My paintings start with random marks, colors and whatever I am feeling or thinking about that day. The painting develops from there as I add many layers of color and texture, sometimes removing paint, setting the painting aside and coming back to add more layers of color. I work on the painting until it feels complete, balanced and expresses a mood or feeling. I find that oil and cold wax, encaustic hot wax as well as acrylic-mixed media allow me to explore this process in different ways. I hope my paintings connect with that luminous space inside all of us.
This series of encaustic paintings at Craven Allen Gallery is influenced by recent reading, encouraged by a friend, about quantum physics which I didn’t really understand but which gave me a greater sense of the amazing energy of the universe. At the same time, the COVID-19 experience of staying home and having more time to paint, walk, think, read and notice the natural world has influenced my painting in many ways. Many of these paintings were created during my period of isolation. I found the process of encaustic painting was comforting and a good way to keep calm: the smell of hot beeswax, the beauty of the colors, and the torch flame which fuses each layer. Some of the pieces also have shellac burn which is exciting and a bit scary when you light the shellac on top of the last layer of wax and it burns into patterns.
ABOUT PEG BACHENHEIMER
I am influenced by my early years in the Pacific Northwest, living later on in Cleveland, Massachusetts, New York City and Canada, and for the past 50 years, North Carolina with its beaches and mountains. Being an elementary school teacher for 38 years instilled a love for the freedom of children’s art and helps me appreciate the time I now have to explore painting. I grew up in a family immersed in art and so have looked closely at the work of other painters since I was a child visiting museums and taking art classes. This has influenced me as well as gardening, my yoga practice, people, travel, books and most of all, my children. Many roles through the years as daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend and now, grandmother, inform my work. My studio is at my home in Carrboro, North Carolina where I live with my husband, Steve.
- What it is:
Encaustic painting is an ancient method of painting with wax. Early encaustic paintings from Greco-Roman Egypt have survived in good condition. Jasper Johns used encaustic in his paintings from the 1950’s, most famously his flag and target paintings.
Modern encaustic painting is a process of heating wax mixed with a resin, and often pigment, to around 200 degrees, applying it to a rigid substrate such as wood, and then fusing with a heat source such as a heat gun, iron or propane torch. Many layers are built up, fused, scraped back, incised and built up again. Oil paint or dry pigment, fabric, organic material or papers can be added. The final painting is usually buffed with a soft cloth to bring out the shine of the wax. This ancient and durable medium has a mystery, a luminosity and an organic quality.
- How to care for an encaustic painting:
Though these pieces seem fragile and potentially temperamental, they are durable and archival. Joanne Mattera, author of “The Art of Encaustic Painting”, describes encaustic paint to be the most archival paint medium that exists. People often worry about the wax melting or becoming soft. Because encaustic paint’s melting temperature is 150 degrees, the works can be hung or stored in normal living conditions (not too much above 100 degrees and not below freezing), with no risk of any damage. A commonly asked question is whether it will be affected by direct sunlight through a window. The answer is no, in indoor living conditions.
- Good resources on encaustic painting:
The Art of Encaustic Painting, by Joanne Mattera
Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide to Creating Fine Art with Wax, by Lissa Rankin
The Encaustic Studio: A Wax Workshop in Mixed-Media Art, by Daniella Woolf