The Process Behind my Encaustic Paintings

For the last few years I have expanded my creative world and started working with encaustic painting, which incorporates my photographic imagery. I started by working on a smaller scale and have begun working on larger pieces. I have shared a little about this journey along the way and I intend to expand as my experiences with this art form continue. Since many people are curious, I want to detail a bit about my process and what inspires me about working in this medium. 


My fine art incorporates the medium of encaustic, pigments, and embedded photographic imagery on birch panels. The encaustic medium is comprised of bees wax and resin and I apply it in many layers along with the other materials. Using a rigid support, each layer is fused together with a heat gun or torch so it combines with the layer before it. One of the many unique qualities of encaustic is the possibility of transparency between the layers, giving the viewer of the artwork a glimpse into the “history” of the artists markings, scrapings, painting, and other creative choices below the surface. You get to see, in effect, the process of the artist, which I love.


Encaustic painting has been around for many years and there are multiple ways to work with it. This is an incredibly versatile medium that is used differently by each artist. Some artists love to work in thick layers with lots of texture and some even use it sculpturally. The wax can be painted, dripped, brushed or poured in hot liquid form onto the piece. As the wax cools, it hardens but doesn’t need to dry. The material can be incised, scraped, melted and remelted, carved and more. I am very much drawn to creating a smooth surface that highlights the beautiful sheen of the wax after it is buffed. I sometimes choose to include texture, but my preference is that this texture is a meaningful compliment to the imagery and piece as a whole. My photographic image is printed and layered into the wax very carefully with a tacking iron and layered with additional medium and sometimes paint. I love giving new life to images that would otherwise stay dormant on my computer. 


I began working with photography many years ago in a darkroom, rolling and developing my own film and enlarging prints. Although technological advances have dramatically shifted the world of photography, I fell in love with the hands-on process of developing my own photographs. While I appreciate and love digital photography and all that can be accomplished on a computer, a few years ago I found myself yearning for an outlet to work with my hands again.  I am continuing my career as a photographer but am expanding to include fine art as well. 


My process is very physical and working with encaustic can be difficult during the hot summer weather in Austin, Texas.  The process can take a lot of patience and requires a proper ventilation system and sometimes a (not so sexy) face mask to protect me from dangerous fumes.  I find it incredibly satisfying using my hands in this way and find myself continuing to be pulled back into my art studio. I am inspired by so many artists, but one artist who has very much impacted my journey is Shawna Moore, a prolific artist based out of Whitefish, Montana. 


I look forward to continuing to create this work and travel along this path. I am currently accepting commissions from both my own photography as well as imagery that is provided by my clients.


To see more of my work, visit my website and follow along on Instagram for current projects. 



Thank you to my dear friend Amy Smith for all photographs in this post.  Amy can be found on Instagram at @amyrsmithphoto.

Petcasso fundraiser art revealed

Last evening the Animal Trustees of Austin held their 5th annual Petcasso fundraiser here in Austin and it was a huge success! Last week I shared a small portion of the art I created for this project and I promised to reveal the entire piece. I'm excited to say that my painting/photograph raised $2400 during the live auction for the Animal Trustees of Austin! There were some amazing paintings included in the auction that also raised significant funding for the organization.

The final piece is titled, "Sisters" inspired by two loving chihuahua sisters named Kiki and Coco.

I'd love to share a little bit about the process with you.

When I was asked to participate in this project I was really excited (and as I mentioned earlier, very nervous) to have the opportunity to work closely with an animal welfare project here in Austin. These two sweet dogs were in foster care, awaiting a permanent home when I photographed them.

My idea was to photograph the dogs and create a mixed media piece of art. I photographed the dogs against a green background so I would be able to delete the background in Photoshop and create an entirely white background ready for paint. I could have photographed them on white, but due to timing and space issues this was the best solution. The dogs were nervous and quivery (as are most chihuahuas!) during the beginning of the portrait session. They weren't incredibly interested in treats and I think they just needed time to get used to me and my camera. The more calm I became the more relaxed they got. They eventually sat down for a couple of seconds back to back. I loved the shaped that their bodies made when they joined together and I had a pretty good idea that this was going to be the image for my painting.

After photographing these two tiny ladies I worked on the computer editing the image from the background. I then had to recreate hair in Photoshop because it is not easy to include the thin hairs when you're deleting a background from a photograph. It was important to me to have these details included despite the tedious process of drawing hair for a few hours! I then had the photograph printed as an 18" x 36" canvas wrap. In the end, the structure resembled a painting because the canvas was wrapped around wooden supports and the photograph is actually printed on canvas.

When I received the canvas with the photograph printed on it I started painting with acrylic paint. I love color and wanted to use warm colors that blended toward the center where the dogs' bodies joined. I used brushes as well as palette knives to add the color. After I created a base painting it was time to get the artistic influence of the chihuahuas. I met them at the Animal Trustees of Austin and they helped add some of their chihuahua "flair" with their tiny paws. It was at that time that a video of our production was created and Kiki and Coco became superstars.

After the sisters artistic touch was added I finalized the painting and passed it on to the organization for the big event.

This was absolutely a delightful project and in addition to being able to help an amazing organization I am now inspired to explore this style for more painting and photography combinations. I'm happy to say that Kiki and Coco now have a permanent, loving home and so does their portrait.