Applying the precise style of a professional graphic artist to an ancient painting technique more associated with abstract designs, La’Nelle Gambrell has created her own unique style of art.
Though she has been an artist all her life and is also an accomplished watercolor and acrylic painter, La’Nelle has devoted herself to encautic painting in recent years and will share her work with the public during this week’s Off the Beaten Path Studio Tour.
Dating back to the early Greeks, encaustic painting is a labor-intensive technique employing a wax base that is blended with various natural pigments. It predates temperas and oils, and the surviving examples of ancient encaustic works are the Egyptian Fayum mummies painted in the 1st through the 3rd centuries.
“The whole process is very organic. It’s a mixture of different tree saps and beeswax,” La’Nelle said.
La’Nelle purchases beeswax in blocks or small pieces and mixes it with pigments, some of which she makes herself.
“They come from the earth – minerals, some of them are plant based.”
The wax medium must be melted, blended with the pigments, and kept molten on a heated palette at 170 degrees Farenheit. It is applied with a heated tool to an absorbent, rigid surface. Each layer is then reheated with an iron or torch to fuse it to the previous layer. The result of multiple layering and fusing of the molten wax and pigment (sometimes up to 20 layers or more) results in a translucency that is unique to the encaustic medium.
“It has a dimensional quality. You can’t achieve it with any other medium. That’s what fascinates me about encaustics,” La’Nelle said.
See the full story and more photos in the Sept. 12, 2018 issue.