Featured Artist - Gayle Reichelt - for publishing in the May 2016 issue of Gold Coast Art Newsflash.
FEATURED ARTIST - GAYLE REICHELT (free Newsletter edited by Ray Frisken email Ray on E: firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the monthly newsletter list).
She is a new reader to our e mag. When she asked to be put on the mailing list, she mentioned her web site, so I checked it out, and saw her involvement in something I had never heard about.
Always on the look-out for a story, I asked her to tell me about the art of Encaustic, a 5th. Century B.C. painting medium.
Gayle explained to me that Encaustic is an ancient medium comprised of beeswax, and is one of the world’s oldest art forms. It was first thought to be practiced by the Greeks and Romans as far back as 7000 years ago. “Enkostikos” is a Greek word meaning “to burn in.” Greek shipbuilders began by using melted beeswax and pigment to caulk and adorn their sailing ships. One thousand years later, Egyptian painters began using encaustics to paint incredibly beautiful and durable mummy portraits during the Fayum period.
Amazingly, despite being over 7000 years old, encaustic works are still on display in museums today, and still look as fresh today as when they were first painted. In Australia, recent carbon dating of early Aboriginal cave paintings indicates that beeswax was used with ochre colour over 5000 years ago.
The most well known of all encaustic works are the Fayum funeral portraits painted during the 1st through to 3rd centuries AD by Greek painters in Egypt.
A portrait of the deceased, generally one that was painted during their prime of life, but sometimes after death, was placed over the person’s mummy as a memorial. Many of these ancient encaustic works still survive today and the colour has remained fresh due to the protection of the wax.
Because the ancient techniques of using encaustic was very laborious and time consuming during the Middle Ages, artists turned to using tempera, fresco and oil painting techniques that did not require the use of charcoal fires which was required to liquefy the wax paints.
Originally, coal-fired heating had to be used to heat the encaustic medium and substrate. The ancient Greeks used a barrel-shaped container that held hot coals on a flat metal plate to radiate heat. (Later, the Romans called this apparatus a cestrum). Encaustic medium was then applied with a bronze spatula-like instrument. This cumbersome condition eventually helped turn artists away from employing the encaustic technique of painting.
Although there was some exploration of the medium in the 18th & 19th Century, encaustics faded into relative obscurity until the early 20th century when modern electrically-heated equipment became available to make the process relatively easy.
A handful of artists began experimenting with it in the 20th Century, notably Mexican muralist Diego Rivera in the 1920s and Jasper Johns in the 1950s.
The first commercial encaustic paint was made in the late 1940s in New York City.
Notably, Jenny Sages won the People’s Choice in the Archibald Prize in 2012 with a self portrait called “After Jack”, painted with encaustic
As each layer of encaustic medium is brushed or poured on to a substrate (usually wood) it is fused with the previous layer using a heat source such as heat gun or torch. Note – a hair dryer is not hot enough and will not work.
Many artists use clear encaustic medium alone incorporating collage or photo transfer elements, but colour can be obtained by adding pigments to the medium. Mark making tools can be used to create beautiful texture and markings.
Beeswax is durable, impervious to moisture and archival. Care for your encaustic art in the same way as you would any piece of fine art and it will last for centuries.
When asked about her involvement with encaustic in art, she said, “I began using the fascinating and seductive medium of encaustic nearly two years ago. I first learnt about encaustic during my bachelor studies at La Trobe University Bendigo. I learnt about Jasper Johns’ work with encaustic, and bought two blocks of encaustic medium in the art store at university".
"Unfortunately, this was before the current revival of encaustic, and I found that none of my lecturers knew how to use it and there was not much written about it. So after finishing university, I carted the two blocks around with me moving from Bendigo to Melbourne, then to Queensland in 2000, and eventually the Gold Coast in 2013”.
“Around July 2014, I saw a three day encaustic workshop advertised by an artist in the northern suburbs of Brisbane, and immediately enrolled”.
"After the workshop, I started experimenting in a small way on the workbench in my garage that had been converted to a storage area/workshop".
"I purchased the minimum requirements at first, but it didn’t take long for me to become completely hooked. My first results were not all that exciting, but gradually with practice, I started producing more interesting works. Then suddenly I just got it, and I have completely fallen in love with working in this medium".
"Now, with full encouragement from my husband, my workbench/storage shed has been turned into an encaustic studio and I have started producing quite a large body of work using encaustic, and have started teaching small groups of other interested artists".
"I recently had a solo exhibition called “The Last Fleet” at the Gold Coast City Gallery (from 6 Feb. until 20th March 2016) and at least half of the twenty or so works in that exhibition were encaustic”.
Gayle’s mediums are Encaustic, Oil and Charcoal. She paints shipwrecks, portraits, houses, bird and animal studies, abstract, landscape and much more.
When I asked her about her early life this is what she told me.
"For as long as I can remember, I have had a fascination for art. From a very early age I was able to produce a likeness to anything I wanted to draw and I used to draw frequently. Unfortunately in my early years, I was not encouraged to pursue art. I lived in a small country town called Yarram in South Gippsland, Victoria where there was no exposure to art galleries or museums, and I never met any artists.
Whilst living in Deniliquin in NSW in 1979, married and pregnant with my second daughter, I joined a local art group and was immediately hooked. I attended as many workshops as I could, and learnt as much as I could from other practicing artists, mostly in oil or watercolor. My early focus was painting portraits, homesteads and landscapes, mostly 'en plein air' and finishing off in my studio. From very early on, I won many art prizes from local and surrounding area exhibitions, and was frequently commissioned to do a painting whenever someone retired or left town.
In 1990, I met an artist who challenged me to expand my repertoire from painting representation works, and in 1991 I applied and was accepted into La Trobe University Bendigo to do a Bachelor of Arts Degree. I loved university, and of course could not stop there, so continued to do an Honours Year and a Diploma of Education.
A recurring theme began during my university years of reviewing the fate of abandoned human manufactured constructs in the natural environment.
In my Honours year, my thesis called “Aftermath of Insatiable Desire” was about our throwaway society and how once useful human-made machinery was eventually abandoned and left to rot and rust.
I moved to Brisbane in 2000, but financial circumstances prevented me from being able to pursue my art on a full time basis, although I did manage to produce and have a solo exhibition at Doggett Street Studio in Newstead in 1979. This exhibition was called “Deconstructing Cherry Venture” and focused on the deconstruction of the shipwreck Cherry Venture, which had been abandoned to the mercy of the natural forces, slowly yet inevitably eroding and corroding into rust and dust.
In 2013 I met my future husband and moved to the Gold Coast and was married in 2014. For the first time since my university days, I was able to pursue my art full time. In July 2014, I saw a three-day Encaustic workshop advertised, and immediately enrolled. I was completely captivated by the process of using this beautiful, seductive medium, and with the full support and encouragement from my husband, set up a studio in our home in Tallai.
I practiced daily, and very quickly progressed and developed my own style. In 2015, I was offered a solo exhibition in the Foyer Gallery at the Gold Coast City Gallery to develop an exhibition to expand my weathered shipwreck theme. "The Last Fleet” ran from 6th February to 20th March and comprised 17 paintings of which half were painted using encaustic and the other half oil.
Since my exhibition, I have begun holding encaustic painting workshops for small groups from one to five in my studio in Tallai, and I am available to hold workshops for a larger groups at a suitable venue.
UPDATE: I no longer teach Encaustic Art Workshops, but I do have a lot of Encaustic artwork for sale, and can be commissioned to do an Encaustic painting.
If you would like to watch Gayle demonstrating how to create encaustic art GOOGLE: Encaustic Image Transfer
For as long as I can remember, I have been able to effortlessly and accurately sketch or draw an object or persons likeness. I had an innate ability to look at a person or object, and accurately gauge the size, shape and colour, and distance, memorise that information and put it down on paper. As a child and teenager, I particularly loved to draw faces to obtain a realistic likeness to that person. This love also extended to drawing animals, and a lot of my teen years was spent drawing both from magazine photographs and from life. This expanded both to drawing from life and using my own photographs as reference.
Later, when I wanted to paint a landscape, building, or portrait of a person, I would complete a charcoal or pencil work as a preliminary study to work out composition, light and shade, and get a feeling for the subject. This enabled me to see things as they really are. Most of the time, my drawings were complete artworks in themselves.
Drawing dates back to pre-history and was the earliest form of non-verbal communication between humans. Drawing is a way to communicate thoughts and feelings, and enables us to see the world as it really is.
As Leonardo da Vinci once said,
“Painting embraces all the ten functions of the eyes, that is to say, darkness, light, body and colour, shape and location, distance and closeness, motion and rest.”
Some artists live in one part of the Universe of Art and explore a theme or themes. I have been strongly attracted to the exploration of different mediums, across the whole Universe of Art.
My early years involved mostly oil and charcoal, with forays into watercolour, pastel and acrylic. With these mediums, I explored landscapes, portraits, abstracts and surreal.
Recently, my life changed to allow more time for art, leading me into vigorous exploration of new areas of art. My two major new areas are encaustic art using hot beeswax and resin art using epoxy resin. At the same time, my life also changed with my marriage to a scientist with an interest in astrophotography and, with him, I have explored combining star images with charcoal drawings to convey the meaning of the Universe of Stars.
Painting with hot beeswax:
The ancient Greek art of encaustic painting with hot beeswax is another major realm in the Universe of Art. Moving into a new house with a new husband gave me the opportunity to explore this exciting new art realm, since this form of art needs considerable work in establishing a dedicated studio and developing new and unusual art techniques.
From 2014 to 2016, I developed abstract, image transfer and realist works, the latter focussing on a shipwreck series, which culminated in a solo exhibition called “The Last Fleet” at the Gold Coast City gallery in 2016.
I have also used the image transfer variation of encaustic painting to produce a series based on Australian native birds.
Painting with resin:
Over the last year, I entered yet another new realm of the Universe of Art: painting with epoxy resin. Like encaustic painting, this art form needs a dedicated studio, specific equipment, new techniques and a new approach to art. I am still exploring new variations of this exciting new realm of the Universe of Art but this exciting new area has already led to another solo exhibition called “New Beginnings”, at the One Arts Gallery, Isle of Capri, Gold Coast Queensland in the month of May 2017.
What is resin?:
Epoxy Resin used in art is an adhesive, plastic material made from synthetic polymers and mixed with a hardener in a specific ratio which varies for different brands. Coloured pigments are added, and the mixture is generally poured onto a surface, mostly MDF, but sometimes other surfaces. When cured, it becomes a very tough and hard surface.
When resin, hardener and coloured pigments are mixed, it is in a fluid form and extremely sticky – a bit like honey. An artist has to work very quickly to achieve their art with resin as it starts to cure after about 40 minutes – although it is possible to work a little longer before it becomes more like toffee. Then it must be left undisturbed until at least the next day before progressing further with it.
Frequently I work with multiple layers to achieve incredible depth, so depending upon how many layers I use, a good artwork can take several days to develop. The affects achieved with resin depend upon various ways that it is applied to the surface, and each artist develops their own techniques for manipulating the fluid medium to get the effects they want. There is much more involved than just “throwing coloured resin onto a surface”. An artist needs to develop a lot of skill to develop a unique and beautiful work.
Applying heat either with a torch or heat gun is an important step for proper curing of the resin and hardener mix. Proper mixing and exact volumes of resin and hardener are required for adequate curing. Whilst it becomes quite solid to touch within 5 to 7 hours, it requires up to 48 hours for a complete cure.
Epoxy Resin requires a moderate level of safety precautions to avoid contact with the skin and eyes as well as avoiding the accumulation of vapours in the room. I wear protective clothing, nitrate gloves, and work in a room with cross-flow ventilation and when using solvents, a carbon mask.
If you like my work, my website, or one of my blogs, please share with your friends on Facebook, Twitter or add a comment.
I publish a newsletter from time to time, advising when and where I am exhibiting, and other interesting art news.
If you would like to have your name added to my mailing list at the top of the page. If you with to enquire about an artwork, or a workshop or any other query, please use the Contact Gayle Reichelt form.
(c)Gayle Reichelt: ALL images contained in this site are under automatic copyright to the artist. Apart from fair dealing for the purposes of private study, research or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part of any image may be reproduced by any process without write permission of the artist. Enquiries should be addressed to the artist.