I first experienced encaustic up close several years ago at a Bell Town gallery called i Capolovori. I was magnetically drawn to an 8′ tall black and white photo covered in milky wax. The impulse to feel the surface was nearly impossible to contain. I wanted to lick it.
I am sad that I cannot remember the artist’s name and i Capolovori is no longer there, but I think about that piece often. What was the magic all about? The photograph was a young, tall man in a black trench coat. Or maybe not – that’s how I remember it – but I do remember that it was the glossy near opacity that made the figure really intriguing. It gave him a story. I felt like he could be observing me from his side of some frosted membrane. Kinda Matrix.
Ever since that first encounter so many years ago, I’ve paid special attention to encaustic work. Seattle artists, Nichole Dement and Stephanie Hargrave, are two of my favorites to see. Last week I finally had the chance to play with encaustic myself. My friend, artist Kevin Piepel, invited me and another artist friend, Terra Holcomb, to his studio for an afternoon of exploration. I took several small boards covered in fabric and other items to play with.
I could go on and on about the materials themselves – wax, damar, shellac, pigments – but the application was downright thrilling. I covered, encased, colored, engraved, flamed, joined and was joyfully lost in the process for hours.
I am spending this week covering more boards so I can take them to Kevin’s studio next week. I will use these in a piece I am making as part of a show about the Dust Bowl, migration, Okies, place and dirt.
If you are in the Seattle area and would like to play with encaustic yourself, Kevin offers one-on-one and group workshops. He is incredibly knowledgeable, affordable and generous. You may contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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