Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Egg #15- Aztec inspired, acid-etched, painted and gilded goose egg from "50 years all cooped up, what's an egg to do?" collection

 I've always been fascinated Aztec architecture, art, sculpture, agriculture practices, and of course the practice of consuming chocolate. I am also interested in the dichotomy of a culture so seemingly advanced in such things yet have such dark and violent undercurrents as well. I started with some photo references to begin with, and went from there. This will be a multi-media egg, using the wax resist method to acid-etch away part of the shell to give it a "carved" feel. It will be given a faux stone finished to mimic the carved altar pieces, and of course, we can't forget to "gild" the lily by adding some Aztec gold.  Here are two of my photo references:

I decided use two of the circular stone designs on front and back of the goose egg.

 I started my original drawing and thought that I would wrap the two opposing serpents on either side of the circular stone altar piece. I planned for the tail sections to wrap around the other side of the second circular motif on the back
I used my egg lathe to snap down a grid and an equator line. I used my paper templates and looked to fit a 2" circle into a little more than 1/4 of the egg. I drew an inner circle 1/2" in from the outline. This is where I will draw the face. I drew another ring around the outer ring, about 1/2" again. I doubled up the bands in between so they would have a thick outline ring.
It is at this point where I decided on a design change (you know, sometimes that happens). After having a conversation with one of my other incredible egg peeps, I decided to wrap two heads facing upwards in the same direction on the same side of each triple circle. This allowed me to wrap the bottom tails up and around to the top, weaving underneath the opposing head and create the visual image of the serpent swallowing its own tail as it weaves under the opposing serpent's head. I thought that it worked as a visual metaphor for an ancient civilization swallowing itself up, and perhaps destroying itself from within...yeah, a little dark, but bear with me...
Here is a view of the top of the egg, and the heads of the serpents are diagonally opposing each other.
And you can see that one of the serpent's head is swallowing its own tail as it weaves under the head of the second serpent.
A pulled back view of the serpent head, and the neck and body bending around the triple circle.
Starting to draw the face in the center of the three circles. A little less detail than the stone reference, but must keep the design open, as it will be etched later, and I want a deep etch in some places.
Starting on some geometric designs in the two outer most circles. Keeping it simple, and not too fussy.
Finishing the serpent and it's over/under weave and placing a medallion at the bottom that connects the two serpent bodies together. I put a somewhat stylized Mariner's compass at the bottom and filled it in around the drain hole. Not only does it become part of the design, but because I am deeply acid etching, it will not affect the weakest part of the egg (the drain hole).
Now I am ready to wax over my design. Wherever I wax, the wax will resist the acid bath, and end up being the raised part of the design, hopefully resembling carving. I use a fine electric kitska to outline the design with.
I continue to outline the centerpiece. Some of the double lines will be filled in solid, for a thick line.
Now I start to fill in some of the double lines by using my medium kitska. I also start to wax thick lines in the very outer border. Here is a view of the bottom of the egg. You can see from here that I've filled in a large Mariner's compass or a 12-armed star. This will be raised after the egg has it's acid bath, but also protects the drain hole from becoming too fragile.
I continue to fill in large areas, and then switch kitskas again. I use an extra fine to add some lines within the last outer ring.
I start to wax the serpent heads, body, mouth and tails. I do a quick vinegar rinse to get rid of some of my pencil marks, rinse and let dry before continuing. I use my extra fine kitska and wax in horizontal tile lines within the serpent's body and up around it's head and all the way around to the tip of the tail. I then add vertical lines to delineate a staggered brick pattern.
All of the line work has been waxed, and I am ready to dip the egg in a weak solution of hydrochloric acid (Acid Magic brand). I dip the egg (wearing protective gloves, glasses, mask) and let the egg roll around for about a minute. I use a soft piece of Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, and gently wipe away some of the outer shell that has dissolved. I dunk it again for another minute, and take it out and check the depth of the etch. I decide to go another 2 minutes. Then, after wiping away more shell, I give a rinse with water and a little ivory soap to neutralize the acid. I pat dry and let the egg rest for about an hour (starting to write the blog as I am waiting...)
The egg was covered with a light coat of olive oil and set in a cold oven on an old cookies sheet lines with a paper carton and paper towels. I let the oven do the work, at 175 degrees F. In about 15 minutes, I was able to wipe the remaining wax off with toilet paper (softer than paper towels). I let cool then washed it with ivory dish detergent and a soft toothbrush to get out any oil or wax residue left in the nooks and crannies.

Now I am ready to paint the inner most circle with the warrior's face. I mix the Schminke tro-col water soluble powdered pigment (soft gold) with golden acrylic interference gold and bright gold and a little water to thin it down.
I carefully paint over the etched area, careful not to use too much paint and get it stuck in the nooks and crannies. I do this three times until I get the coverage I want.
Next, I mix Golden acrylic Titan buff, light burnt umber, asphaltum glaze and GAC100 additive (acrylic clear binder). This will be the color for the two outer rings.
I carefully paint the two outer rings, careful not to load the brush with too much paint, and scrub the color in so that it gets into those small spaces, but also gives light coverage. I add a little touch of black and iron oxide as I go, and blend in. I go over a couple more times until I get the desired darkness.
 Onto the snakes. I mix up a Holbein Acryla Gouache Turquoise and a touch of black and start brushing in on the snakes body. The raised lines catch and flood the compartments nicely, giving the look of stone mosaic with turquoise stone.
I paint the bottom and top spaces with black, and also hit the outer ring and snakes lips and eye rims with acrylic red iron oxide.
After everything is painted and dry, I will "age" the egg with burnt umber soft pastel. I scrape the pastel dust with a palette knife and pick it up with a stiff stencil brush and start swirling into the nooks and crannies of the egg. After I complete one side, the egg gets a light spray of workable pastel fixative so I can continue to handle the egg without getting fingerprints or dust transfer. I will do the same for the other side.
I drag the pastel over the tiles of the snake body too- like the dust of an ancient civilization...
Last thing is to give the gold face a burnt umber light watered-down glaze to tone down the gold. This thin wash catches in the nooks and crannies also, and pops out the raised part of the design. I will give the egg a spray with Golden's MSA hard solvent-based varnish in satin or matte... Wow! It took a while to get create, but here it is:

I hope you've enjoyed seeing this process from start to finish. It involved many steps, but well worth the patience to finish it. Thank you for coming along with me and this experimental, mutli-media egg!

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