Wednesday, November 9, 2011

National Gatherings for Encaustic

As the number of artist who work in wax grows, so do the opportunities for them to come together to share experiences.  There are now three such opportunities: The International Encaustic Conference (sixth year), the IEA annual conference (seventh year) and EncaustiCamp (second year).  I've been involved with each of these venues.  Each has its own unique flavor and value. 

EncaustiCamp is the newest gathering.  Today the new website goes online and registration for the summer event is open to the public.  Of all of the gatherings, this one has been the most fun.  The other conferences follow a traditional conference model with demonstrations, lectures and vendors. (More on those events in another post.)  EncaustiCamp follows a real "adult camp" model that allows for three full days of hands on experiences working with nationally recognized teachers. 

EncaustiCamp is held in a high school boarding school with college-like dorms, school cafeteria and classrooms.  For those who don't like the "closeness" that sharing rooms entails, there is a nearby hotel.  The closeness of EncaustiCamp, however, builds bonds of friendship that often last long beyond the week of creating.  The numbers are smaller at this venue and the meals are prepared on-site, so the experience is more intimate.  You get to know one another as only shared meals and learning or late night talks over wine and snacks can do.  The vendor experience is also more intimate because each of the teachers brings work, kits or materials to sell.  You won't be able to find these items in any of the art stores that vendor at larger conferences.  Last year, one of the teachers who works with found papers and images, opened her own stash to the campers for sale!  EncaustiCamp is a great concept and we thank  Trish Seggebruch for having the vision and making it happen. 

If you are fairly new to wax, have been working in isolation and want to get to know others who work in encaustic or want several classes in encaustic while only paying travel and lodging for one event, EncaustiCamp gives you the  best bang for your buck.  It has been held on the west coast, near Salem, Oregon, but there is some talk about opening a second location next year. 

I'll see you there this summer!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Getting Published-- Step 2

I found this next step most interesting and a lot of fun.  Once you decide that you do want to write a book and you have identified your audience, it is time to search out a publisher.  I was willing to self-publish if need be, but for my purposes, the advantages of working with a publisher far outweighed self-publishing.  I will speak to those advantages/disadvantages in another post.

My first step was to do some internet research.  I wanted to see if there were any books out there on my subject matter, Wax+Paper.  There were not.  I then checked all of the table of content of books on handmade paper and books on encaustic technique to see if there were chapters in either book that combined the two media.  I did not find any material available.  That told me two things: one, that there was a place for my book on the market and two, that with the scaricity of books on either subject, combing the two mediums might be too nitch of a market to make a book viable.

I have been buying and collecting "how to" art books for years, so my next stop was to my own library.  I pulled those books that had been most helpful to me in the past and those books that had something in common with my subject, encaustic paint and handmade paper.  I found that many of these books had the same two publishers, Lark Press and North Light Press.  I expanded my research by taking a trip to both Borders and Barnes and Nobles and pulled additional books, checking for publishers. 

I put all of the Lark Press books in a pile and all of the North Light books in a pile and browsed through each pile separately noting what was common in layout, number of pages, how demonstration photos were shot, the ratio of words to images, etc.  I made notes for myself and then went to the web site for each publisher to look for their submission guidelines.  Most publishers have submission guidelines somewhere on their website, but it may take a little work to find it.  For example, if you google North Light Press, the closest site that comes up is their bookstore.  This site is for direct selling of their published books and didn't have the information I was looking for.  I did see that North Light is a division of F&W Media.  When I googled F&W Media and went into both "fine art" and "craft", I found submission guidelines.

It took several weeks to craft a great introductory letter and the materials for the proposal.  It is a good idea to send this to a couple of your friends for feedback.  The process of writing the proposal, outlining the chapters, talking about the audience, etc. was very helpful in really nailing down what I intended to communicate.  When I look back now at that original proposal and the actual book, I am amazed at how the development changed over the last two years.  I am pleased to say that the many refining steps I took led to a much stronger publication. 

A lot rides on the proposal.  It shows the acquisition editor how clear you are about the scope of the book, how well you handle the written word and how well you can follow directions.  Actually, following directions is probably more important than your writing skills.  If the guidelines asks for no more than 2 pages, don't try to impress by giving them more.  A publisher is a partner. While there will be room for creativity and initiative on the part of the author, this partnership involves a whole army of editors, photographers, designers, printers, shippers and sales associates tied to deadlines and specifics of number of pages, number of images, etc.  The proposal tells the editor that you can read the fine print and provide what is needed.

If you are lucky enough to know someone who has written for one of your selected publishers, then this would be the time to place a call or send off a polite e-mail asking for a contact at the company.  I was fortunate to have Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch  provide me with contact information to the aquisiton editor of Lark Press and gave me permission to use her name.   My proposal would have eventually come into the editor's hands, but that personal touch got an immediate reply.

In the next post, I'll let you know what happened! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I personally never intended to write a book. I knew that the way I was working with handmade paper as an encaustic support was unique, but I was more intent in getting my work in traditional galleries than in getting my process of working with wax and paper out to other artists. A few years ago, I was invited to demonstrate at the International Encaustic Conference. I accepted the invitation because I was interested in getting back into teaching and planned to expand my teaching venues beyond Texas. It became clear to me very soon that in order to reach a wider audience for both my work and my technique, I would need to publish.

Writing a book is a year-long+ process, so I didn't make the choice lightly. I had to weigh the opportunities that a published book would provide against the time it would take me away from the studio. My husband and I had several discussions about this committment because it would also put house projects on hold. Charlie also knew that he would have to pick up some of my household duties at deadline crunch time. (Never once did money come in the picture. I'll talk more about the financial aspect of publishing in a future post concerning whether to submit to a commercial publisher or to self publish.) In the end, we decided that the benefits outweighted the difficulties especially at where I was in my career.

The first step, I believe, is to sit down with a pencil and paper and examine these questions:
  • Why do I want to be published? What benefits will that bring to my career? (The more you are known, the more e-mails there are to answer, the more charities ask for your donated work, the more there is to the business of keeping up with blogs, newsletters, etc. Count on spending more time away from the studio.)
  • If I needed to spend a year outside my studio, how would that effect my work and my career as an artist? (I multiplied the amount of hours I thought it would take to write a book and then subtracted those hours from the studio time and realized that my art production would be cut in half! In fairness to my local gallery, I had to withdraw.)
  • Make a list of all of your weekly responsibilities with home and family. Which ones can you let go? (Do you need to play bridge twice a month?) Which ones can you hire out (Is this the time to engage a house cleaner?) Which ones can be delegated to other members of the family? (If your oldest could take over lawn care in exchange for more privileges, how much time would you now have?)
  • What skills do I have to write a book? (You will need a high level of organization, a commitment to deadlines, self-motivation and good interpersonal skills.)
  • Who would be my audience and what is unique about what I would be sharing? (Remember that you will need to sell 10,000 or so books. Even if you get a publisher to accept your book, the author plays a big role in getting books sold.)
These questions are not meant to scare anyone serious about getting their technique out there. Like any other business endeavor, it is important to look seriously and consult liberally before setting on a path that will take you life and your work in new directions. If, you have done your homework and have decided that YES, I do have something unique to offer. I do have a audience for my book. And, most importantly, writing a book would be a big PLUS for my art career, than you are ready for STEP TWO.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When it is on Amazon, it is Official!

Study 1
I'm calling this Study 1, because I don't have access
to the titles of the works in the book.  This will be
given away in a drawing open to the first 50 people who
purchase the presale book on Amazon.

Wax + Paper, Techniques for Combining Handmade Paper and Encaustic Paint (whew! that's a mouthful) has appeared on Amazon for presale.  Amazon  The presale price is almost a third off of the retail price!  What a deal.  Attending a lunch with the sales team of North Light in Cincinnati last month, I learned a lot about how getting a book to market works.  The big retailers will order books based on the number of presale orders.  Wouldn't it be fun to sell out BEFORE the book actually became available?

I like a challenge so I am setting up an incentive program, beginning NOW. The first great incentive is the Amazon presale price ($8.50 off the retail price).  You will notice, though, that the cover image is not yet available on their website.  So, one of my incentives will be the "great reveal."  For the first 50 people who pre-order the book from Amazon, and send me a copy of the receipt by email ( I will give you a sneak peak at the cover.  Your name will also be entered in a drawing for some of the art works from the book that I will be giving away.  I plan to add new incentives until the Spring, so keep posted.

The experience of writing a book has been fun and exciting...and yes, a lot of work.  I've had several requests from aspiring authors who want more information about the process of getting an idea to market.  I will be using this blog in two ways: to talk about my experience and provide relevant information for someone who might also want to get published, and to give a sneak preview of some of the techniques from the book.

Thanks for following!  I welcome your comments and look forward to distributing all of the art created for the book to lucky winners throughout the world.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Big Thursday!

Things are a bit hectic here in San Antonio! I'm in the midst of packing for the conference and getting all of my demonstration materials in order. I'll be off tomorrow for a new adventure at the very tip of the US on the least, to a Texan it looks like the very tip of the world. I also have a major solo show opening at Southwest School of Art on Thursday, as well. SSA schedules their openings of all three galleries on the same day, and unfortunately, I'll have to miss the opening tomorrow. My show, Uncommon Elements, is at the Ursuline campus. I have an artist's talk and demonstration on June 18 at 2:00. The show runs June 2, 2011-August 15, 2011. If you are in the area, stop by to see this new body of work.

The above piece, Balloons and Butterflies 20"X 30", is one of the larger works in the series. All of this series is on dimensional and embossed handmade paper supports and incorporates the uncommon elements of roofing tar, resin, beeswax, torch and oil. The show came out of a challenge by Patricia Seggebruch to explore new materials on my paper supports. I used the Luminaria grant in 2010 to begin the work and finished the series for this show. As soon as I get back from the conference, I will get the images on the website.

I am going to try to blog from the conference this year, my first foray into "on the spot reporting". I'll see how the technical aspects of taking photos and uploading them will work. So...until tomorrow....

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Irony of Tornados

I have been describing these last two weeks of my life as "being caught up in a tornado." It has been filled with creating new work for a solo show that opens at Southwest School of Art next week, writing chapters for the upcoming book and traveling to Dallas to pick up a show that closed at the Encaustic Center. At the same time...would you belive...we are in the process of some home rennovation. And then I watched the news.
The utter devestation created by the tornados that have been hitting in the mid-west this week has brought me to a new reality. While I have been speaking of the movement and excitement of a tornadic storm, the grim reality of the thing is something quite different. I have been using the metaphor as I am creating, producing and emassing. Those who have experienced a tornado can only describe it in terms of loss.I'm not yet sure of what this means for me, but I believe this new reality will have an effect on my work. There is something there for me about "quality" instead of quantity...something about "appreciating" rather than wanting....something about enough. What if all that you or I have created as a body of work, including the images we have on discs, are all gone in a moment? Would that allow more freedom to start over in a new direction? How do we carry our own history forward without historical data?

I'd be interested in your answers to these questions and your personal reflections on the tragedy experienced by our mid-Western brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Encausticamp Preview!

It's just over 100 days until the first ever ENCAUSTICAMP! If you haven't signed up yet, do so soon to reserve your space. To celebrate, the instructors decided to give you a preview of what you will learn and experience. We are each posting a tantalizing hint of what is to come and ask that you pass it along to all of your friends and followers who might be interested in mixed media and encaustic painting.

All Roads Lead to Forever

18"X18" Framed


Tar, Torch, Abaca, Cotton, Oil

EncaustiCamp Preview: Michelle Belto When I got married, I didn't know the first thing about cooking. Unforunately, my new husband like to eat...and eat often! Thinking that it would be something easy, he informed me that his favorite side dish was mashed potatoes and that "it would go with everything." What he didn't realize was that even the lowely mashed potato was beyond my level of expertise. I remember calling up my mom with a raw potato in my hand and asking the question: "How do you get from here to there?" I often get asked that question about my work. "How did you get there?" For those who will be attending the first ever EncaustiCamp just outside of Salem, Oregon, this summer, you will there yourself! Beating cotton and rag into a giant slushy pulp and then reforming it into something wonderful is addicting. What's more, making your own supports will open the door to endless new ways to explore mixed media work, sculpture and, of course, encaustic painting.

Here is a visual overview of what you will learn when you take my camp class:

Participants will first learn how to make pulp from recycled materials. (1)Using pulp in a pour mold instead of an ordinary mold and deckle will allow us to add cool things like glitter, cut up comics or embed threads and botanicals into the paper. Our form, created from foam core or other materials will be embedded into the pulp. This will make the support stable enough to take the wax. (2) The next step is to remove the water by pressing. One of my students is pressing and smiling! It's fun! (3) The final step is to allow the form to dry..... and voila! You have just created your one-of-a-kind support.

Join me, five other instructors and six passionate assistants this summer at EncaustiCamp 2011, three days and four nights of all things beeswaxy and beautiful, July 13-17, 2011.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Workshops, Shows and Contracts

This has been a busy couple of weeks. My heavy workshop schedule is beginning with filled classes. I'll be at the Southwest School of Art this weekend for an Introduction to Encaustic class. I love these beginning classes because at the end, the encaustic community will have twelve new practictioners!

My first Pulp to Painting Workshop of the season will be near Dallas in Richardson at the Encaustic Center. The workshop is almost full, so if you were planning to attend, now is the time to register. I am really looking forward to getting to know some of the members in our sister chapter of IEA. The above work is from a new series Conversations in Paper and Wax that will be shown April 15-May 28 at the Encaustic Center. The opening will be a part of the workshop.

I wrote a few blogs ago about Corina, a Northeast artist, who began raising funds to attend the Dallas workshop. I got the news today that she has raised enough funds to attend the workshop and will be winding her way to Dallas this April. Congratulations, Corina! I look forward to meeting you. I am donating a piece of art from Grandma's Sewing Box for a lucky contributor.

The North Light contract has been signed and will be on its way back to Ohio today. Reading it is an education in itself. Looking at the imposing list of deadlines--front and center of the first page--makes the whole experience very real! I've learned about advances and percentages and artist/publisher responsibilities all in leagal-eze that is surprisingly readable. North Light works primarily with artists and takes that into acount. I am looking forward to the experience...that my editor assures me "is fun!" My intention is to share this experience through the blog so that others can get a feel for the process.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Joining the North Light Community!

Well it is official! The book proposal has passed the approval committee, dates are being scheduled for the week long photo shoot in Cincinnati, sample art is on the drawing board and life is in high gear! What a Spring! Two solo shows, teaching workshops in Dallas, Kerrville and Southwest School of Art as additions to an already full schedule. No more solitaire for me.
This is one of the sample images I sent to the committee with the proposal. I wrapped a foam core support with wet hand made paper and let it dry overnight. I used a stamp with burnt umber light fast ink to stamp the dry paper, screened on roofing tar and gave it a little kiss with a torch. The piece was painted with medium to finish. Making and using hand made paper as a support for encaustic work is the subject of the upcoming book.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Grandma's Sewing Box Series

In my growing up, I was surrounded by all things textile. My grandma was a seamstress who earned her living through creating perfect cloth cases for musical instruments or camping gear or widgets. My aunt, Sophie, made Shirley Temple dresses for me and my sisters with intricate details of buttons and lace. My great aunt, Cecilia, quilted downy spreads with tiny, even stitches and gave them to Church auctions where they fetched top prices. While I had the best teachers in the world, I never had the patience to ply needle and thread. I didn't inherit their genes, it seems, but I did inherit my grandma's sewing box.

This body of work, from which my donation to Corina ( comes from, is an homage to the art of my grandmother and aunts and all of the creative women in our history who didn't have the luxury to paint or sculpt. They used the ordinary and necessary skills of farm life, raising these tasks to a fine art.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Interesting Connections

I have never been a fan of social media until I signed up for a daily report on the number of folks who come to my website. I am amazed! I have been making art, putting it on the website (my galleries like that), but I never really thought anyone looked at the site. That is how I came across Corina S. Alvarezdelugo. My report so thoughtfully (thank you, www.fineartstudiosonline.) provided a link to where some of those viewers came from. It seems that Corina wants to come to one of my workshops, From Pulp to Painting, Exploring Paper and Wax, but the one closest to her, probably the three day workshop through the International Encaustic Conference, ( happens on the day of her son's graduation. On her blog Corina was made an appeal to her followers to help with that cause.
That's when I think I got it! Social media is about connections. Here was someone wanting to come to one of my workshops and was asking for help. So, I will. Along with what Corina is offering to those who donate to her cause, I am adding one of my works from the series Grandma's Sewing Box. The show was designed for the Austin International Airport invitational in 2009 and was created to honor the women in my grandmother's family who lived off the work of their hands. More on that story tomorrow. So, if you feel inclined, go to Corina's blog, make a donation and Fretts and Fasteners (above) could be yours! It retails for a little more than the price of the workshop so it is worth helping out my new best friend. You go girl! See you at the Encaustic Center ( in April.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Waxing Wonderful!

It's been a long time since I was on the other side of the workshop table. This weekend I and twelve of my new best friends took a workshop from Patricia Seggebruch. We burned, rusted, plastered and waxed to our heart content in a wonderful three days of what she likes to call, "encaustic indulgence." (Trish is the left of Kathy Maple.) This workshop followed last year's class with new techniques and products. We all went home with lots of art and "art starts", shared moments and new friends.
Trish and I will be waxing eloquent again this summer at the first ENCAUSTICAMP. This is the real indulgence! Three days of camp experience--just like the young old days--complete with three full days of working with outstanding national artists who use wax in their work. The best part of the camp is that it is all-inclusive, meaning that you don't have to worry about anything except getting there and making art! Lodging, workshops, food and fun are in the price of the camp. It's the only thing of its kind. Join us for a history-making adventure.

I discovered a few things about being on the other side of the teaching table. I had forgotten how much energy it takes to absorb new information and to put those techniques into practice. I am going to re-think the schedule for my workshops and perhaps edit the number of techniques I demo per day. Hmmm.....if you have thoughts--especially if you have taken my jam-packed workshops, I'd be happy to listen....

There is an ongoing debate among my artist friends about whether I should add anything--including wax to the cast paper. I believe that wax has a place in the process. I used the time in the workshop to explore using only an area of the paper to enhance with wax. I wanted to see the results before I put paint to paper in two larger works. For the most part, I was pleased. I did learn quickly that the working surface has to be extremely clean and that I have to protect the white portion of the paper. I don't usually do figerative work, but this little man seemed to want to be born. Thanks to Ann Marlar's gift of porcupine quills and Laura Beehler's instructions on Lutrador, he was.
I also wanted to explore using only glazes, oil sticks and pastels to color the work. I had less success here, partly because I didn't bring the materials I needed. I have some pan pastels coming in soon. I'm thinking that the soft pastels will work much better to apply soft color. I used mostly oil sticks and found that the work stayed more tacky to the touch than I wanted. I'll wait to see how it sets up. If any of you have more information to share about oil sticks and tack, I'd love to hear it. These two works are fairly small (10"X10") studies. Unless you are an artist, people don't understand how many "studies" have to be made before the "real art" is ready to be created.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Several years ago I felt called to buy The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron,http://http// but when I began to work with it, the timing didn't feel right, so I put it on my bookshelf. Instead, I purchased Artmaking as a Spiritual Journey by Nancy Azara http://http// and loved that book. Her journey had some parallel to mine. Although I had been deeply involved for most of my life in spiritual practices and a religious environment, the last few years had been dry ones for me. I'd like to think it was the "dark night of the soul" that the mystics talk about, but I think it had much more to do with letting myself get caught up with the raging political debate and becoming overwhelmed by world issues, tragedies and disasters.

When I began Nancy's book, I made a commitment to take in less media, spend fewer hours in front of the tv, and refrain from engaging my neighbors in political debate. The diet worked. I lost some baggage I had been carrying around.

This past week I went to the bookshelf to look for Nancy's book, since I will be taking a workshop from her at the encaustic conference this summer. I couldn't find her book, but did see The Artist's Way. And, as Hildegard of Bingen (my spiritual mentor) would say: "There are no accidents. All is ordained in God for good. So, this too." The book is exactly what I need right now. If you haven't yet picked up either of these books, I encourage you to do so for your own "art's" sake.

The morning pages (exercise from the book) has brought me back to my 30 year old practice --dormant for the last ten years-- of journaling. The "date with your inner artist" has put a new zest in my week. But, mostly, I am becoming more deeply committed to making art as a way of life.

If anyone out there is also working through the twelve weeks of the Artist's Way and would like to connect, I'd be delighted to form an "online" group to be accountable to.

But, this weekend, alas! is about getting to the bottom of a huge paper pile and getting things in order for taxes! Next week in the studio....

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Inspired by the delightful instructors of the upcoming encausticamp, I am beginning my first blog! As children, we never went camping; I never got a taste for "roughing it." So, when Trish Seggebruch invited me to teach at the first camp dedicated to "all things encaustic, " I had to think about it. Then...I got a look at the camp! We aren't roughing it! In fact, meals are going to be catered, days are going to be spent in exciting workshops taught by leading encaustic and mixed media artists from around the country...and there is still time for camp kinds of experiences, like pajama party art sharing and late night camp shopping for art "stuff".

This year I am teaching at several locations around the country, but this one near the coast of Oregon has me really excited. If you have ever spent July in San Antonio, you will know what I mean! I think I am going to meet my newest 150 best friends!

I invite all of you to check out the camp information at to plan your vacation with all of us. What could be better than three days of encaustic "indulgence" as Trish likes to say...Full day workshops...and your own 150 or so new best friends.

(Images above are works by Bridget Gurezon Mills http:// and Crystal Neubauer) http:// )