Andrea's Oregon art beat feature
Congratulations to Andrea for being featured on a recent episode of Oregon Art Beat. In fact, part of it was filmed right here at 23 Sandy! Click here to watch the video.
Hands and Minds
In this group of figurative mixed media paintings, done with encaustic, paper and drawing on wood panels, hands arms and stance are explored as handmaidens of the mind - a mind imagined as individual, collective, cultural and environmental. These handmaidens affect a world tenuous tattered and resilient. With delicate luminous layers, subtle colors and an emphasis on composition, these artworks attempt a visual balance between entropy and repose.
Born in 1959 and growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, Andrea moved to Oregon in 1984. Her education includes a BFA in Art from Penn State and a BFA in Interior Design from Marylhurst University. In 2003 she began an intensive studio practice working primarily with encaustic (wax based paint) as a medium and combining it with drawing and collage. Her unique and beautiful mixed media paintings have been featured in the book “Embracing Encaustic” and in Oregon Home magazine. She teaches classes in encaustic technique in her Portland art studio.
about encaustic painting
by Andrea Benson
Encaustic is a painting technique using wax mixed with pigment. The paint is applied to a rigid surface, often in multiple layers. The wax / paint must be melted to fuse to the rigid base, and each subsequent layer of paint must be fused to the previous one. The word encaustic comes from Greek and means “to burn in”, which refers to this process of melting and fusing. A small amount of Damar resin, which is a sap from a tree in East India, is added to the wax before use, raising the melting temperature and giving the wax extra hardness. The final surface can be polished to a gloss. Because wax is impervious to moisture and air, it does not easily deteriorate. It does not fade or darken with age and doesn't need to be protected with a varnish or with glass.
The painting technique dates back to the 5th century B.C.E. The Greeks used coatings of wax and resin to waterproof ships and added pigment for decoration. The best known encaustic works are the Fayum funeral portraits, which were found in tombs along the Nile. They were painted in the 1st and 2nd century A.D. by Greek painters in Egypt. A portrait of the deceased was painted on wood and placed over their mummy as a memorial. Many of these pieces have survived and their colors are still vibrant. Encaustic was also used for murals, on statuary and on architectural stonework. After the 5th century the medium was rarely used. It was replaced by tempera and oil, which were less cumbersome. In this century, with the availability of portable electric heating implements, it has enjoyed a resurgence, with much variation and experimentation.
For my own artwork I use filtered beeswax. The wax is kept molten in small tins sitting on an electric griddle set at 225 degrees. For color, I add dry pigments to the wax. Different types of pigments allow for varying levels of transparency and opacity. The paint is applied with paintbrushes that are also kept warm on the griddle. Each new layer of wax is carefully melted with a propane torch to fuse it to the layer below. The wax hardens immediately and can be carved, shaped or incised with tools. Many layers can be built up. I often have 6 to 12 layers of wax. Wax can be scraped away to reveal the layers below and areas can be remelted and reworked at any time. Collage elements can be added. I frequently include paper, alone or with drawing using pencil, colored pencil or pastels. Sometimes I include bits of Xerox copies of photos or paintings, or scraps of pages from old books. I have also used feathers, thread and gold leaf. The rigid undersurface is wood or plywood.
For many months after the wax has last been melted, it slowly cures and hardens. During this period the surface may become cloudy. This is called bloom, and it is more visible on the darker colors. It is not a defect. The wax surface should be gently polished with a soft cloth. This will restore a lustrous shine to the surface and will not harm the artwork.