I live in the beautiful resort town of Sandpoint, located in the northern panhandle of Idaho just south of the Canadian border. My husband and I raised our kids in Spokane, Washington, just to the south, but we always had a second home in Sandpoint. Upon becoming empty nesters in September of 2017, we transitioned to spending a lot of our time in Idaho. My studio is located right in the heart of the quaint downtown. I love small town living, the supportive community of people and the active lifestyle Sandpoint offers.
Growing up in Corvallis, Oregon, I always considered myself the “artsy type.” I was fortunate to have grown up in a creative family. My grandfathers were woodworkers and jewelry makers and my grandmother sewed, had an 8,000 square foot garden and often expressed creativity through her devout baking. My mother painted with oil and my father has worked with wood and glass. Although I was creative as a teenager, I primarily focused on sports throughout my education. After graduating from high school, I attended Whitworth University and played volleyball. After Whitworth, I continued my education with an emphasis in interior design and soon after began working as a designer in Spokane. In the midst of this season, I met and married my husband, John. Together we had two children, Braden and Bayley.
Although staying at home to raise our children was my priority, I sought opportunities to continue my work in the design field. Over that twenty-year period, I helped design several homes, churches, restaurants and office space. The design field always captivated me because every project brought about a new style, color palette and its own unique features. In between design projects and sitting in gyms for my kids’ sports, I began exploring paint projects with acrylics and oils. It didn’t take long once I began painting to realize that one day I would make this my main priority. After the kids left for college, I made the conscious decision to pursue the encaustic medium.
Art speaks to the depths of the soul. It connects us. Inspires us. Communicates for us
Creativity has been a part of me as long as I can remember and has played a significant role in defining who I am. Whether it is drawing, sewing, painting or working in interior design, it has been my way of expressing myself. Growing up, it was a challenge for me to verbalize my emotions. Art gave me an outlet to interpret my world. I believe creatives have a unique way to articulate what the human heart feels and yet often cannot find the words for. I have been engaging in the artistic lifestyle as long as I can remember, but really pursuing art began about two years ago, and it’s been the greatest discovery of my true self so far.
In December of 2017, I rented my first studio in Sandpoint and started torching away. After painting for a few months, I went back for a few classes with a world-renowned encaustic painter and teacher, Alicia Tormey. The timing was perfect for a refresher and I came home with even more confidence to keep moving forward. Ever since, I have been painting fervently. I can’t keep up with my mind as it overflows with new ideas to try. With each painting, I find myself ever more fascinated by this medium and have a desire to keep learning and pushing myself. Bottom line, I can’t get enough.
When I started painting in 2007, it was during a time I was going through some personal struggles and it gave me the ability to get out of my own head and allow the necessary healing to take place. It was therapeutic, and I think that naturally occurs when you’re passionate about something.
Those who pursue their passions know what it feels like to be alive, open and living the best version of themselves. To me, that’s the greatest inspiration.
Overall, I am an abstract artist: art that does not attempt to represent external reality, but seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, forms, colors, and textures. Abstract art has the ability to communicate so much with no detail. Every piece I have created is undergirded by a story, but we are each inspired so differently, and internalize an artist’s work with our own unique interpretation. That is why art is so powerful. I love to hear others’ perspectives about my work, sometimes aligning with mine and at other times not.
Beyond the abstract artist definition, I am new enough to the encaustic medium that I am still trying to find “me” and my own expression. I love exploring the process of fusing different items into wax, whether that is nails, rocks, or layering in alcohol inks. I also incorporate a method called the “Shou Sugi Ban” burn into my works. It’s an ancient Japanese technique that preserves wood by charring it with fire. As an interior designer, I used it when designing a restaurant about eight years ago and fell in love with the finished product. It’s been fun to incorporate it into many of my encaustics. I am not in a hurry; I am truly enjoying the process of finding my own style and expression.
The encaustic process begins on a beautiful birch wood panel. The base of every piece consists of four layers of molten clear medium wax, which I have made using beeswax and damar resin, and then four layers of white wax to create a “fondant” look. The fun part of adding color then begins as I layer beeswax, resin, dry pigments and shellac, fusing each of the 25–40 layers together with a flaming torch.
I embark on a new panel, painting through my emotions, addressing each new layer as it comes and allowing myself to release the stories inside me.
Every layer of wax is fused with the torch before another layer can be applied. This process helps each layer of wax meld with the previous so that all the layers properly bond together and will not separate. As I build these layers I am scraping, engraving or dripping wax to create texture and also expose depth of the previous layers. Using my clay loop tool, I scrape back layers of wax to allow pops of the previous layer of color to peep through. This is one way I build complexity in my works. The delicious wax drips down all four sides of every painting. It cools immediately, but can be heated up and reworked if desired. To finish off a painting, I use my clay loop tool to remove those juicy drips from the edges of the panel, leaving a nice crisp, clean edge, exposing all the beautiful wax layers and colors.
Wax buffs to a glistening shine and is the most durable of all mediums. Encaustic is impervious to moisture and will not mold, yellow or fade. I use shellac in about 90% of my paintings. I use 3–4 different layers of shellac, between the wax layers, to achieve fascinating depth and a bit of edginess at the same time.
There are endless places or emotions from which I discover my inspirations and gather ideas for painting. Living in charming Sandpoint influences me daily. Whether it is in the mountains or on the lake, whether a hot summer day with blue skies or 10 degrees in the winter with beautiful snow-covered trees, this little town is always triggering creative thoughts in my mind. For example, I love hiking, collecting loose twigs and fusing them into the wax. I am always searching for a unique item to incorporate into my work.
Being an abstract artist, I definitely find inspiration within myself as well. I really try to be a positive, joyful person and hopefully my art reflects that. The all-encompassing inspiration I draw from is typically rooted in my faith, which makes me who I am. I want to create depth in my life, not just length. I want to walk away from this earth having left an impact that people can tangibly see. Those who pursue their passions know what it feels like to be alive, open and living the best version of themselves. To me, that’s the greatest inspiration.
One challenge in the creating process are the “roadblocks” in my head. If I’m having an off day in the studio, I use that time to take a break. I’ve learned that the mundane prepares my soul and clears my headspace for the upcoming expression awaiting. I will pause to create the necessary medium, white paint, hang hardware paint edges, or stroll to my favorite café downtown. There’s always plenty to get done while I wait for my brain to clear up. It is continually a balance of disciplined learning, giving room for the “roadblocks,” refilling, and then allowing creative release.
I feel that my biggest accomplishment thus far was definitely my first show at the Pend D’ Oreille Winery in Sandpoint in the summer of 2018. I hung 50 pieces of art and sold over half of them. I was very excited and also so humbled by all the support. It really gave me the confidence to keep working hard and pushing myself further in my craft.
In the studio, I am fully engaged in the process of creating. Hours feel like minutes there.
Creating encaustic art is a passion and my studio is my oasis. Being an artist allows me to express my individuality while also creating tangible works that offer others joy. I lose time as I am evolving and acquainting myself with this enchanting medium. I am a very organized and detailed person, so being an encaustic artist and using a torch—which has a mind of its own—has forced me go with the flow a little more. When fusing, I have to let go of any preconceived ideas of what I want and surrender the notion of having full control over the piece. It’s a freeing process and one that I’ve learned to trust, as it always results in a finished work that is a unique convergence of artistry and freedom.