I fell in love with encaustic in the fall of 2009. I was visiting a gallery in New Bedford, MA, and saw two gorgeous black and white photos embedded in clear encaustic wax. The wax gave them an ethereal, vintage feel. I found the pieces appealing because because I am always looking for new and interesting ways to use my photographs to create completely different works of art. Using wax to turn a two-dimensional photograph into a more tactile and sculptural object was a revelation to me.
Shortly after my encounter with encaustic in New Bedford, I was taking both drawing and printmaking courses. The printmaking instructor brought in an electric skillet and melted some encaustic medium and encouraged us to put the medium over our prints. I tried it and loved it! At about the same time, my drawing instructor, Felicia Touhey, invited me to participate in one of her encaustic workshops. I did -– and I've been working with encaustic ever since.
Working in encaustic can be quite challenging and extremely versatile. Encaustic paintings are made up of many layers that create a rich, textural surface and a wonderful sense of depth. The wax can be built up, scraped down, gouged, cut, melted away – just about anything the artist can think of. Adding non-wax materials such as graphite, charcoal, or colored pencil drawings, found objects, monotypes, collage materials, and transfer techniques means there is no limit to the possibilities. Encaustic is forgiving of mistakes as well.
As I paint with and manipulate the wax, my vision for the finished piece constantly changes. I love the elements of uncertainty and surprise that come with working in encaustic.
Painting with melted beeswax is an ancient medium, but the tools are modern. The basic combination of beeswax with resin and pigments has remained unchanged for centuries. For me, there is a real sense of a shared connection with the past in an encaustic painting. Now artists use electric tools to melt and move the wax.
For more on the history of encaustic, check out my Encaustic 101 page.