“Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
The birth of imagery is a mystery that never ceases to leave me stunned and quaking. I tremble at the finish line of a completed work, astounded at its full arrival: active in emotion, swamped with color, looming with subconscious, symbolism, and then, somehow, whole.
My work is rich with process. I paint with oils and beeswax encaustic. Each medium speaks it’s own bright language, but my process remains consistent in the hunt for its gratifying compositions, a meaningful sense of color, abstract curiosities, as well as potential additions of poetic text and mixed media. And then there is the seeking of the work’s own spirit. This is the deep and satisfying work of process, but it is also frightening and heavy with challenge. Commissioned images especially require deep prayer and contemplation, as the seeds of those images are planted outside of myself. Painter Agnes Martin said, “To be an artist is to surrender,” and I find myself in sound agreement when I’m forced to relinquish ideas and imagery throughout my creative process in order to truly serve the work. Where does it want to go? I must follow. And this can be painful. The beauty, of course, is in the resurrection, and after navigating all necessary channels, dangerous and lovely alike, the work will rise whole. A sweet hallelujah ensues.
The encaustic medium continues to captivate me with its versatility, fascinating properties, and historically compelling story. Derived from the Greek word, enkaustikos, which means, “to burn in,” this ancient medium derived from beeswax and tree resin dates back to 800 B.C. Encaustic requires the use of heat to fuse each layer of the wax medium to ensure a stable painting. There is a great physicality to encaustic that may require the use of many tools for scraping, carving, and sculpting as the wax cools and hardens. Embedding mixed media additions into the wax also brings a rich complexity and physical depth to the imagery (that I crave). In the end, there is a vulnerability revealed in the layers. A luminous history is found in these layers, invoking a sense of chivalrous protection for the painting in its final state. The mysterious surface of an encaustic painting reminds me of the mystical vocation I’m wrapped up in…it’s the unsayable, unconscious birth-work that leaves me trembling, with gratitude, at the finish line.