Training in Waxing and Waning

Encaustic painting can incorporate layers of wax and collage utilizing many other mediums (watercolor, cut paper, pastels, etc.), allowing for the juxtaposition of textures, colors with defined as well as a blurring of lines.

Encaustic painting can incorporate layers of wax and collage utilizing many other mediums (watercolor, cut paper, pastels, etc.), allowing for the juxtaposition of textures, colors with defined as well as a blurring of lines.

It’s been a great summer here in Tennessee despite the heat. As in year's past, I make a kind of pilgrimage to some sort of creative getaway; and it is often in the unlikely little patch of heaven found in notorious Gatlinburg: Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. If you’ve never been there, you should at least visit to see the various art galleries with world-renowned artists’ work alongside the work of budding artists and artists-in residence. The workshops at Arrowmont are by far some of the best offered in any arts and crafts’ schools. It’s a gift and an honour to be a part of them. My vacations there have become a ritual of sorts and the excitement leading up to them builds with each day beforehand and all the days there seem to slip away too fast. But that’s what great vacations typically do.

This year’s creative focus was with encaustics—a process of painting with pigmented wax. While I was vaguely familiar with encaustic painting after having a printmaking instructor provide a brief introduction to her methods, this year’s instruction (with the ever-talented Erin Anfinson) incorporated around 20 or so demos all about encaustics. It was a deep dive into a thought process incorporating collages of drawing, printmaking, photography—literally anything that has a porous surface with which the wax will adhere to.

Well, I’m totally smitten. The colors are vibrant and the depth achieved in the artwork can be several layers thick, allowing for simultaneous translucency and opacity depending on the varying combinations of the wax medium, pigments and collaged elements. There’s a slow buildup of wax and imagery created as well as a scraping away to create smooth surfaces with textured colors. It’s full of surprises and occasional happy accidents—the very reason I’ve historically been so drawn to printmaking.

The history of encaustic painting is rich. According to one manufacturer, Encaustikos:

Encaustic painting is one of the world’s oldest art forms! The earliest applications of encaustic wax paint was done by the artists of Ancient Greece — hence, where the Greek word “enkaustikos” meaning “to burn in”. Greek artists were using wax paint to adorn sculptures, murals, boats, and even architecture. They also used wax paint to highlight the features of the marble statues placed around the Acropolis. Greek art spread to Egypt during the Hellenistic period and with a large Greek population, it didn’t take the Egyptians long to adapt to the use of wax paint.... Despite being over 2000 years old, [some paintings] are still on display in museums today withstanding the test of time with minimal cracking and without having faded or darkened in color.
One of several experimental pieces I created in the encaustic workshop at Arrowmont,

One of several experimental pieces I created in the encaustic workshop at Arrowmont,

I don’t know that my work will have any staying power through history but the process was one I hope to visit again and again. The medium provides so many opportunities to explore and revise (unlike the more common oil, acrylic and watercolor painting processes) and the possibilities seem endless. What artist doesn’t embrace endless possibilities for their creativity?

Thank you to all my clients that make room for this time away every year despite looming deadlines while I embrace yet another skill that I love.