Encaustic, derived from the Greek word meaning “to paint” or “to burn”, is arguably the most archival medium. Dating back as early as the 5th century BC, this process of heating wax was first used to seal ships but the unmistakable waxy layers have also appeared in many ancient paintings. This primitive and somewhat practical art form has had a strong reemergence in recent years, with iconic works like Jasper John’s American Flags.
To some, the return to ancient techniques may seem ironic, but artists Gabriela Aguilo and Shari Lyon are eager to contribute to the new wave of encaustic art.
In most encaustic paintings, layers will include melted beeswax, pigment, and a layer of resin as a sealant. The proportions and temperature vary, lending room for discovery and play.
Shari began her work as an encaustic artist 10 years ago, after first seeing an encaustic piece and being moved to tears. Despite a lack of information or training on the method, Shari was able to find a local artist to shadow to gain the experience she needed to create her own body of work.
“With a lot of art, you get a little bit of a foundation and then you go play and try things,” she said.
Shari brings this readiness to her pieces which often have 10-15 layers, each with different heat sources and temperatures. The result is certainly ethereal and largely unpredictable. Some works turn out silky smooth and others have a notably rough texture. But one common theme in many of Shari’s pieces is a tree, which she believes evokes a transcendent power and force.
For Gabriela, encaustic is the added layer to her toolbox of mediums. Her work has ranged from stone sculpting to creating adorned clothing for music legends like Fleetwood Mac and Maddona.
Each of Gabriela’s experiences manifests itself in her encaustic work which combines inks, graphite, and paper.
“Everything I learn from one medium, I get to bring to the next,” she said. “There are things that I do with encaustic that I probably would not do had I not worked with [other mediums].”
Gabriela’s work is heavily inspired by her dreams and encaustic allows her to convey the mystery.
As these artists draw on ancient art forms, they build an eternal impact, not only through the longevity of the medium but also in the themes they skillfully capture.
Watch the full recap of this Art Discovery below: