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Encaustic Diptych | Painting on two panels

Encaustic Diptych Workshop Notes:

Last weekend I created an encaustic diptych at an abstract-landscape diptych workshop put on by Waxworks Encaustics with artist Dania Al-Obaidi. Here are my notes and additional research and reflections about working on two panels.

What is a diptych?

A diptych (pronounced “diptik“) is when two panels are used to create one work of art. The word diptych comes from the Greek di for “two”, and ptyche for “fold”. Historically a diptych was joined together by hinges and the two panels were of equal size. The hinged panels could fold close like a book. Common in the middle ages, small diptych panels of religious scenes were used for private devotion. Larger altarpieces tended to be triptychs (three panels). [wikipedia]

Modern diptych paintings may be hung close together as a pair with a gap in between, attached together, or mounted in a single frame.

Diptych Composition

A diptych can be a single composition continued on two panels or can be two related paintings that are hung closely together. Using two panels can create an interesting dialogue. You can juxtapose opposites or explore different aspects of a single theme.

Choosing to use multiple panels add an immediate layer of interest to your work. Panels don’t have to be equal sizes. At the workshop, we worked on a 12″x 12″ panel paired with a 12″x 9″ panel.

When creating a diptych the challenge is to balance and harmonize the two panels into a pleasing whole. You want each of the panels to be strong alone and at the same time to work together as a single composition, to express a duality without creating something too symmetrical.

Diptych Composition Exercise:

During the workshop, we displayed our paintings for others to critique. With further reflection, I came up with the following questions to help myself analyze future diptych projects.

  • What is the focal point of the composition? How does the eye travel around the piece?  Are the two panels competing with each other for the viewer’s attention?
  • Is there a conversation going on between the two panels? What is contributing to the conversation? Is there anything detracting from the conversation?
  • Are areas of the painting too symmetrical? The conversation between the two panels may be strengthened by making the panels less symmetrical.
  • Consider the space between the panels. What happens if you butt the panels up against each other? Or pull them apart? How is that space contributing to the narrative?
  • Rotate or switch the position of panels altering the composition and review the questions again. Some of the other students placed their panels vertically.

Encaustic Landscape Diptych Paintings

[click to view larger]

Drifting Like Clouds” & “Nocturne” by Ruth Maude.
Both of mine from the workshop read as a single painting on two boards and are framed without a gap. I like that two panels added an extra layer of interest to the painting. I am happy with the paintings and really enjoyed the process but as the panels are so much the same, I didn’t take the opportunity to explore creating a conversation between the two. I learned a lot more from looking at and critiquing the work of others.

Pointing Towards Peace” by Andrea Bird.
Here there is a powerful conversation between the two panels. The two panels work well together but are equally strong and each can stand alone. The panels are displayed with a gap between.

Hanging & signing a Diptych

Dania recommends hanging a diptych with a space between the two panels. She measures from the top of the panel down to make sure that the wire is in the same place on both panels. Panels can also be bolted together and left unframed or framed together.

I asked Dania what she recommends when it comes to signing artwork. She signs the back of one only diptych panel but there is no hard and fast rule for this.

Encaustic Workshops

Workshops are a great way to explore and learn. Thanks to Dania and Andrea for a fabulous, inspiring weekend. I highly recommend Waxworks Encaustics for encaustic workshops near Toronto.

About Ruth Maude

I enjoy experimenting with a variety of encaustic materials, techniques and tools. Everything I learn pushes my creative journey in new directions. I share what I've learned with other artists through my blog All Things Encaustic.

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