Our Interview with Linda Robertson...
Q: How did you first learn about encaustic painting and how
long have you been working in it?
A: I don’t remember
the first encaustic painting I ever saw, but rather several paintings over a
few months that really grabbed me
because they just didn’t look like any other medium.
Most of them were listed as mixed media
so it took me a while to figure out
what they were made of. I immediately
started researching encaustic and it quickly became
my favorite medium. That was several
years ago and I’ve never looked back!
Q: What do you enjoy most about this medium?
A: The luminosity and layering are definitely my favorite
aspects of it. You’ll see in my work that layering is very important to the
look of my pieces, building up wax then scraping it back to reveal what’s
Q: What do you like
least about this medium?
Waiting for my wax to heat up! On the other hand that gives me time
to contemplate what I’ll be working on and to prepare my panels. The studio
would never be clean if I didn’t have to wait for wax to heat.
Q: How would you describe your encaustic artwork?
My work is influenced
by my childhood in Hawaii,
incorporating abstractions of nature, particularly wind and water and how they
alter the world around us with the passage of time.
Photographs of natural materials symbolize humanity both transforming and being
transformed by natural processes. The fragility of life has long been
a recurring theme in my work;
exploring how we grow, develop
and cease to exist in our current forms and what evidence remains of our
existence when we are gone.
Q: Where do your ideas come
from for your pieces? Do you have a vision before you start painting or does it
develop as you work? (Basically, please
explain your creative process a bit.)
I’m always looking out for interesting images and forms as I
go through my day and when I see something
good everything stops until I capture it. We’ve had many a late dinner because
of it. When I start to paint I work intuitively on the background without a
plan and see where it leads me, then
I try to pair images I’ve already collected and prepared with those
backgrounds. I add many layers so I can scrape back into them and I sometimes
end up with 40 layers of wax on one piece.
Q: Is there one specific tool or brush that you use in
encaustic that you think is a must-have for all encaustic artists?
I don’t use any special brushes and I use a variety of tools
for different looks. I’ve recently started using your Wax Writer and I love the
precise, raised line it gives to my work. I think the tool I rely on the most
is my propane torch. When I first bought it I let it sit around for several weeks
because I was afraid of it, but once I learned to use it there was no going
back. It gives me so much control
over the wax that I use it as a kind of brush now, blending and moving colors
in really interesting ways.
Q: Do you have a favorite encaustic technique that you find
yourself doing often in your pieces?
I love to add photographs to my work and have found a good
technique for printing them to very thin paper which disappears when I cover it
with clear medium. I’m left with an image
embedded in my painting and no edges to give away the fact that it’s a photograph.
Many people think those plant images are painted which makes me smile. That means
I camouflaged it just right.
Q: What do you want
people to walk away with when they see your pieces?
I want my work to be the beginning of a conversation about
how the past and present affect each other. Everything we do leaves an
impression - good or bad - that often can’t be undone. I want that to be
reflected in my paintings. For example, those letters that float through my
work are a reminder that words spoken that can’t be taken back.
Q: Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you
specifically admire or that may have influenced you in some
way as an artist?
A: There are several artists who come
to mind in a wide variety of medium
as styles. Anselm Kiefer for his deep texture, Joseph Cornell for his unusual
combination of imagery and materials, and Clyfford Still for his large scale expressive
paintings that capture so much emotion. Mike and Doug Starn were a big influence
on me in college for their
irreverent approach to photography, and later encaustic. I recently had the
opportunity to visit their studio in New
York and it was very exciting for me. In terms of encaustic it would be too long a
list to include all those I’m inspired by, but I’m a big fan of Christopher
Reilly, Betsy Eby, Tony Sherman, and Lucinda Young.
Q: Tell us about your
book, Embracing Encaustic.
I was inspired to write my book, Embracing Encaustic:
Learning to Paint with Beeswax because at the time there was no
book available for the complete novice that I could recommend
to my beginning students. I basically wrote the book I wished I’d had when
starting out. It explains the history, tools, and techniques to get started
with simple step-by-step instructions and photographs. My favorite part of the
book has to the gallery section where twenty-five notable painters spill their
secrets, describing how they created the works on display. It’s the next best
thing to watching over their shoulders as they work.
Q: With the success
of Embracing Encaustic, do you think you’ll write another encaustic book in the
Writing Embracing Encaustic was very fulfilling and exciting
but it took me away from my own
painting for many months, and I feel like I’m still catching up. I have no
plans for another book right now but -never say never- right?
Q: I noticed that you
write a blog (http://embracingencaustic.wordpress.com). What do you enjoy most about blogging and what
topics do you usually cover?
A: I love to share the excitement
of discovery in the medium! I post
when things go well, and not so well, so others can learn from my mistakes as
well as successes.
Q: Do you personally
teach any encaustic workshops or lectures?
If so, where and how can artists learn more about them?
A: I teach workshops monthly in my studio in Portland, Oregon
and just a few times a year
nationally so I can still have enough time
to paint. I taught a class this year at the Encaustic Conference in Massachusetts, John C. Campbell Folk School
in North Carolina
in a few weeks and again in 2010. I’ll also be at the Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts in Tennessee in 2010. Links
to these classes are on my web site at http://www.lindarobertsonarts.com/workshops/index.html
Q: If you were
encouraging someone to try encaustic
painting, what would you say to attract them to the medium?
I would suggest that they try to see some encaustic paintings in person because photographs
just don’t do them justice. Once they are face to face with this luminous medium, their curiosity will take care of the rest.
Q: With that in mind,
do you also have any advice for artists who are just starting in encaustic?
A: Be patient. There’s no faster way to ruin a painting than to
push it too fast. This can be tough especially when you are really excited
about what you’re working on, so I always work on at least 2 pieces at one, (or
6 or 8 if they are small) so I can keep painting on one panel while the others
Like everyone else, I get really
busy with my book, teaching, painting and my family. This quote from Brenda Ueland is a great
reminder to stop and take a breath...
does not come like a bolt, nor is it
kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes
into us slowly and quietly and all the time,
though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start
flowing, prime it with a little
solitude and idleness."