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In my Chickens and Eggs post of April 23, 2013, I included a few of the drawings that I have been doing of Light Sussex chickens, inspired in part by Gertie Chase, our adopted heritage chicken from the University of Alberta Farm Rare Poultry Conservancy Program. 

I named Gertie Chase the chicken after Gertie Chase the pioneer, who came to the Wapiti River area, Alberta, from Tonasket, Washington State in the 1920s. She speaks of chickens many times in her letters to her mother that are in the collection of the Provincial Archives of Alberta (#PR1973.0569). 

I received some interest from that post, and people asked me whether they could purchase the drawings. I didn’t want to part with the original drawings since I may be incorporating them into a larger exploration of early prairie women for my spring 2014 exhibit of encaustic paintings and mixed-media installations: The Sisterhood of Longing. 

However, I thought that I could create and sell prints of the drawings. I like the idea of hand-made prints, and since I had been incorporating an image transfer process into some of my encaustic paintings,  I used that idea to develop a process for creating beeswax transfer prints. I am limiting the edition to 20 each.  I might create some drawings and prints of other heritage chicken breeds too!

Here are the prints:

chicken prints

And here is the process that I use to create the beeswax transfer prints:

1. I prepare Arches 100% rag cold press 300 lb watercolour paper by brushing on several layers of melted encaustic wax consisting of beeswax mixed with a small amount of damar resin or microcrystalline wax for increased hardness. The final layer of melted beeswax is coloured with white pigment. Each layer is fused to the last layer with a heat gun.


Final coat of white pigmented beeswax being brushed onto the heavy weight watercolour paper. I melt the beeswax in catfood tins that are placed in a pan of boiling water. One way that my cats can contribute to my art!

2. My original ink and watercolour drawing is scanned and reversed and then printed out from my inkjet printer onto a waxy-surfaced paper so that the ink lays on the surface of the print-out. The inked image is then transferred face-down onto the smooth, warmed beeswax surface using a burnisher.


Reversed image on the left – prepared beeswax surface on the right


Peeling back the print-out after burnishing to reveal the image transferred onto the beeswax

3. The image is fixed with a fine spray of carnauba wax and the tape is removed to create clean edges on the beeswax print. I title, sign and number each print in the edition.

I really like the muted appearance that the beeswax transfer process produces. An added bonus is that the prints smell like honey for a long time!

The print pictured above is titled Chickens on the Clothesline. The story behind the drawing is that of Anne Pringle Hemstock who moved to Hannah Alberta from Ontario in 1918. Her letters have been digitized on Athabasca University’s Alberta Women’s Memory Project website.

In Anne’s letters to her Aunt Ella Mitchell McClelland of Chatsworth, Ontario, she speaks of her chickens many times. In her May 7, 1925 letter, she talks about trying to get her hens to set (to sit on a nest of eggs to hatch them):

I haven’t a single chicken out yet. My hens seem to be awfully giddy this spring. They simply won’t settle down to set. I tried two of them out last week but I got so disgusted with them that I finally hung them in sacks on the clothesline and told them if they couldn’t sit properly they could start laying again.

I also created beeswax transfer prints from my sketches of a crow and a magpie, two iconic prairie birds who also appear in the diaries and letters of prairie women.

If you are interested in owning one of my Chickens and Other Birds prints, you can contact me at info@marlenawyman.com

Posted by Marlena Wyman