Please Touch the Paintings
By Ezshwan Winding
I began painting with encaustic in 1999 after seeing abstract encaustic paintings in a gallery in Portland, Oregon, the year before. It was love at first sight, or was it lust? Encaustic enhances the effects that can be created with texture and color. The warmth, and its tactile quality draw in the viewer and entice them to look deep into the underlying layers and stroke the sensuous surface. I was driven to find out how to use encaustic! I had been painting since I was 12 years old and used almost every medium during my time in art schools, but I knew nothing about creating encaustic paint. I checked technical art books in bookstores and somehow came up with a recipe and began my exploration of encaustic.
I shudder when I think back to those first attempts. I am fortunate to be alive. I made a medium of beeswax, damar varnish, linseed oil, Venice turpentine, and oil paint. When that mixture is heated, as encaustic must be, the fumes are poisonous.
About a year after my first attempts at encaustic paintings, I found the simple, non-toxic recipe that I use, and demonstrate in my workshops in San Miguel. I had not intended to teach others this technique when I arrived here almost seven years ago, but I heard about the formula an art school here was using for encaustic paintings and I said, “That will kill you!” Now, years later, I have shared my encaustic technical knowledge with hundreds of other artists and non-artists.
After one of my first classes, someone suggested that I not teach encaustic painting to other people because then everyone would be making paintings like mine. A year ago, I hosted San Miguel de Allende’s first all encaustic painting show. Twenty-three artists that had participated in my workshops hung their paintings in my studio/gallery. This exciting, well-attended show proved that every person that had assimilated the technique, made it personal. This small example of the hundreds of people who became excited by the hot wax method of painting in my workshops proved that no one was making paintings like mine.
“Encaustic” comes from the Greek word enkaustikos and means, “to burn in”. If each layer is not heat fused into the underlying layer, it is not encaustic; it is wax painting and not the same thing. The first use of encaustic was in Greece more than two thousand years ago. In the beginning the hot wax and resin was used to repair and decorate ships. The substrates for the later paintings were placed on braziers and image manipulations was accomplished by heated metal tools. This technique was later used to create the Fayum mummy portraits.
I love the physical demands of working with wax and resin, and am continually challenged by the expanding possibilities as contemporary artists take this ancient medium and bring it into the twenty first century.
I invite those who are interested in seeing and touching my paintings to make an appointment to visit my home/gallery, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. More information at www.ezshwan.com