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Chapter 2: Layers of Life

Lesson 3:

Catching light with texture

We don't always realize how many layers add up to the lives we live, both outside us and within us. Layer upon layer of emotions, stories, wisdom, fear, desire, memories, love, light and shadow. The layers of your life are unique to you. They give your life its unique "feel", its texture.

Texture builds up and contrasts. It plays with light, reflects it back so that we can "feel" things just by looking at them. Some textures we are mysteriously attracted to, others we just cannot stand! They conjure up all sorts of emotions and memories... They give life, and art, a rich, tactile quality.

Today we pay attention to these layers and textures in our lives. How do they look, what do they feel like?

Inspiration warm-ups

Photo explorations: your textured life

Let's go on a scavenger hunt and look for the layers of our life!

Start with your home. It probably has a lot to tell you about your "personal textures": take a look around you, at your furniture and furnishings, your clothes, your accessories... Open your wardrobe and look at all the layers you like to wear: look at all the different fabrics, patterns... What materials are they made of? What is their color palette? How do they feel?

 Look for textured layers in your wardrobe!

Look for textured layers in your wardrobe!


Then take your camera for a walk and snap pictures of all the textures that attract your eye. It could be leaves, pebbles, buildings, the sky... Don't think too much and just follow your intuition. Again, notice how they feel, what you like about them, what colors they are... Remember to take notes about all your discoveries, and keep them at the ready in your creative space!

Look around you...

...and look at your feet!

You are a fountain of the sun’s light. I am a willow shadow on the ground. You make my raggedness silky.
— Rumi

Journal explorations: the touch of words

When I was in middle-school, I started this wonderful practice of listing my favorite words. Soon enough, they led me to writing poems, which became a favorite creative outlet in those uncertain teenage years when I was wondering who I really was. It's a very easy and beautiful practice that I hope will inspire you...

There are so many beautiful words to describe all the ways that life, and light, "feel"...

1. List your favorite "texture" words:

They can be adjectives (for instance "rugged", "smooth", "silky"...)
Or nouns (I like "rust", "bark", "feather"...).
Pay attention to the way they feel as you say them out loud. What images do they conjure up?
What are your top 2 favorites? Do they evoke similar textures or do they contrast with each other? (this is a really great starting point to combine textures in your art!)

2. Do the same exercise with words that evoke light!

3. Compare your two lists, and your favorites in each list. Go back to the photos you've taken and see if you can find these qualities of texture and light in what attracted your eye during your outing... Make sure to keep your lists in your creative space too, and keep adding to them whenever you fall in love with a new word!
PHOSPHORESCENCE. Now there’s a word to lift your hat to... to find that phosphorescence, that light within, that’s the genius behind poetry.
— Emily Dickinson

Pinterest inspiration quest

Create a Pinterest board for each of your 2 favorite "texture" words and for each of your 2 favorite "light" words. Start filling them with images you really find beautiful (and pretty soon the magic of Pinterest will deliver some more into your feed!). As a starting point, visit the following "texture" board on our Pinterest page and get inspired! I've also created some boards for the textured materials we are working with in this chapter:

Main Project

"Earth delights"

Mini plaster and wax series

Underneath our feet, the earth is made of countless hidden layers that our ancestors have walked upon before us. And even deeper lay many more layers that no-one has ever seen. Then, a heart of fire and gold. Isn't it just amazing?

And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
— Khalil Gibran

I absolutely love to work with plaster, and one of the main reasons is that it is a pure material extracted from the womb of Mother Earth. It makes me feel deeply connected to nature, even more so when combined with wax.

In this project we are going to create highly textured artworks with a gorgeous tactile quality! We are going to work almost only with natural materials:

  • Plaster gauze, which is made of cotton fabric and plaster of Paris
  • Encaustic medium, made from beeswax and tree sap (damar resin)
  • Paper made from wood and other vegetal fibers
  • Fabric made from natural fibers: cotton, linen etc.
  • Oil paint or oil pastel made from vegetal oil and raw umber natural pigment
  • Even our paintbrushes are natural bristle brushes!
Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.
— William Wordsworth

What you will learn along the way:

  • We will make our own substrates with burlap and plaster gauze.
  • We will create a minimalist project to let the beauty of luminous natural materials shine through.
  • We will make a simple encaustic collage with paper, fiber and personal imagery.
  • We will work in a series to become more comfortable working with wax. We will also balance unity and variety between the pieces.
  • We will weave a "story" between the pieces with poetic cut-out words.

What you will need:


  • Burlap or other coarse canvas
  • Plaster gauze
  • A container with water
  • A non-absorbent surface to protect your table (plastic place-mat, wax paper, place-mat...)
  • Scissors (do not use your best pair!)
  • Light steel wire
  • Pliers to cut and bend the wire
  • White gesso or paint


* See the Encaustic Set-up page *

  • Your Encaustic supplies and tools
  • Printed images of your choice
  • Paper scraps in neutral tones
  • Fabric scraps
  • Favorite cut-out words from book
  • Raw Umber oil pastel or oil paint
  • Light-colored oil pastel of your choice (optional)
  • Vegetal oil (sunflower...) and soft rag

NB: Remember to check out the Encaustic Set-up page!


Step 1: Creating plaster gauze substrates

Half the beauty of this project lies in these simple and luminous plaster substrates... and they're so easy to make!

Step 2: composing the series

We choose the placement of a few simple elements to prepare our collage pieces.

Step 3: Wax collage

Time to play with wax!

Step 4: Finishing touches

The fun and meaningful touches that make all the difference...

I hope this project makes you fall in love with wax!

Remember that encaustic takes practice and that you will find your own way of working with it. You can create as many pieces as you like to practice and hone your skills, and the bonus is that you'll end up with a whole body of work! That's actually how I started encaustic: I prepared 9 substrates and committed to creating 9 pieces (you can check out this series of work called "Ostara", with a short video, on my blog HERE).

As the moon burns, cutting the black curtain of nightfall open
It drips its wax, down like shooting stars through the night sky
Upon Earth, where a child catches it and cups the small firefly in her tiny hands.
— Rachel

I can't wait to see and "feel" the art you create!

Please share your questions and creations below in the comments and/or in our Circle of Light Facebook group!

You can also share images of your creative process and the art you create in this class on Instagram with the hashtag #layersoflightart!

Diving deeper

Light-Bearer interviews

Read this week's Light-Bearer interviews featuring mixed media artists Petra Hrziwnatzki and Roxanne Evans Stout. They both love to play with texture and natural materials: learn about what inspires them!

Petra Hrziwnatzki

Artist, mother, teacher and soulful inspirer... Read the interview HERE

 © Petra Hrziwnatzki

© Petra Hrziwnatzki

Roxanne Evans Stout

Collage artist, teacher and nature-lover... Read the interview HERE

 © Roxanne Evans Stout

© Roxanne Evans Stout

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