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My 'Aha' Momment

I first started exploring traditional alternative processes and tried a bunch of different techniques. I was in search of more depth than a printed image could provide. I wanted something that I didn’t have to put behind glass. Something more organic, something that I could touch, feel and smell.

I was fascinated with encaustic painting the first time I saw it and knew I wanted to incorporate my photographs with this ancient waxed-based medium. I knew I wanted a hands-on approach to my images. I no longer wanted a flat two-dimensional image. I wanted my work to have texture and a three-dimensional quality.

Today, what I want to do is to tell you my story. At first, I thought this process was all about pouring wax on an image and saying ‘Done’.

And I got really good at it. I figured out a large pan to catch the wax, painstakingly leveld the image, heated the wax to a high temperature, and learned the exact technique for pouring the molten wax with my right hand…..while using my left hand to hold the heat gun to keep it all liquid until I was ready to let it cool.

But I never completely felt right about the images. You know that feeling in your gut that something is wrong?

My results were incredibly lackluster and boring. It was better but still not quite right. I longed for more of an ethereal and textured feel. I realized ‘glazing’ my images was artistically the same as putting them behind glass.

This was NOT the result I was after.

Thinking back to the encaustic paintings I had seen, these were the words that were swirling around in my head……. ethereal, sublime, majestic, powerful, organic. luminous, mysterious, expressive, otherworldly

I didn’t WANT to have a bunch of images that were relying on the fact that they were covered in beeswax. I didn’t want the beeswax to be the ‘WOW’ factor. I knew I wanted more. What I truly wanted was to create work that people are drawn to.

During one of my visits to Vail, CO I wandered into Forre Fine Art and was immediately drawn to the work of Ashley Collins. That was it. In front of me was the texture and feel that I was longing for in my own work. Ashley isn’t an encaustic artist, but her bold brush strokes and lines became my inspiration.

I let go of my preconceived notions of my work and started to experiment with different techniques. I spent hours and hours poring over the internet trying to learn different techniques and after months of making every mistake in the book, I created a piece that made my HEART sing.

It had texture and mystery and was nothing like what I had ever created before.

I remember where I was standing in my studio. I remember what I said to myself the minute that I realized that this was the kind of work I wanted to create. But in that moment, even though the image was amazing, what was even more fantastic is I realized that I had cracked the code to being successful with photographs and encaustic. I knew I could do it again and again.

My new inspiration meant that I had to work differently. No longer was I starting with the image glued to a substrate and layering on top. Now I was building up layers of wax and incorporating the image as a top layer. I experimented with both printing on tissue paper and photo transfers.

The tissue paper process gave me results I loved.  My gut told me I had something special.

And it was so cool to see that people responded to it differently.  When I hung ‘No Music Needed’ in a show it was so amazing to see people literally drawn to it. They saw it from across the room and bee-lined over to it. I just stood there, watched, and was so proud of the piece.

People couldn’t keep their hands off of it and had to touch it. You know the way people touch something that they know they are not supposed to touch. Just a little tiny bit on the corner……just to feel it. Person after person stood and examined it for what seemed like forever. And that’s when I really knew, I had a technique and a style that I could be proud of.

I absolutely love working with my images and beeswax. I can’t think of a better medium to take my artistic expression to the next level.

 


 

Would love to hear your thoughts about this image in the comments below. 

With all good wishes,

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