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