April's Featured Artist Laura Graveline

According to the Encaustic Art Institute, encaustic is a Greek word meaning “to heat or burn in” (enkaustikos). The medium is an ancient one, dating back at least to the 1st century AD. Encaustic consists of heated beeswax and dammar resin (crystallized tree sap), and can be used alone for its transparency and adhesive qualities or used pigmented. The wax gives a sculptural relief effect to the paintings and a rich glow to the colors, and the process was especially prized by portrait painters for the natural, lifelike skin tones it could produce.

Image: A Fayum Mummy portrait, one of the oldest surviving encaustic panels, dating to around 100-300 A.D.

Laura Graveline

Laura Graveline is one of many artists who, in the 20th century have revived this technique for the modern age. (Jasper Johns is perhaps the most famous modern user of encaustic.) It is not surprising that Laura would be drawn to revive this ancient medium; as an undergraduate, she majored in Art History and minored in Studio Art. She then went on to work as a library assistant and pursued a master's degree in Library Science. Laura is now a VT-based professional artist and also works as the Visual Arts Librarian at Dartmouth College and as the Library Director for the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. She is a member of the Encaustic Art Institute, where her work is part of the permanent collection.

Laura's work is full of energy and movement. She starts with a color she wants to explore or a feeling she wants to evoke. She lets the encaustic "speak", and as she works, applying multiple layers of color, the images reveal themselves, often to her happy surprise.

The alchemy-like nature of encaustic provides a spontaneous feeling in Laura's work, evoking a sense of transformation and capturing a moment of creativity in time.

Image: "Relational Practice" by Laura Graveline

Today, it has become somewhat easier to paint with encaustics due to the availability of portable electric heating implements, and tools such as heat lamps, torches, and heat guns that help keep the medium malleable for longer. However, it is a very specialized medium and can be challenging to master. We are so pleased that Laura will be holding two encaustic workshops at Artistree this summer - see more information on our website!

Image: "Spring Stumbles" by Laura Graveline