Claire Cundiff uses wax, pastel and oil pencil encaustics on slate, bringing them to life by using the unique properties of the surface stone on which she draws. To see more of her amazing work, please visit her website.
There is something about stone – slate in particular – that makes my heart sing.
When I moved into my milking parlor studio a year ago, I had been working with encaustics on wood substrates but had been feeling limited by my materials. I wanted to explore the dichotomy between the delicacy of a moment and the permanence of it set in stone. I began searching for a way to incorporate wax, pastel, oil pencil and my beloved slate in ways that spoke to how I perceived my world.
This has not been an easy process. I started with different types of rock to see how they would accept the wax medium; exploring how to incorporate the right feel of color with pastels and how best to seal the stone so they can be touched.
How to hang my work called for designing and making custom clips as I felt it essential to keep the edges exposed and live. A new substrate demanded a new subject matter and I found myself taking a complete departure from my previous work.
I began with a series of nudes – a harem of nudes – that showed me how the strength of the human form can be complemented by the perceived fragility of slate.
My first pieces were simplistic and almost iconic, but as I learned more about how to work in my chosen medium I found I was able to relax and play more with the texture and color of the stone.
As my confidence grew, I moved from 12″ x 12″ slate tiles to 16″ x 16″ tiles. From there, it seemed an easy step to move to gods and goddesses with their extraordinary beauty, both human and animal in form. I have always enjoyed mythology and the opportunity to offer my view of a chosen deity continues to delight me.
Bringing in elements of animalistic features with the human form seems a natural marriage on stone.
The textures and washes of color that come with each unique stone offer challenges and hidden rewards as I begin each piece. Rather than carving into the stone, forcing it to be what I wish it to become, I’ve found that searching for the images already present allows me a freedom not offered by other substrates.
I’ve also discovered that this medium shifts with changing light, bringing a transient life to each piece as shadows form and colors bloom.
Recently I acquired a new, larger format stone that will allow me to work on a much bigger scale. Paper thin and backed with fiberglass, this new natural stone veneer offers me a breathtaking 24″ x 48″ palette at a fraction of the weight. The inherent undulations suggest the stark and dramatic landscapes of the southwest and I will be dedicating myself to exploring this new venue in this year.
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