Final Day at the International Encaustic Conference and a Post Conference Workshop with Karen Freedman:

The Art Fair 

Every year many participants bring works to exhibit and hopefully sell.  Each artist can set up his or her art display, either in the lobby or in his or her room. We begin the art tour on one side of the hotel,  then after 1 1/2 hours move into the lobby and then to the other side of the hotel and continued looking for another 1 1/2 hours.  It really is a way to see other works in encaustic and to discuss and share ideas.  I had my display in my room and many participants droped in and commented on my work.  I did get many visitors asking how I did the woven lines because my woven covering does look like I embed gauze into the wax. I assured them that I paint each and every line with a brush.   The art fair is a time to sell paintings and sculptures, but, more importantly, get feedback and ideas for future works.  Below is a view from the entryway.


After lunch I signed up for the talk Curatorial Thinking.  Joanne Mattera gave a powerpoint presentation on the exhibitions that she had curated.  She went over specific points on what to focus on when planning and hanging a juried show.  The first focus she pointed out was to come up with a theme for the show and then how to select the artworks based on that theme.  Joanne talked about not over placing the works on the walls but managing the show so that one piece can complement another work.  That there is a  conversation between the paintings and with the viewer.  Joanne showed us examples from her own curated exhibitions such as focusing on the theme of “Colour” in a variety of mediums for the exhibition at the DM Contemporary in New York City in 2015.  Then another show called Textility, co-curated with Mary Birmingham.  The paintings were selected based on ideas and influences from textiles.  That show was in the Visual Art Centre of New Jersey in 2013.

After showing us other examples of her curated exhibitions, Joanne discussed the pros and cons of being a curator.   I was left thinking that curating is no an easy task.  So many considerations have to be made from thinking of the venue, visiting artists’ studios or doing a lot of web surfing and deciding on the theme. When you have a venue for the exhibition, the curator has to think of the logistics of hanging the artworks, invitations, catalogues, etc. Exhausting!!!  I think curating can be an amazing experience but I am not sure that I will follow the direction of becoming a curator any time soon.

The final Demo: Working on Soft Supports: Sherrie Posternak
Sherrie gave a demo on how to use soft supports like cotton quilt batting, canvas and a variety of other fabrics. These soft materials could be used as a base and the one can  stitch elements onto that surface.  The other method was to mount the finished fabric design onto a panel and then fuse your design onto that surface.  The quilt batting has an interesting surface when wax was applied.   Sherrie worked directly onto a thin plastic heat resistant baking sheet directly on the surface of the hotbox. She showed us how she layered tissue paper elements onto the surface of the waxed batting.  The waxed fabric surface became the background for the layering of collaged materials.  Then she discussed how to display the finished fabric mixed-media painting by using magnets, or adding grommets, sewing hangers onto the back etc.  This was a fascinating demonstration.

Post Conference Workshop: Two days with Karen Freedman 

I had been in love with  Karen Freedman’s work for a long time.  I had a stint of being a quilter for about 7 years and then found encaustic so I was drawn to Karen’s colourful designs that looked like quilt blocks.  I wondered how she did those designs and kept such a sharp edge. She also had this pristine surface and amazing layering of layers over each other.  I knew that I did not want to become another Karen Freedman, but I was wondering how to integrate some of her techniques into my own works.  I registered for her workshop and here is my diary of the 2-days in the class.

First of all, I was so impressed with Karen sharing all her secrets, she is not afraid of having anyone appropriating her design.  There can only be one Karen Freedman in the art world who does those exquisite paintings.  On the first day Karen gave us step by step instructions and started showing us how she did the first layer.  Well, one has to know how to build up a smooth coating of medium and then do a lot of scraping of the surface to get that smoothest layer.   I made my stencil design of narrow and thin lines.  Karen  does very intricate designs but I kept to the simple ones.  Once the first few layers of the wax medium looked like a smooth glass surface, I placed the stencils and filled each segment with pigmented wax, then scraped these down and applied another layer of medium over the whole surface.  Then the fun began, scraping and scraping and then more scraping.   This process of filling in a stencil, adding medium over the filled in stencils, scraping down again was repeated 4 times.  I guess one has to travel in a person’s shoes to appreciated what they are going through and I traveled in Karen shoes for two days.

The workshop was amazing.  Each artist taking the course did their own thing.  I did not see one painting looking like a Karen Freedman’s.  It was not easy.  I think this painting technique is one of the hardest that I have tried, but once you get it, the rewards come forth.  I did attempt to do two works and one I liked better than the other.  I will take the ideas to my studio and try to integrate the background layering of shapes into my own works.  Have an idea that I am dying to try.  Thank you Karen, you are a shining light.

Scraping and then more scraping
Fusing lightly.  Love that attachment for the heat gun
Talking about the pros and cons of using a heat gun or the torch. Yes, Karen knows how to use that heat gun.  

The following are pictures of the works in progress by the participants in the class.

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Works in Progress by Kay Hartung
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AJ looking at Marie-Claude Allen’s paintings
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Paintings in Progress by Julia Dzikiewicz
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Nancy Natalie discussing her works in progress
Susan Paladino’s works in progress
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Anna Wagner-Ott’s works 

The conference is over and I am back in Canada.  I have met new friends and hung out with friends that I met at the 9th conference.  We had such good conversations and the sea food was delicious.   I look forward to attending the 12th International Encaustic Conference in June of 2018.  Cheers and have a great year working in Encaustic.




Author: Anna

I am a painter and sculptor and have a studio beside a beautiful lake. For the past 40 years, I designed and built puppets, masks and sculptures and had solo exhibitions of these works. In 2013, I went back to painting and started working in encaustic. I am interested in issues of identity in terms of weavings as coverings to protect or to hide. The intersecting lines that I create over landscapes create an internal conversation versus the external between nature vs. nurture. Or how actual or psychological barriers erected in an environment can disrupt a cherished place. My engagement with woven structures speak to complex dialogues between identity and psychological barriers. My second passion is teaching. I try to encompass more than teaching my students art techniques. I encourage students to, not only learn the language of art, but to also engage in critiquing art. Additionally, we continually explore ways to enhance one's voice through art in relation to contemporary and historical issues. Encaustic adventures is a blog where not only processes and techniques are taught, but hopefully this sites will engage in a dialogue about the making of art, notions of voice, identity, themes, and ways to establish a body of work within an historical contexts.

One thought on “Final Day at the International Encaustic Conference and a Post Conference Workshop with Karen Freedman:”

  1. HI Anna: It was great reading about your adventures. I often wondered how Karen got those amazing paintings. Don’t think I have the patience for that, but very good info to know, just in case. Hope to see you at the conference next year!
    Happy summer

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