Q: Josie, please share with our readers how you became involved in creating art.
I have always been interested in learning new ways of being creative but with husband, kids and extended family it wasn't always possible to do what I wanted to do.
It was over 10 years ago when I was home alone during a 12 day fishing trip my husband took that the spark of creativity took shape. I had had an idea brewing in my brain and before I knew it, paints, brushes, paper, scissors, glue were spread all over the dining room table and by the time my husband returned I had created 7 works of art that I loved. Even though I was still working at the time at hospice I knew that this was the direction I would take some day. And the most amazing thing was that the day I started working in art was the one year anniversary of my youngest brother's death from a rare form of cancer.
I believe it was my brother Peter who inspired into what I am doing today. The grief certainly goes on but the healing took place during those 12 days of focusing on artwork. When I worked as a pediatric chaplain I often used art to help those children who had lost a parent or were about to lose someone they loved. A young teenager with a life threatening disease just wanted to graduate from high school. I encouraged her to make a collage that told of her dreams for the future. She taped that piece of art to her bedroom wall.
Q: Thank you for sharing that very personal story. Before we touch back on this I would like to ask some basic questions on what the draw was for you with encaustic and a bit about your process.
I first learned of encaustic when I attended an all encaustic art exhibit here in San Diego called Women and Hot Wax. The artwork was wonderful and I was drawn into the work like nothing I had ever seen before. My reaction was to learn all I could. I have been working with encaustic for about 8 years now.
Q: How has encaustic enhanced your artistic creativity and sensibility?
I love the tactile and natural quality of wax. The wax is alive as the molten wax moves and settles. The cell-like molecules are fascinating as they create beautiful often unpredictable designs. I push the boundaries of this medium in a way I never did with other art forms. Also, because of this type of work I have become interested in the plight of our bee population and reasons for Colony Collapse Disorder. Doing research on this subject has occasionally directed the focus of my artwork. I know of no other medium that has inspired me as much as encaustic. I like that my artwork has been described as organic.
Q: Tell us how you begin. Do you draw to work out your ideas? Do you have a vision before you start painting or does it develop as you work?
I sometimes have a sketch but more often an idea written down or narrative of what I want to do. I sometimes have a vision before I start painting but enjoy the spontaneous process more. I love it when an idea develops over a period of time.
Q: Your work is quite sculptural, can you talk about that?
My sculptural works came as a result of a fiber artist friend asking me to teach her how she could incorporate wax into her designs. For three months I researched ideas, experimented with a lot of trial and error. It was her desire to incorporate wax and fiber that inspired me to go beyond what I was creating at the time. I can see that my work is headed more in the direction of sculptural vessels, bowls and boxes—containers for life, words, memories.
Q: Do you tend to work in series or do you explore different genres concurrently?
If I work in a series I work until the series is complete. But mostly I work on several projects or pieces at the same time.
Q: Can you share your color palette with us and explain how the use of color is an important element in your work?
I love color and as I look over my work I can see that my color palette has been mostly shades of orange, reds, yellow and amber. Those are colors of honey, honeycomb and raw wax. But I also enjoy working with various shades of white. I began working on a series last year that was black and white and these I really love. They have been popular with other artists.
Q: Do you have a favorite encaustic technique that you find yourself doing often in your pieces?
I remember my first encaustic class and I still enjoy moving the colors around on the substrate with the heat gun or torch to see what happens—the cells that are created are magical. I also love incising into the wax and filling with oil paint, usually Burnt Umber.
Q: What are some of the hurdles you have encountered working with encaustic or as an artist in general, and how do you deal with them?
Since encaustic is dependent upon electricity I have had occasion to be frustrated when the circuits were overloaded and all of the paint and wax hardened and wasn’t ready. Since my studio has been built there isn’t such a problem anymore.
As an artist, wife, mother, teacher, friend, daughter, sister, neighbor there is always that difficult balance between being in the studio doing what I love and meeting the needs of others. I am from a large family and there is always something going on. I have learned over the years that if I make a choice out of love then everything else falls into place; still difficult sometimes.
Another hurdle is submitting art work, either on line or CD, for exhibition in a show. It is my fault really because I want to do it all, so I end up having too many submissions at one time.
Q: Do you work in other mediums and how does working in encaustic influence other mediums?
I sometimes combine my love of book arts, collage and assemblage with encaustic. My mantras, “I wonder if…” and “just try it.” have produced some exiting pieces.
Birth, life, nature. Here is an excerpt from an article that I will share. As I think of my long career as a hospital chaplain and the art that I am doing on a full time basis now, I do see similarities. The intensity is different but it has to do with "intention" and "attention." As a chaplain I was present to my patients and their families, fully engaged, hopefully healing and transformative. As I do my art... time stands still, I am fully engaged in what I am doing creating a sense of wellbeing. And that is how my students have told me that they feel too, and at the end of a long day they often don't want to leave. That tells me something about the inner joy of creating and the inner healing that might be happening with them.
Q: So now I would like to revisit your art on a more personal level, as I know that being a chaplain has had great impact on your art and your involvement with others. What are some of the concepts and ideas in your work that tend to be at the core?
Q: What do you want people to walk away with when they see your art? What is it like for you to see people’s reaction to your art and where can we see your art?
I hope that people walk away from my art wondering to themselves, “how did she do that?” or inspired to the point of saying, “I want to learn..”
I am often stunned but happy over the reaction that others have. I recently had an all encaustic solo show at the San Diego International Airport for 6 months. The best compliment I received was from guests who told me later that they were very touched by the exhibition which brought them to tears. I believe that art in all of its forms has the power to heal and transform ourselves and others and yes, perhaps bring someone to tears.
My art can be seen at Front Porch Gallery, San Diego Art Institute, various restaurants and hospitals in San Diego. I recently was accepted at shows in Georgia and Minnesota.
Q: How do you share your talents? Do you personally teach any encaustic workshops or lectures? Is there any community outreach that you are involved in?
I have been teaching encaustic workshops from my home studio in San Diego where I offer individual and group sessions as well as what my husband and I call, Urban Art Retreat, where classes in encaustic, paper and book arts are offered along with lodging in a separate cottage. I love seeing the budding creativity of others.
I have given lectures to several art organizations in San Diego and gave workshops at San Diego Art Institute Art Department. One of the most fun demonstrations was when I was invited to talk about and demonstrate encaustic to a group of Kindergarteners who were studying Jasper Johns!
Goals for the future? I think to continue doing what I have been doing all along, teaching, making art and submitting artwork. And I would like to collaborate with a museum or university. I have some ideas about that and one may be in the works right now. Long term projects such as my work at the airport are exciting to me as my brain floods with ideas. Beginning a project such as that and seeing it through to the end is life-giving, much like giving birth. As a matter of fact, I will be giving a presentation at EncaustiCon in San Antonio September 2012 on the Birth of an Idea: From Concept to Completion.
Q: How about goals for the future, and do you have any parting words of advice or inspiration?
My words of advise for someone new to encaustic and to the art world is to learn the basics, play, experiment, do what you love and keep doing it. Continue to learn through workshops and conferences, join local art groups, submit your work. Most of all hang out with life-giving, life-affirming people and try not to compare yourself, your education, your talent with others. Always remember why you are doing what you are doing? And be serious about your art but don’t take yourself too seriously.
My background wasn’t art at all even though the creative spirit has been with me throughout my life. My master’s degree isn’t in fine art and I never would have imagined 10-15 years ago that I would be doing art, and that what I had proposed for an airport exhibit would have been chosen from many entries, and that I would have a beautiful studio where I am inspired each time I enter this space dedicated to encaustic where many students come to learn about this intriguing medium.
View more of Josie's work at her website and blog: