Setting Small but Attainable Goals

In 2013 I retired from the art department at California State University in Sacramento.  During the 13 years that I worked in California I made art, had two solo exhibitions and exhibited in gallery group shows but teaching was my priority.  When I retired in 2013 I moved back to Canada and set up a studio and now work full-time as a painter.  I gave up sculpture to embrace Encaustic.   I am new to this small community in Northern Ontario.    There are very few  galleries and most focus on exhibiting artists who paint realistically.  So, in order to survive here as an artist,  I decided to set goals for myself.  In this blog I share those goals

Goal #1  Just practice the craft of using molten wax as a painting medium as well as focus on one theme.  Over that last four years I have been practicing this medium almost everyday.   My goal is to perfect my technique of painting woven lines.   I have always been fascinated by artists using textiles and did create art quilts for a few year, so instead of using a loom to weave textiles, I began using the painted line to weave intricate woven coverings over background abstracted landscapes.  In  “Darning Memories” I took inspiration from contemporary artists working with textiles.   Instead of using a loom, fabric, needle and thread  I use the painted lines to mimic threads so weave  hundreds of intersecting lines into contemporary woven structures.   While immersing myself  in painting I think about whether barriers act to protect or keep us isolated? Do coverings keep us warm, safe, hidden or become suffocating?   The goal for my paintings evolved into a complex dialogue surrounding identity in relation to physical and psychological barriers.

Goal #2  build a website and show my paintings on social media platforms.  I designed my Weebly website ( and published it, started this blog (Encaustic Adventures), opened up a Facebook page, joined Pinterest, Instagram, etc.

Goal #3 apply to group and juried shows.  In 2016 and 2017 I participated in the Art Fair at the International Encaustic Conference in Provincetown. At the Art Fair I met Adam and Mariam Peck.  They invited me to participate in the Black Tie (Optional) group show at their Adam Peck Gallery,  June of 2017.

Ties that Bind, encaustic on panel, 12″ X 12″

During that same time one of my paintings was accepted into a juried show at the Kobalt Gallery in Provincetown, June, 2017,

“Barriers that go on Forever, encaustic on panel, 12″ X 12”

and at the Juried exhibition at the Morpho Gallery in Chicago.   The following painting was accepted.

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Burning Embers, encaustic on panel, 6″ X 24″

Goal #4  participate in the local Madawaska Valley Studio Tour as well as apply to the Juried exhibition in the Trinity Gallery at the Shenkman Centre in Ottawa.   I wanted to open my studio to the public so that I could meet individuals and share my work and processes.  I great way to get feedback and also sell a few paintings.     My painting was accepted into the AOE arts council members’ show and I was delighted to receive the Juror’s Choice Award.

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The Glow from Within, encaustic on panel, 24″ X 24″
Ready for the Madawaska Valley Studio Tour

Goal #4, Apply to the AOE Arts Council gallery for a Solo Exhibition.  I have submitted all of the materials requested and am waiting for the results.

Goals are so important.  My suggestion is to start with small goals, like applying for a group show or participating in a juried show.   Join local arts groups to meet with other artists doing similar works.  Participate in local art fairs and studio tour events.  This is a great way to get feedback and to sell your work.  Then begin writing up solo exhibition proposals.   I have found that your work has to be consistent, have a theme and only focus on that theme when you are applying for a solo exhibition.  The curators do not want to see a variety of different styles but want to see a focus.  It takes time to develop a body of work and to accomplish your goals, but don’t give up because you will succeed if you are persistent and have a strong  and consistent body of work.

Can you share your goals?  What worked for  you and what were  your blocks in succeeding?



Should Wax be our Driving Force?

Many artists having exhibitions use the word Encaustic in their title such as “Encaustic Show”, “Show of Encaustic Paintings,” “Wax Art”, “Encaustic Works,”  “Encaustic: Rebirth of an Ancient Medium,”  “Encaustic Juried Show, 2017”, etc   All of these titles focus on techniques, medium and processes used by the artists.    Where are the interesting  titles or themes for these  shows that focus on the content of the works?    In Facebook groups I see a painting posted by an artist and the title is “Encaustic on Panel?  Does the painting have no title?  Or I hear  Encaustic Artist or Wax Artist as descriptors.   Are  we not artists who  have something to say through our works and not just technicians using molten pigmented wax as a painting medium?

Then I hear such confusions over using Encaustic in our written and verbal conversations.  Shouldn’t I say I am a painter using Encaustic as a process because I paint with pigmented beeswax and use a heat source to burn the top layer to the one below.  As Ralph Mayer explains in his Artist’s Handbook in the section on Encaustic “The word encaustic comes from Greek and means to burn in, which refers to the process of fusing the paint.”    Is there such a thing as Encaustic Paint?   If Encaustic is a process then can it also be encaustic paint?   Aren’t we using pigmented beeswax as paint on panel in the same way as an oil painter would use oil paint?     And what about using encaustic(s) plural?  Do artists use many encaustics?  When I hear an artist say that he or she uses encaustic on panel, I assume that the painter is using a specific process such as a heat source to liquify the wax and a heat gun or torch to burn in each layer of wax.  When I hear  a photographer using beeswax over their photographs and calling their work Encaustic I question whether they are  layering coloured beeswax and fusing  with a heat source.  Can they call their works encaustic if they are adding a final layer of beeswax as a covering to alter the photograph?

Encaustic as a process has been around since the 5th century B.C. In the 1st-2nd century  A.D the Greeks and then the Egyptians used Encaustic to paint their Fayum funeral portraits.  In the 20th century  Jasper Johns, Brice Marden, Martin Kline, Linda Benglis, Michael David, and Joanne Mattera have painted or are still painting with pigmented wax.  When they talk or write about their work they did/do not focus on the medium.   They talk about the intent for their works in relation to the ways they use the elements and principles of design.  When I went to Michael David’s talk at the International Encaustic Conference I left knowing more about the artists’ ideas and why they used Encaustic as their process.  But I was not given a talk on techniques and processes or ways to use wax.  As a community of artists, painters, sculptors, printmakers, photographers, etc. shouldn’t we first focus on  the intent of the work and then the techniques and materials and not be driven only by wax?

I would love to hear your views so please leave comments.

Is it important to stick to one theme and technique?

I have often been crucified by the public for not sticking to a theme over an extended period of time. I have tried to find a topic or theme to explore over and over again but I get bored with the subject matter after a while. I have attempted to paint portraits, trees, flowers, water formations, water plants, etc. I have created puppets, sculptures and masks which I have been very successful at. I have even attempted quilting and have purchased fabric and supplies to quilt for a lifetime.   But, after a while I get bored doing the same image over and over again. Is it important to stick with one theme and technique for a lifetime??  I have so many years to live and lately I have been asking myself, “What theme and technique can I stick with?”

I love Gerhard Richter’s works and he is consistent.  If you see one of his works in New York, Germany, or in London, you will always recognize Richter’s works. He has a specific technique that he uses over and over again.  He takes a squeegee in different sizes and moves the paint  across his canvases. He makes hundreds of paintings and all of them are done in the same way. He has found a technique and a procedure for applying the paint onto his canvas. He loves colour, (or the absence of colour) and plays around with one colour next to another colour and is not satisfied until he feels it is done. I love his work and would love to find a technique and painting style that becomes my identity.   It really is scary just making the same painting in variations over and over again. But, consistency is often recommended by the art world.