Thursday, August 19, 2010

Encaustic Workshop with the Fab Five

When food, friends and fine art combine, the results are sure to be memorable. Indeed, on August 9, my close artist friend, Karen Eide gifted four of us with the most amazing day in recent memory: a "Studio Day" to learn her medium of encaustic painting which dates from at least the 5th century B.C.

Judy Cowling, Iona Drozda and I gathered at 9:30 a.m. at her and her husband, David's, lovely home in rural Carrollton, VA. (Sheila Giolitti joined us later in the afternoon.) The day was simply glorious and the slightly less than an hour's drive completely pleasant (no, it was grand, as my dear friend Iona rode with me and we reveled in conversation going and coming).

In Karen's charming detached cottage studio (with her cat Miles lolling in the loft above), she provided us with background and safety information, lots of mouth-watering samples, and a demo. Then she set us loose at stations she had created for each of us. Inspired by her work and encouragement, her samples, and each other, we went to it; and I think it's safe to say that we are all completely hooked. Though encaustic literally means "to burn in," it is, in fact, painting with melted and pigmented wax into which and on top of which one can collage, draw, stamp, stencil and more. I find it the most luscious and flexible medium ever.

My piece, entitled "Fifty," is at the top. I found that old funnel in a potting shed and had to draw it because I was attracted to its rusted form. The crossword puzzle was in a piece of newspaper I had brought and I had tucked the seagull stencils from a previous painting into my sketchbook. I decided to just work with those three elements and what resulted was an ode to my 50th birthday next year--egads!--and is about "funneling" energy in new directions, as well as trying to solve the "puzzle" of how one balances structure (all of the many references to the grid along with the seagulls standing in a tidy row) and freedom (as represented by, among other things, the flying seagulls).

I love many things about the work we all did that day, including how individual it is. With the guidance of our teacher-friend, Karen Eide, we were all able to transfer the work we do in other media into her medium of encaustic. Karen would not accept any remuneration for sharing her knowledge, expertise, home, studio and supplies. Not a penny. So we insisted that she let us bring lunch. But I know we are all trying to figure out how best to "pay it forward." The least I can do is share a little taste of the medium with all of you.

Though formal workshops and institutes have their place, if you have mastered a specific technique, process or approach to the formal or conceptual aspects of artmaking, I would encourage you to share it informally with a small group of artists/teachers as Karen did. It is truly a gift that will keep on giving.

Here's to old and new friends, ancient and contemporary art forms and paying it forward!

Top Photo: "Fifty," Betsy DiJulio, encaustic and mixed media, 2010
Bottom Photo standing, l to r: Judy Cowling, Sheila Giolitti, me and Karen Eide; seated: Iona Drozda. Stay tuned for posts with our artwork.


  1. I'm glad I found your wonderful blog! I can't wait to explore it this summer! We are having an encaustic workshop for our Back-to-School In-Service Day in August! I would love to use your piece as an example in my slide show, and give all due credit of course!
    Staci Jacks

  2. You are so kind, Stacia! It's my blog that has been sorely neglected for a loooong time because of other priorities. :( But I'm glad you found it too! I have SO many new things to post. If you receive SchoolArts, a lot of my newer work has been published there over the last 2 to 3 years. You are welcome to use the piece however you want--what a fantastic in-service day. Will you then teach encaustic in school? If so, you are so lucky! It is expensive and requires good ventilation. Best wishes and thank you so much for taking the time to post!

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