Kiddie Encaustics

When I picked my kids up at school this afternoon, I hurried them to the car because I had an appointment. “Is it a doctor’s appointment?” they asked. No, it was an artist appointment. I love the way that sounds: artist appointment. I had an appointment with Stephanie Hargrave, an encaustic artist who admired my work at the Ballard ArtWalk; she asked if I would be interested in arranging a trade: my felt for her encaustics.

We spent half an hour looking at her work and learning about her process as she showed us around the small house where she has her studio. Much to my delight, the kids were very interested in her technique. When she offered to complete an in-progress piece featuring a chrysanthemum detail I’d admired, Owen thought she was offering to fire up the wok and finish it on the spot. He really liked her acetylene torch. I think she opened some wide doors in his brain. Artists…shoot…flames?

At home, we had a brainstorming session to come up with ideas for Lance’s birthday card; Sophie was distressed that she still hadn’t made anything for him the day before his big day (this is the girl who makes cards for her friends’ fathers, and has memorized the birthday of every child and half the parents in her second grade class). As I tried to console her with my own tales of artist’s block and the sudden lightning strike of inspiration, the bolt knocked me on the head. Could we make our own encaustics minus the acetylene torch and toxic fumes?


I pulled out our largest iron skillet, turned the heat to medium-low and pulled out a bag of broken crayon bits. Once the pan was warm enough, the crayons softened and the color flowed. It was like drawing with the saturation of markers and the smooth touch of oil pastels. Imagine coloring with butter. How fun! After trying my first drawing, I realized the skillet was making the job more difficult than necessary, and since our oven has recessed burners in the cooktop, I got rid of the pan and just put the paper right on the burner. Note: Sophie is resting her left hand on a coaster as a small concession to safety.


It wasn’t long before Lance came home from work to find the table covered in crayon wrappers, sketch pads, construction paper, and art! After watching for a few minutes, he couldn’t resist trying it himself. In true encaustics, artists lay down multiple layers of wax, sometimes etching the wax or overlaying prints between the layers. I decided to try my variation of that idea by layering different colors of crayon in the leaves.

I can’t tell you how great it feels to be making art with my family again! It has been too long.


8 Responses to “Kiddie Encaustics”

  1. 1 k8 Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 6:24 am

    This reminded me so much of a Jr High experience! We had an English teacher that gave us coloring assignments. It was known as the Jacquette Coloring Method (named after her, she really should have taught art!) Anyway we had a picture that was broken up into tiny sections labeled with different parts of speech. There was a color code to work with, like a paint by numbers.

    First you outlined each little section with the appropriate colored marker. Next you filled it in with a crayon color. And then covered it over with at least 2 coordinating colors. After that, you took your marker and ran over the crayon. Now dig out a tissue and rub, rub, rub. It creates a beautiful shine!

    While all our homework assignments looked like stained glass, it drove my mother insane staying up late helping me color!

  2. 2 Dawn Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 10:15 am

    This sounds like wonderful fun! I may have to try it, if I can find my crayons… 🙂

  3. 3 Josiane Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    How cool! (both the artist appointment, and the artists at work!)
    And happy birthday to Lance!

  4. 4 jackie Friday, February 1, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Too awesome! We have the old fashioned coiled burners,so I will have to try something else. hmmmmm. Thunking. Thinking….

  5. 5 jackie Friday, February 1, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    I just realized that I misspelled the first “thinking” so apparently I was thinking hard enough 😉

  6. 6 kayce Wednesday, February 6, 2008 at 12:41 am

    This is much easier and safer on a hot plate. I found one at the local goodwill. So much fun! Also, give her a pot holder to rest her hand on.

    This makes me want to pull the hot plate out now… if only I knew where I put it last!

  7. 7 Wendy Wednesday, February 6, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Oh, I love this idea. And luckily, we’ve got the same kind of stove. I’m such a wuss, I may start on the warming circle.

  8. 8 ellen kelley Wednesday, February 6, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Oh, here I am again, reading about such wonderful things that you and your family do. I did some such when I was in elementary school.

    What fun and so creative.

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