Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Crayola Crayon Encaustic Art

This is the one project guaranteed to get my girlies excited again about their old, broken crayons! We've melted and remolded crayons so often that that's not really new anymore, and they both know that if they wheedle enough I'll hand them a brand-new box of crayons for their art activities, so you might guess that our tub of old crayons is a large tub, indeed.

Encaustic art is the art of dripping wax onto canvas. In other words--it uses up crayons! If your canvas is sturdy, if your work area is covered, if your hair isn't hanging in your face and your sleeves aren't drooping over your hands, if your crayons are long-ish and so is your candle, and if your children can follow simple instructions, then seriously, there is no reason on this earth not to hand the kiddos a lit candle and let them go to town.

First, you'll need to unwrap yourselves a goodly number of Crayola crayons:
Crayola 64 Ct CrayonsI'm recommending Crayola crayons not because they pay me to (I wish), but instead because I know that this project works with Crayola crayons, because that's what we use. Wax will catch fire at a certain temperature, and while I am certain, from personal experience, that you can hold a Crayola crayon to a lit candle and it will not catch on fire, I am not prepared to make the same claim about that three-pack of crayons that your kid scored at the steakhouse last night.

Unwrap a large number of crayons, because encaustic wax art uses them up quickly, and it's a drag to stop in the middle of your work and have to unwrap more crayons. Also, a shortage could tempt you to continue using your crayons even as they're growing too short to be used safely, and that would be a mistake.

Lay a canvas on your work table, and make sure that your child is at a comfortable height over the work table. Establish to your own level of comfort that your child will obey your instructions, will work calmly, will stop working if told to do so, and will not jerk away if you lay a guiding hand on her. If you're not sure that this will be the case, I'd suggest that you save encaustic art for another time. Go melt and remold your crayons instead!

Otherwise, tie your child's hair back, put her in short sleeves, and off you go!

Have your child comfortably hold a crayon in her dominant hand, keeping her hand at the very end of the crayon. Light a candle, and give it to the child to hold in her non-dominant hand. Your child should hold the candle and the crayon over her canvas and, keeping the candle and crayon either level or pointed slightly up (not down), should touch them together. The crayon will begin to melt and drip wax onto the canvas, and your child can begin to move the candle and crayon together to create her art:
Supervise to make sure that your child is touching the candle and crayon tip-to-tip, and that the candle is not pointed down (which would put the flame close to your child's fingers), or that the candle and crayon aren't pointed sharply up (which would cause the wax to drip down them onto your child's fingers). If you see your child beginning to do these things, then correct her in a calm voice, or by gently guiding her hands with yours. Don't shout or do anything to startle your child, and end the activity if she begins to get goofy with the materials.

Your child can switch colors whenever she chooses, to add to her artwork:
The more decorated the canvas is, the easier it is to appreciate the beauty of the dropped wax:
Notice how long the crayon is here:

You don't want to let the crayon get too short, or the child's fingers will get too close to the flame.

Sydney is four, and so I hung out at her elbow for the entire two hours that she worked, intently focused on her art. Willow, however, is six, and has excellent form:

 I didn't tell the girls that the majority of encaustic art is really about manipulating that wax once it's on the canvas, but Will nevertheless did some experimentation:
 After a while, we ran out of my cheap-o candles (must remember to add them to the shopping list!), and since the girls were enjoying themselves so heartily, I sighed a what-the-hell sigh and brought out the much nicer beeswax candles for them to use:

 Willow fell in love with the sweet scent of the beeswax candles and covered canvas after canvas only in beeswax candle drippings, calling them her "Smell Paintings":
 And so behold! Encaustic art in all its glory:
It's a little over-exposed because I hate my scanner, but you get the idea. Stay tuned, for I am mounting an exhibition of encaustic art canvases on the wall directly above the stereo cabinet--you'll want to come to the opening reception, I'm sure.


Tina said...

This looks really fun. We bought a bunch of canvases for my daughter for her 5th b-day (they where buy one, get one free, even for the multi-packs!). So far all we have done is paint on them, but I think we might give this a try this week.

Thanks for another inspiring idea!

Miranda Jacobs said...

I was wondering if you had any plans for more baby bags? We have a 6 week old, and he really loves the feeling of having his legs tucked under him.. and we love super easy diaper changes. ;) For this time of year where we are in NY, the bags and a pair of socks are perfect.. but all the bags we have are lame-o store bought ones. I'm not really friends with my sewing machine yet, so we'd love to buy some from you- even paying in advance if need be.

julie said...

Heck yeah, lady! Email me at jufinn at indiana dot edu, and you can tell me what kind of T-shirt you're into. I think a baby in a baby bag is just about the cutest thing that there is, with those little frog-legs all tucked up. Sigh...

We got our canvasses on huge sale, too! We ripped through them for this project, though, and I discovered that mat board cut down to size also works pretty well. I'm def going to buy more canvasses, though.

Heather@Cultivated Lives said...

wow, wow, wow! My boys would LOVE this. I'll have to give it a try when my almost 3 year old is napping because he and fire would NOT be a good combination and I don't think I could handle 3 kids doing this at the same time.

Thanks for the wonderful idea!

Camille said...

Very cool. I've never seen this before! :) Stopping by from Heather's place. Lovely to *meet* you.

Many blessings,

rachelle | tinkerlab said...

How awesome is this!! I love how you gave into the moment and turned your good candles over to the spirit of the project. I have those moments with my daughter all the time, and simply acknowledge that I buy wonderful things to be used and appreciated. Can't wait to try this.

Regina @ Chalk In My Pocket said...

Gorgeous. Can't wait to try this...I have a three year old and might wind up holding the candle, but a definite must-try for us!

Anonymous said...

Ha,that's great!I happened upon this site after searching "Crayola Encaustic Art" (because crayons are cheaper than buying "official" wax for painting)...I love your sense of humor & spirit :)

Jamie @ hands on : as we grow said...

This is awesome - I love that you let your kids 'play' with fire - a lot can be learned about it when they're so hands on with it - and the result of the crayon drippings are so pretty!

"Mrs. Chris" said...

Finally an idea in which my parents and tykes can work together! We also did this on votive candles..I was also thinking of dripping on pre-cut, stretched fabric, heart-shaped wood, or splashing thinned paint on pastel crayon drippings to create a resist effect.
I've been holding a 2-4 yr.-old class with mommys or guardians. We're trying to do many crayon experiments!

Anonymous said...

I have done something simular to this but i take the crayans and glue them on one side the you take a hair dryer to the crayons and have the wax drip down the canvas then so the other side it is a really cool peice of art! :)

Mary Wright said...

I really appreciate that so many people are willing to spend extra time with their children; it can be so rewarding! In raising my children, I tried to do the same thing and as a result, my adult children have many fond memories of those times.
I do have some concerns, however, with the materials that you are using. I am an artist; a printmaker and mixed media artist. One of the many materials that I use is encaustic. The encaustic that artists work with is a combination of filtered beeswax, damar resin (not to be confused with damar varnish!) and pigments. Children’s crayons do not have the same chemical makeup. They are labeled nontoxic but I am fairly certain that the companies would not consider them nontoxic in another form. You are having children use them as they turn to a liquid or gas state. As an artist, it is important to research what you are working with.
I am concerned with the future health of those adorable children on your blog as they are still developing and have more delicate systems than an adult. Artists painting with encaustic (and with many other media) use special precautions. Proper ventilation is necessary – the air must be pulled away from the face and vented out, with a fresh air supply to replace in case the wax releases any toxins/irritants. Encaustic Wax can give off bad fumes at high temperatures, and at the very least miniscule particles of the wax may be let off into the air which may cause anyone with asthmatic conditions to have problems. Our equipment has temperature gauges, which we watch very carefully. Fire extinguishers are a necessary equipment in our studios as we do work with heating elements and flame. Gloves are worn by those artists using pigments and we are very careful to wash our hands and keep food and beverages away from the studio area. We wear aprons or old clothes as invariably splashes happen! One may be engrossed in their work as these children seem to be – and could flinch as someone stepped into the room. By my own experience I have seen in an instant, how the incredibly hot wax can burn the skin. I am not sure that by posting the child with the bare chest, you are setting a good example because when hot wax hits the skin it burns even as you try brushing it away… Often times the long term effects of substances is not known but is found out at a much later date.
So, just a few cautions, but I applaud all of you in being active in your children’s lives. There are good sources available for encaustic information probably close to you (check with your local art associations) and much information available from reputable sources on line (R&F Handmade Paints www.rfpaints.com is one example. They carry encaustic supplies and have a special forum for any questions that you may have. The International Encaustic Association www.international-encaustic-artists.org is an organization that you could connect with as well. They are artists of various levels and for the most part, would welcome questions. Feel free to contact me with any questions. My name should take you to my website. Please be safe with those possible future Rembrandts and Picassos!

Positivity Project said...

works just as well with a hair dryer btw for those afraid of fire.