Last week Artist Thea Haubrich posted new Encaustic work on Facebook. In this painting, she used a shellac burn technique to create beautiful gold clouds. I was intrigued and I wanted to know how to use this technique myself. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long! Fast forward one week to Day Two of the Fifth International Encaustic Conference and Gregory Wright’s presentation Patterned Effects and Visual Texture.
Gregory Wright gave a great demo using Dry Pigments and working with Shellac in encaustic painting. His presentation and handouts also addressed important safety precautions when working with these substances.
Greorgy painted the shellac onto the surface of his encaustic painting (with a single-use foam brush) and then hit it with the blow torch.
Shellac gives different effects according to the time allowed to dry:
- Wet shellac ignites and burns
- Tacky shellac makes spidery patterns – as seen in Thea’s painting above
- Dry shellac can be manipulated on the surface of the painting with a compact flame (such as a creme brulee torch)
Is a Shellac Encaustic painting toxic?
Once the shellac is dry (which doesn’t take long) you can cover it with encaustic medium. There certainly are safety concerns when working with Shellac but, once the alcohol has burned off, the finished painting will be non-toxic.
Safety rules when working with shellac:
- Have an operable fire extinguisher nearby
- Wear protective equipment such as goggles if igniting a large area of shellac
- Use disposable materials – such as Styrofoam containers, single-use foam brushes, and plastic spoons
- Work in a well-ventilated area but not in direct airflow. Avoid having fans blowing on your torch flame or ignited shellac (you can work outside if it isn’t too windy)
- Practice good torch safety – tie back hair and don’t have hanging loose clothing, remove all flammable items from the area
Gregory wore chemically resistant gloves when working with pigments and provided us with detailed handouts for safely working with pigments. I’m too concerned about the toxicity of dry pigments so I’m going to stay away from them at least for now.
I’d love to hear about your experience with shellac and dry pigments with encaustic.
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