The Greek word 'Encaustikos,' means: "to heat" or "burn in," which is central to the encaustic process. The Greeks and Egyptians were originally drawn to its preservation properties, and then invented ways to color the wax paint for more creative use. Many of their paintings still exist today!
Modern encaustic medium is a combination of beeswax and damar resin, a sap that comes from deciduous trees in southeast Asia. Color is added to the medium using dry pigments or oil paints. Encaustic paint is melted on a hot plate between 180-200 degrees Farenheit before an artist can paint with it. After painting each layer, it is essential that the paint be fused with a torch or heat gun so the paint will grab on to the surface area beneath it. When the paint cools, an artist may add texture and other media to the painting.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Melissa Stephens was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. She has a BA from Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, and continues her arts education though workshops and specialized instruction. She is an encaustic painting instructor, working artist and advocate for the arts, and now lives in Walnut Creek, California. Stephens co-developed a virtual gallery and developed a YouTube channel in 2020, is a business coach for emerging artists, serves on several arts boards, is a public speaker, volunteers at galleries in the San Francisco Bay area, and hosts live encaustic demonstrations.
Recently, her artwork has exhibited at the Bedford Gallery and Valley Art Gallery, Walnut Creek; San Francisco Women Artists Gallery, San Francisco; ACCI Gallery and the Sara Lisch Gallery, Berkeley; Arts Benicia Gallery, Benicia; Chaffey Community Museum of Art, Ontario; Black Hawk Gallery, San Ramon; Trinity Towers, San Francisco; and East Bay Municipal Utility District, Oakland. Her encaustic paintings explore themes of healing, hope and gratitude, based on personal stories. Resume is available on request.
I love to educate my viewers about the encaustic medium while discovering their relationship to my paintings and how my visual interpretations resonate with them. My paintings are heartfelt abstractions set to real life experiences. They are my visual response to what is happening in the world, created with an intimacy that leaves room for reflection or introspection.
Language and traditions inspire me, so handwriting or asemic writing are often found in my work. Because I have a positive life view and attitude, hope, gratitude, presence of mind and soul-searching are guiding forces as I paint.
Encaustic paint is the perfect medium because this process has its own story to tell. It has all the elements of a good story: luminous layers, malleability and texture; and like a good story, my art is never truly complete until it has been shared.