Shop talk, answers to your FAQs, and a peek behind the scenes of an artist-run fine art gallery in Park Slope
I was always drawing when I was younger, ever since I can remember. I especially loved drawing horses as a child. Now I am a painter, focusing on the medium of encaustic, a wax-based paint medium. When I decided to pursue painting as a career I first studied at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. However I felt constricted by its traditional methodology and left. After a few years of working at various jobs I applied to Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and graduated in 1990. I was very lucky to have studied with Stan Whitney, Margo Margolis and Robert Storr, and learned a great deal about myself as a painter.
I mostly painted in oils in those early days. I didn’t actually start painting with encaustic until years later when I began to feel stuck and wanted to try another medium. I found that the act of creating a painting by fusing, scraping and incising into the wax became a form of meditation. I love the process because it allows me to explore abstraction in a very direct and intuitive way.
The encaustic process has endless possibilities in that it allows me to create work that is both opaque and translucent. I build up many layers of encaustic paint and often embed paper and fabric into my paintings allowing the patterns to emerge in unexpected ways. It is a tricky medium because you have to work very quickly or the paint will dry on your brush. It is important that you do not over-fuse the wax. I use a torch and a heat gun to fuse the layers. The torch works very well for me because I can work quickly. The great thing about the encaustic process is you can use almost any tool to carve into the wax. I use razor blades to scrape the paint layers down and any sharp object, such as a nail or hard pencil to incise into the wax.
Knowing when a painting is done has always been a challenge for me and sometimes I will over work it, which is very frustrating. Often though, there is a kind of “Aha” moment when a painting is done. The painting will have a certain rhythm with color, line and composition that feels right. My process is very intuitive so things get worked out as I progress with the painting. My color palette tends to be on the cool side and I am very drawn to blues and greens. I think that is because I grew up on the Jersey shore and loved spending time on the beach and in the ocean.
I often start with the grid as a way to invite the viewer into my paintings. I think I am very drawn to the grid because It reminds of an urban landscape. Sometimes I will paint the grid playing with color and mark-making, but often times the grid will break down as the circular and organic shapes challenge the geometry of the grid. It often feels playful and almost childlike.
My intuitive process leads to abstract paintings that allow viewers to “plug in” their own idiosyncratic meaning or interpretation into my paintings. I enjoy participating in that process, where a sense of play and spontaneity leads to paintings with multiple levels of readings and, hopefully, enjoyment.