Hello My name is Abra.
I live in Atlanta, Georgia and picked up encaustic painting in my mid-twenties on a whim, only to drop it again for another 8 years. A Bachelor of Fine Arts, my emphasis was in graphic design which led me to an executive career spanning over two decades and climaxing as an Executive Creative Director within Corporate America. Corporate America was not my friend though, and it did not suit my vibration and need for a calmer, singular life where my anxiety could heal. The pandemic brought me honeybees that gently encouraged me to pick up encaustic painting once again. I have since returned to my Georgia home where I still occasionally participate in corporate America, but only when needed. I tend to my yard, my bees, my family, and my renewed love for Encaustic Painting.
Encaustic wax is frustrating, complicated, and doesn’t always go your way. For many it may be too frustrating to work with, but for me it’s exactly what I need. I suffer from severe anxiety. My anxiety is somewhere in the arena of OCD but manifests as a fear of losing self-control. I have a lot of panic attacks that often come out of nowhere and happen for almost no reason. You can imagine this makes doing almost anything outside of the home very challenging and mentally exhausting.
This medium helps me deal with that anxiety—helps me face this fear of losing control and stability, especially when it comes to hot wax painting. Wax can’t be perfect as much as I try to make it. It’s not always going to behave the same way from one day to the next. If the room is cooler one day, the paint may harden on my brush before I get the chance to place a stroke, or it may clump in the most inopportune place. You must think fast and feel, place each line quickly and decisively and be okay with the outcome. You must mold yourself to this media and practice acceptance or it will literally burn you. This is my form of exposure therapy, and at times, tires me quickly.
Despite the task, though, I enjoy allowing my controlling nature to have a place here by creating more complex Encaustic paintings just as you would from other media such as oil and acrylic. Many artists that practice this sort of encaustic often say they are using it in the ‘historical way,’ or rather the way it was originally practiced, which was realism. Encaustic wax realism must be glazed in layers, blended differently, and can’t be pushed around to form gradients in the same way oils or acrylics can, so the attention to coloring is quite intense. Its texture is rich, glossy, and so much more interesting in person than any other media I have experienced.
I use traditional paint brushes and occasionally a hot wax stylus that works like an ink pen or quill. I make all my own paints and use non-toxic natural earth pigments in every piece. I do not layer photographs under the wax. I get asked that a lot because that’s a common practice with encaustic, but I do not do that. I paint my realism traditionally from an inspirational source, but do not do any kind of mixed media style work. I am also an accidental beekeeper, which adds to my love for this natural medium and the efforts to save the bees. I paint horses, but do not consider myself an Equestrian Artist because I don’t want to limit my subject matter. I grew up owning a rescued wild Mustang named Indian Dream Danser (with an ‘s’). I considered her my favorite family member, and my emotional crutch. She lived for 35 years and was one tough nugget. I admired her for that. Aside from horses I do also like to paint fruits and vegetables, specifically clusters on long horizontal panels.
Brief Encaustic History
Greeks used encaustic wax to paint loved one’s faces on wooden caskets because it would adhere and withstand moisture well. Their paintings were realistic and formed meticulously one stroke at a time. These paintings are extremely archival, with an ability to outlive the wood itself. In my many, many art history classes, these were the works that fascinated me the most and ultimately planted the seed to my creative process many years later.