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I began experimenting with encaustic painting in the early 1990’s while majoring in painting and printmaking at the Pacific NW College of Art in Portland, OR. I learned how to make encaustic paint by “word of mouth” from then Seattle artist, Jef Gunn. At that time there were no resources available from which to learn the process. I saw an exhibition of his paintings and knew immediately that I wanted to create encaustic paintings.
Approximately 15 years ago, I began collecting pigments during camping and hiking trips into desert and volcanic areas – mostly in Oregon and Utah. Beautiful veins of natural pigment such as yellow ochre and burnt sienna may be found along road cuts and geologic formations that have experienced erosion. This also brought me into contact with places where Native American people lived and created pictographs/petroglyphs, often using these same pigments. This has had a profound influence on my creative process, specifically viewing these ancient marks that were so connected to the natural world in which they lived and hunted. To date, I have collected around 40 different natural pigments and incorporate them into my paintings whenever possible.
Encaustic (Enkaustikos) painting is an ancient process invented by the Greeks to seal the hulls of their ships. Later the process was used to create tomb paintings – the oldest and best preserved paintings on earth. Many of these are on display in the Louvre in Paris and are 2,000 or more years old. The paint is made by heating chunks of tree resin (dammar), bee’s wax, and dry pigments together and brushing the molten mix onto a rigid surface or panel. Drying almost instantly, the artist is allowed to make one or two brush strokes before the paint sets up. Once a layer of paint is put down, the painting must be fused to the surface with an iron, heat gun, or torch – before adding another layer of paint. This technique creates a luminous and extremely durable surface and assures the integrity of the painting. Like all fine artwork, encaustic paintings should be stored and displayed properly, avoiding direct sunlight and hot temperatures. They should never be left in a hot car or storage facility.
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