LEFT © ELIZABE TH MESSINA; RIGH T © LEAH MACDONALD
the trip, I went to Elizabeth’s studio in
Los Angeles and taught her my process.
Her images are so crisp, soft, strong and
graceful—mixed with wax, they were a
I teach two processes for my work: In
the first, I mount a photograph to a wood
panel with archival glue, and when the glue
has dried, sand the piece with sandpaper,
smooth out the edges and add whatever
designs, textures or marks that may enhance the piece. I melt bleached beeswax
in a pan at about 225 degrees so that it’s
liquid and hot. Then I pour the wax over
the photograph and let it cool. When it
cools, it’s translucent so that I can see my
image underneath. Then I use oil paint
and a Galkyd medium to paint the surface.
I can paint parts of the image, abstractly or
simply glaze the surface to tint, adding the
appearance of brushstrokes.
My other process is about paper; I truly
love paper (thick, thin, wax, dry and old
paper). Paper and wax are a vulnerable,
fragile combination without the substrate,
but maybe that is why it’s so beautiful. I use
gelatin silver paper or any organic inkjet
paper (like the Hahnemühle photo rag).
I brush the wax onto the paper; I can use
the brush to make a lot of texture or a little.
The wax is forgiving and generous, elegant
silky and translucent. It can be gentle or
rough depending on the needs of the art-
ist. Once wax is on a photo there are many
possibilities. Words can be inscribed, col-
ors can be added, and layers can be taken
away. The single most amazing part of the
process to me is the art of give and take, the
ability to add wax and paint, then take it off
and add again until the perfect or idealized
surface is achieved.
Beyond The Print
Each part of my life as an artist fuels
the other parts, and together they nourish my spirit. Most of all, I am inspired by
art, mixed media photography, and the
art of learning.
Currently, I use an old broken view
camera with light leaks and dry rot in the
bellows, and I develop my own film in
darkroom trays. I print in the darkroom
on gelatin silver paper. Recently I discovered that glossy fiber paper could crack if
you folded the emulsion, making whimsical fractures appear in the image. These
very organic and fragile moments of life
really excite me; the mixtures of materials like wax and silver, brushstrokes and
oils. Encaustic photography is the realm
beyond just the print; creating images
with depth and dimension, surface happenings and emotion.
Leah Macdonald is a commercial and fine art photographer who “dreams and sees in photographs.”
She teaches darkroom photography at The Philadelphia Art Institute where students shoot with
Holgas, 35mm, medium format and view camera,
develop their own negatives and print in the darkroom on fiber paper. She sells her work at Galerie-BMG in Woodstock, NY, and shows throughout the
U.S. She also makes custom books at Bliss Books.
You can find out more about Leah on her studio
blog, www.bliss-etc.com or her Web site www.Le-ahMacdonald.com.