaustic Wax and Pigment on Oak Panel [Framed in Maple] 169cm x 108cm (66.5" x 42.5")

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Further info about the series….

Great characters and tales in Canadian History are plentiful to be sure, though you wouldn't necessarily know it.

We don't really talk about them to much or play them up, say like a southern neighbours would do for one their historic figures.  It's really not our style it seems.  But I don't get it. There's nothing to be embarrassed about here everybody.  Sure be modest of course.  That's always cool.  But I don't really understand all of the humility.  Because, trust me there are so many amazing stories and characters that couldn't be more interesting to talk about.  They deserve more play. Fascinating stories, heroic, and/or controversial ones (they are the best kind of character) leaders, lovers, inventors, writers,  politicians, warriors, doctors, suffragettes, poets, scientists, artists, adventurers.... I could go on and on.

What ever you want. Don't worry we got it.

I wish we all knew a little more about our history. Barely any of us know our stories. I was wondering if that was simply because nobody is ever bragging about it. Bragging does help to get the story out there. Its the discussion and tales of these figures to be engrained in the popular conscience.
That takes some bragging I'd think.

The images in this series represent some the amazing characters (and I mean the word 'character' in all its aspects) and great stories that are found in and make up the early and young history of Canada. We should be boasting about them. They should be shown off, they are too fascinating and unique not too be remembered and known.  I can get lost in this character tales.
Kinda hoping you do too.

These "characters" are some of the backbone of our history. Some of the best parts. The work in this series was designed to help re-invigorate discussion and a fascination about them and us.  And maybe get a little laugh too, every once in awhile, that isn't so bad either.  It always seemed to me that a little humour allowed people to get involved, to look a little longer, to care a little bit more, to be more interested.  And we should be more interested, we have some seriously great history.

And I just wanted to brag about it a bit.

Examples of the Design Steps involved in the Production of the Final Series
(Multiple stages of Prepatory Sketches, Preliminary Drawings and Paintings
are produced prior to the completion of the final pieces in the series)

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Initial first sketches of Tom Thomson
Acrylic on Paper
11" x 14"
(with changes and re-adjustments notes written in graphite)
This first stage of Design follows
a great deal of research based decisions
and exploration into all found source material.

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Further development stage
sketch of Tom Thomson
made with Encaustic Wax

Encaustic Wax and Pigment on Wood
36" x 48"
(loosely completed sketch made with encaustic wax and powdered pigments,
for early development
moving towards design
for final completed piece)

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Next stage example sketch
of Tom Thomson
Acrylic on Paper
11" x 14"
(quick, cleaned up/readjusted and refined
forming the bases of the final piece)

Close-Up/ Detail Views to show surface texture in the
Encaustic Wax Series
"Beaver Tales" Characters from Final Completed Series

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"Tom Thomson"
(Left Cheek and Eye)
Final Piece Close-up

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"Sanford Fleming"
(Right Cheek and Eye)
Final Piece Close-up

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"John A. Macdonald"
(Chin and Nose)
Final Piece Close-up

History and Discription of the Encaustic Medium
Encaustic: Derived from the Greek word: enkaiein – to burn into

In the painting technique known as encaustic, the medium from which the powdered coloured pigment is mixed with hot wax which and painted onto surface with a brush. It is then traditionally smoothed with a metal instrument, and then blended and set over a flame to soften and set the colours into the wood. This method produces the most durable of colours and permits sculptural modelling of the paint surface. Because of the wax medium, the colours are semi-translucent and look fresh and lively. This technique is rare today, though recently gaining in popularity once again. Possibility the oldest lasting painting medium, it was practiced in the Before Common Era/Ancient Roman times. The British Museum in London has tremendous examples of these ancient encaustic works from Egypt, which is where I first saw the unique method.

This term, used by ancient authors, is somewhat misleading, because heat is not absolutely necessary to attain the effects seen in the encaustic panels. Therefore, encaustic has come to mean any painting method in which pigment is mixed with wax.

The encaustic art dates back almost 3000 years to Egyptian & Greek times when heated coloured waxes were used to decorate warships and the walls of tombs. The Greeks applied coatings of wax and resin to weatherproof their ships. Pigmenting the wax gave rise to the decorating of warships. Mention is even made by Homer (800 B.C.)of the painted ships of the Greek warriors who fought at Troy. The use of a rudimentary encaustic was therefore an ancient practice by the 5th century B.C. It is possible that at about that time the crude paint applied with tar brushes to the ships was refined for the art of painting on panels. Most of our knowledge of this early use comes from the Roman historian Pliny, who wrote in the 1st century A.D. Pliny seems to have had little direct knowledge about studio methods, so his account of techniques and materials is sketchy. But his discussion gives us an idea of its general usage. According to Pliny, encaustic had a variety of applications: for the painting of portraits and scenes of mythology on panels, for the colouring of marble and terra cotta, and for work on ivory (probably the tinting of incised lines). Ancient Historian Pliny writing mentions two notable artists who had in fact started out as ship painters.

The use of encaustic on panels rivalled the use of tempera in what are the earliest known portable easel paintings. Tempera was a faster, cheaper process. Encaustic was a slow, difficult technique, but the paint could be built up in relief, and the wax gave a rich optical effect to the pigment. These characteristics made the finished work startlingly life-like. Moreover, encaustic had far greater durability than tempera, which was vulnerable to moisture. Ancient writer Pliny refers to encaustic paintings several hundred years old in the possession of Roman aristocrats of his own time.

The nature of encaustic to both preserve and colour led to its wide use on the stone work of both architecture and statuary. The white marble we see today in the monuments of Greek antiquity was once coloured, probably delicately tinted like the figures on the Alexander sarcophagus in the Archeological Museum of Istanbul. Pliny says that when the sculptor Praxiteles was asked which of his pieces he favoured, he answered those "to which [the painter] Nicias had set his hand." Decorative terra cotta work on interiors was also painted with encaustic, a practice that was a forerunner to mosaic trim.

Perhaps the best known of all encaustic work by the Fayum people The Fayum, were a people with a flourishing metropolitan community in ancient Egypt, which consisted of Greeks, Egyptians, Syrians, Libyans, and others who made amazing realistic and detailed funeral portraits painted in the 1st through 3rd centuries A.D. A portrait of the deceased, painted either in the prime of life or after death, was placed over the person's mummy as a memorial. These are the only surviving encaustic works from ancient times. It is notable how fresh the colour has remained due to the protection of the wax, and how realistic the figures appear. Some surviving examples how portraits of an almost photographic reality to them. They are amazing, and predate western art in to this level of realism by a thousand years or more. Looking into the well-preserved, startlingly lifelike faces one can trace the earliest roots of portraiture as it began in these Greco-Roman Fayum, or mummy, portraits, and continued through the Renaissance to the present. Despite their ancient history, the stylized portraits appear strikingly modern and painterly, with undeniable echoes of Modigliani and Matisse.

In the great period of economic instability that followed the decline of the Roman Empire, encaustic fell into disuse. Some work, particularly the painting of icons, was carried on as late as the 12th century, but for the most part it became a lost art. The process was and is cumbersome and painstaking, and the cost of producing it was high. It was replaced by tempera, which was cheaper, faster, and easier to work.

In the 18th century the French archeologist Claude-Philippe Comte de Caylus paved the way for the Encaustic of our modern times. Comte de Caylus studied old writings and the ancient murals of Pompeii to experiment with Encaustic techniques. He wrote several papers on Encaustic painting. In the Paris Academy he found followers of his methods and in the library of the convent Saint-Germain-des-Près a statue was erected to honour him for his efforts to rediscover the Encaustic Art. Unfortunately the artists and scholars of the 19th century had not enough sources to reconstruct the antique ways of the Encaustic medium. So they started to re-invent the techniques to establish a New Encaustic Art.

Earlier attempts to revive encaustic failed to solve the one problem that had made painting in encaustic so laborious — the melting of the wax. The availability of portable electric heating implements and the variety of tools made the use of encaustic more accessible. The fact that wax required no drying time and that it had structural properties that allowed it to be textured and built up in relief enticed both painter and viewer. Notable and famous artists Diego Rivera and Jasper Johns and many others have used it and returned to it constantly throughout their careers.

All images Copyright
© Andrew R. Hutchison 2000 - 2014