Much of my work is ‘created by hand’ on the computer, but has the look and feel of real paint. I find the computer enables me to experiment and to learn from an infinite number of color, value, line and space permutations, still allowing for the history of a piece to show through the layers. Using brushstrokes and other elements and sometimes whole layers from previous work helps to connect each work to the other. The happy accidents of chance combinations are an added bonus. In the last few years I have used the encaustic medium to add to the luminous quality of my work.
The term ‘created by hand’ on the computer means I do not use pre-programmed automatic filters to make my imagery. I paint both directly on the computer and I also paint with real paint, and combine bits of each using the computer.
To paint on the computer directly, I use Corel’s natural-media painting software Painter with a Wacom tablet and a pressure-sensitive pen, enabling me to create digital paint strokes that look like real chalk or real pencil or real charcoal or real watercolor or any of an infinite variety of traditional or user-created media, with the thickness of the line depending on the amount of pressure and speed I apply to the pen. I then may pull individual paint strokes from various prints, paintings or doodles I’ve created myself with real acrylic paint or gouache or pencil or pen or ink, or encaustic, or encaustic monotype, by scanning them in to the computer, and then using Adobe Photoshop software, isolating the strokes I want to use. Again using the software Adobe Photoshop on the computer, I combine bits of these ‘real paint strokes’ with bits of my ‘digital paint strokes’ created earlier, using many different layers, with varying opacities and translucencies.
I may go through literally hundreds of iterations, as I painstakingly use the computer to adjust the composition, amount of transparency and opacity in each layer, the sharpness and the depth, and the light and the brightness and saturation and hue of each of the colors.
When I’m satisfied with the piece, which up until now, has only existed on the computer, I then print the piece myself on my Epson 9800 wide format printer to be sure I'm getting the desired colors, using Epson’s archival pigment ink on Moab Unryu 55 paper (a Japanese inkjet printable paper made by Awagami in Japan) which I buy on a 44” wide roll from B&H Photo and Video or Adorama Photo. Afterwards, using a hot palette, I infuse the print with melted encaustic medium that I’ve made myself using beeswax and damar resin (from R&F Encaustics). The transparent encaustic medium enhances the digital layering and gives the piece a unique luminous quality, as the light filters through the wax. It also makes the Japanese paper and the colors transparent -- so I then paint the back of the piece with white acrylic paint which removes this transparency and enhances the colors as seen through the wax. The final piece can either float one inch off the wall using small magnets mounted onto clear plexiglas strips or alternatively the work can be floated in whitewashed maple museum quality frames from Metropolitan Picture Framing in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I like to use Metropolitan whitewashed maple frames to float my pieces, using magnets to hold the pieces in place on the white Rising museum board. The magnets are necessary since hinging tape cannot be used on the backs of the pieces -- the tape would remove the fragile but stable white acrylic paint layer from the back of the piece.
-- Michelle A. Hegyi