Catherine Orfald’s exhibition (displayed above our fiction section on the main floor) has been extended until the end of April! Here are some excerpts from Orfald on encaustic painting:

“A few years ago, I was picking up supplies at one of my favourite shops, Victory Art Supply in Peterborough. Behind the counter was a display of colourful, very attractive blocks of media. I asked what they were, and the owner said, “encaustic paint”. He handed me one to smell and I was hooked. I wanted to learn more and was happy to hear his partner taught encaustic painting. I took a class with Victoria Wallace and have continued to experiment with encaustic ever since. 

Encaustic is an ancient technique of painting with heated beeswax, pigment, and damar resin. The painting is fused by heating again with a heat gun, iron, or blowtorch. Some of my pieces include mixed media, including natural materials. The encaustic technique provides a protective, preservative layer. The ancient Greeks used it to waterproof and decorate their ships. All Things Encaustic shares this and other historical information about encaustic paintings, including the Fayum mummy portraits from Egypt around 100-300 BCE.

My encaustic paintings hang along the east wall of the library. Way to the Trail has layers of built-up beeswax to give dimension to the trees. The piece beside it, Owl’s Snow Angel, was inspired by the print an owl’s feathers made as it touched down to grab the prey.

The piece on the right, Swingin’ in the 70s is me, swinging on a long swing at summer camp back in Minnesota. The photograph was taken by a friend of mine and recently shared with me. It was very fuzzy, but I loved the colours and the way my hair flew over my head as I started the back swing. I printed the photo on silk paper, removed the backing, and applied it to the primed encaustic panel. I added layers of encaustic paint and medium. Then I “framed” the image with curly red copper wire. You might be able to imagine how difficult it was to fuse the final layer of medium while the copper wire popped away as it warmed up!

The next couple encaustic paintings are zodiac images: Capricorn and Sagittarius. I printed copyright-free images of the constellations with the zodiac symbol on silk paper. These were applied to a primed board and then painted and fused.

The two beside these are examples of encaustic with natural materials. May Day and Spring Blooms both include local picked and pressed flowers. These are then fused into the painting with encaustic medium.

Finally, there’s three little bird pairs on the wall near the platform. These local birds include Northern Cardinals, Eastern Bluebirds, and Baltimore Orioles. Once the encaustic paint begins to heat up as you fuse it, some unexpected results occur. It’s all part of the charm of working with encaustic paints! They help me get out of my “control” pattern and let go.”