Not The Sincerest Form of Flattery

By Joanne Mattera

Appropriation, duplication, imitation and, yes, plagiarism, have been increasingly in evidence in the encaustic community. In a recent round-table discussion we addressed the ethical dilemma posed by work that looks as if it’s made by an established artist but is not.

I bet you can identify the artists whose work I’m describing here with an economy of words: Arrows. Formal compositions comprised of linear elements secured with tacks. Geologic sculptures and prints. Fantastical biology. Found photographic portraits used as the basis for paintings with a poetic narrative. Of course you can!

Immediately identifiable: Installation from the 2013 exhibition, Swept Away: Translucence, Transparence,Transcendence at the Cape Cod Museum of Art with, from left: David A. Clark arrow prints, Nancy Natale bricolage with tacked elements, Laura Moriarty geologic sculpture and prints. Photo by the author

Immediately identifiable: Installation from the 2013 exhibition, Swept Away: Translucence, Transparence,Transcendence at the Cape Cod Museum of Art with, from left: David A. Clark arrow prints, Nancy Natale bricolage with tacked elements, Laura Moriarty geologic sculpture and prints. Photo by the author

Unmistakably Rothman: Marybeth Rothman, Correction to the correction: Mattie, 2011, photo collage, encaustic and mixed media, 40" x 40". Complicating the issue here are those purporting to “teach” Rothman’s technique. If it’s an “esque,” it’s not a Rothman. And if it’s not a Rothman, it’s an imitation. (Rothman herself does not teach.) Photo courtesy of the artist

Unmistakably Rothman: Marybeth Rothman, Mattie, 2011; photo collage, encaustic and mixed media; 40″ x 40″
Complicating the issue here are those purporting to “teach” Rothman’s technique. If it’s an “esque,” it’s not a Rothman. And if it’s not a Rothman, it’s an imitation. (Rothman herself does not teach.)
Photo courtesy of the artist

While none of the aforementioned elements are unique in and of themselves, the specific ways these individual artists have developed them into a unique vision and recognizable style, often with specially devised techniques and hanging systems, is most definitely theirs and theirs alone. When those unique elements are copied by another artist so closely as to be identified with the original artist, there’s a problem for both the original artist and the imitator. And this problem presents an ethical dilemma for the entire encaustic community.

Several members of the ProWax group addressed the issue in online conversation recently. What sparked the conversation was seeing work by a few artists whose recent efforts so closely resembled the highly visible and ongoing bodies of work by other artists in the community that the specter of copying was impossible to ignore. Is this a widespread problem? The numbers seem to be relatively small at any one time, but the instances of imitation are jaw-droppingly bold. We’ve seen them online and in galleries. Some teachers have even undertaken to instruct students in the style of certain artists, without permission, thus ensuring a steady stream of imitators. Maritza Ruiz-Kim, editor of ProWax Journal, wrote an essay on the topic in the first issue of our online publication. Here the discussion developed as a roundtable after we saw the most recent round of doppelgangers. An edited synopsis follows.

Pullquote_Schaller_PWJ7Pamela Winegard Appropriation is something being grappled with in the art world all the time. Legally it’s very difficult to do anything about. Ethically it’s a very polarizing issue. You cannot copyright an idea.

Paula Roland There are conceptual reasons to appropriate. An example is using someone’s image as a “found object” in a collage, or Andy Warhol appropriating the image of Campbell’s soup cans. And let’s not confuse being influenced by someone’s work with using their themes, colors, processes, and [creating] the actual “look” of it. That’s copying. Yes there is the school of “something in the air” where people come up with the same discoveries simultaneously, unbeknownst to each other, on different sides of the planet. This is not what we’re talking about.

Pamela Winegard I should preface this with IMHO: If you are teaching workshops and you are freely teaching technique, the idea is that the student will absorb the technique and translate that into their own voice. Teaching the technique puts the technique into the public domain. Hence many exhibition organizers indicate that they don’t want student work, knowing that students often emulate their instructor’s work. They want mature work, work the student creates on their own, developed from study over time from the learned techniques and skills.

Jeff Schaller, Snap, encaustic, 36 x 36 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist

Jeff Schaller, Snap; encaustic; 36″ x 36″.
Photo courtesy of the artist

Elise Wagner The Internet and YouTube have created an “all you can take” mentality. I had a student this past weekend who wanted to know exactly how I do a specific texture. There are things I teach and things I do not. It is vital to be a generous teacher but to protect that which is yours, that which you have developed over time. I’ve already altered my teaching as a result. It is necessary for your work to continue to stand out, and it won’t if all your students are doing the same thing.

Jeff Schaller I think that happens more frequently when people teach a medium or a process rather than the fundamentals of painting.

Nancy Natale My view of copying is that the doppelganger doesn’t have the oomph of the original. However, I purposely do not teach what I do in my own work. Why encourage copycats?

Unmistakably Wright: Gregory Wright, Effervescent Ascension, 2009; encaustic, oil, pigment, shellac on birch; 36″ x 30″
This work is from Microcosm/Macrocosm, a long-running series in an oeuvre that explores the interconnectedness of visceral and cosmic. If it looks like Wright but it’s not a Wright, it’s not right.
Photo courtesy of the artist

Wayne Montecalvo There have been a few times that I’ve made artwork and learned later that it was very close to someone else’s. So I stopped doing it and tried to think where I came up with the idea in the first place. Similar ways of investigation are one thing, but work that looks too similar to another artist’s work can be embarrassing. I think most people would stop once they make the realization. In the end it helps no one.

Mindy Nierenberg It’s a thorny issue when artists share a similar aesthetic, which is not a rare thing. In my opinion, one has to respect the work of the artist who has been there first and back away if one’s own work is too similar. The combination of elements that go into creating a work of art is endless, and when a similarity too close for comfort is discovered it’s time to head in a new direction. There have been times when I’ve seen someone’s work that’s in the sweet spot of “this is exactly my aesthetic, uses materials I use, colors that call to me…and I wish I had done that!!!” And I walk away with a bittersweet feeling.Pullquote_Nierenberg_PWJ7

Or there was a time when I started working on something that excited me and then found out it was a similar path to someone else. That work was never shown and I went in another direction. All of this is a very different thing than someone out-and-out copying someone else’s work and calling it their own.

Graceann Warn, Geo,  2014, oil and encaustic on wood panel,  41 x 31  x 1.5  inches. Photo courtesy of the artist

Graceann Warn, Geo, 2014; oil and encaustic on wood panel;
41″ x 31″ x 1.5″ 
Photo courtesy of the artist

Laura Tyler I wish there was a way to explain to people how appropriation is [also] damaging to the person doing the appropriating. I’ve tried to engage on this topic, but some artists take it poorly. I also agree with Wayne that appropriation is hard to see in your own work. We’re all participating in the same conversation more or less, right? What happens when what’s intended as a counterpoint comes across as mimicry?

Christine Aaron I think the thing that surprises most of us is that a fellow artist would be so blinded by their own recent explorations to not see or identify how it “speaks” another artist’s name (and that’s assuming the borrowing/copying isn’t intentionally done).

Nancy Natale I had the experience of being in a critical workshop with an artist who was making some work that pretty obviously copied recognizable work by another artist in the encaustic community. When the teacher asked the copier during the critique why s/he was making such derivative work, the copier professed ignorance and failure to see the resemblance. We in the class were all aghast that she could be in such denial. I still can’t believe that s/he didn’t know. Did s/he expect us all not to mention it? I guess my point is that such derivative work should be mentioned to the copying artist. Otherwise s/he may keep making it, either out of ignorance or thinking that no one has noticed.

One caveat, however, is that if someone arrives at a similar style or process via an evolution of their work, this could be legitimate and she is not necessarily copying. However, if the work just appears suddenly out of the blue and it looks like a copy, then you can be pretty sure it is just that.

Kate Miller Why would an artist want to imitate work that is “signature ” for a contemporary colleague? I don’t understand that and would find it most disturbing. The encaustic world is still small enough that these “signature” works are readily recognizable so copiers, if they are showing, would be seen outright as imitators. Professional artists know better.

Pullquote_Warn_File_PWJ7Graceann Warn The discussion comes at an opportune time, as I put together the topics for a workshop I’m teaching next month. I had planned to stress the importance of content but will also talk frankly about the “A word” [appropriation], since I’ve been stung a few times myself. The best story: When I was asked to be a juror for a major national show, an obvious version of my work came up on the screen. I later said it was work that looked like I had used my less dominant hand to make. It was made by someone who had taken classes from me—a professed (shudder) fan. It’s a small world we inhabit and what goes around most assuredly comes around.

Jeff Schaller Somebody once said about my painting, “I could have done that.” I replied, “But you didn’t and I did. Now you can’t because that would be copying.”

Joanne Mattera And that brings us back to the crux of this round table, as Graceann’s and Jeff’s comments illustrate. It’s happening, and it’s not flattering.

Laura Tyler So an artist can spend years, decades even, arriving at something spectacular and find that in an instant, practically, it’s become an encaustic meme?

Mindy Nierenberg Ethics are important to uphold in any profession, and as artists we are (or should be) a community looking out for each other and having each other’s backs.


Your voice in this conversation is appreciated. Have you seen the work of artists who imitate others? Have you said anything? If so, what was the result? Has it happened to you? What did you do? Have you used another’s ideas as the basis for your own work but not taken the idea far enough from the source? This is a chance to speak frankly on the topic. The only caveat is that we ask you not call out anyone by name. The point is to discuss, not shame. Thank you.

A few links to recent articles on this issue of copying


The Pull of Paper

by Deborah Winiarski

Artists have been pulled to work with paper since the time of its invention centuries ago. In addition to using paper to sketch or capture a moment quickly, they have been pulled to paper as their primary vehicle of creative expression. Working with paper is tactile, intimate, immediate. To work with paper is to be close – one can only be as far away as the length of an arm with scissor, brush, pencil in hand.

Art that combines paper and the medium of encaustic is a fairly new concept that began with Jasper Johns in the 1950s. Johns collaged papers into his paintings using pigmented wax both as paint and adhesive. But it was not until the middle 1970s when Dorothy Furlong-Gardner pulled the first encaustic monotype off a heated plate that paper became viable as a primary support for encaustic work.

Artists working in encaustic today are pulled to paper for a variety of reasons, citing its tactility, delicacy, and history. Paper, when combined with wax, becomes translucent and textural. The works below, created by ProWax artists, offer some exemplars of the contemporary push and pull of combining paper with wax. These artists have been pushing the boundaries of creative expression combining paper and encaustic in ever-innovative and exciting ways.



“The focus of my work is on the shredding, cutting, compartmentalizing and shedding of the past.  This work, from my ‘Transformations’ series, echoes and expands on the use of repetition of action, wrapping, painting, concealing and celebrating the humblest of materials; old clothing, burlap coffee bean bags, paper, and wax.”
– Lisa Zukowski
Lisa Zukowski, Constant Cravings, 2012.  encaustic monotype on paper, 72" x 72"

Lisa Zukowski, Constant Cravings, 2012; encaustic monotype on paper, 72″ x 72″


“This image is from a series of collages using scraps from encaustic papers that were too interesting to trash. I’ve been saving scraps for over 20 years hoping to someday set aside a period to produce a body of collages.”
– Dorothy Furlong-Gardner
Dorothy Furlong-Gardner Garden Party 2 2012 Various papers (mulberry, Superfine, interleaving, Rives lightweight, Masa) 12 X 12 inches Photo Credit:  John Barrois

Dorothy Furlong-Gardner, Garden Party 2, 2012; various papers (mulberry, Superfine, interleaving, Rives lightweight, Masa); 12″ x 12″. Photo Credit: John Barrois

“This encaustic collagraph from the series, “Above and Below” addresses the tension in opposing forces while juxtaposing their connections. My intention is to create a narrative based on abstraction evoking science and spirituality. The conversation between wax and plate results in layers of texture while additional plates render transparency and color.”
Dorothy Cochran
Dorothy Cochran Vivid Dream 2013 Encaustic collagraph and relief on Rives BFK 28 x 16 inches

Dorothy Cochran, Vivid Dream, 2013; encaustic collagraph and relief on Rives BFK, 28″ x 16″

I have always loved working on paper, whether using pastel, ink, oil, or encaustic. Working on paper gives me a sense of freedom and immediacy. This piece is from the series “Between the Lines,” that uses text, book pages, and monoprints to create an abstract narrative.”
Lisa Pressman
Lisa Pressman Between the Lines 17 2009 Encaustic on paper 17 x 17 inches Photo Credit:  Jay Rosenblatt

Lisa Pressman, Between the Lines 17, 2009; book pages, monoprints, encaustic,
17″ x 17″. Photo Credit: Jay Rosenblatt

“I use parallels between human life and the life of trees as a framework for exploring our physical and spiritual movement through time and space. I include wood shards as relics of life; tree rings serve as maps of the past. I strive to create work with a sense of history and personal journey.”
Peggy Epner
Peggy Epner The Long Game 2014 Wax, watercolor, and oil on paper 38 x 34 inches Photo Credit: Hal Samples

Peggy Epner, The Long Game, 2014; wax, watercolor, and oil on paper; 38″ x 34″
Photo Credit: Hal Samples

“I explore abstraction through a variety of found supports and collaged elements.  Using the medium of encaustic, I imbue battered cardboard found on the street with a kind of offbeat beauty – and transform the most ephemeral and fragile of objects into something enduring.”
Gail Gregg
Gail Gregg Rosebud 2012 Encaustic on found cardboard 14 x 14 inches

Gail Gregg, Rosebud, 2012; encaustic on found cardboard, 14″ x 14″

“Printmaking gives me the ability to work on the same or several images at once. This is instrumental for me towards building a series of works that are comprehensive and consistent yet dissimilar and original. Printmaking  has a direct correlation to my painting palette; the inks I use inform the colors I formulate for my paintings.”
Elise Wagner
Elise Wagner Traces & Transits Print 2013 Encaustic collagraph monotype 10 x 20 inches Photo Credit: Rebekah Johnson Photography, Portland, Oregon

Elise Wagner, Traces & Transits Print, 2013; encaustic collagraph monotype, 10″ x 20″
Photo Credit: Rebekah Johnson Photography, Portland, Oregon

“‘Ancient Histories’ explores the marks left behind. These prints are about the trace, the bones and artifacts of ancient impulses. They are the accumulated witnesses of time marching ever forward.”
– David A. Clark
David A. Clark Ancient Histories #61 2014 Encaustic monoprint on Sakamoto heavyweight 25 x 38 1/2 inches

David A. Clark, Ancient Histories #61, 2014; encaustic monoprint on Sakamoto heavyweight, 
25″ x 38.5″

 “The images used in these transfers were taken at the erotic temple carvings of Khajuraho, India, depicting sexual union between people, with a focus on pleasure. Just as there is an urge for the physical act of sex, most people experience a desire to merge body and soul with another. The paper substrates are constructed into forms that reference the movement of human form and language.”
– Deborah Kapoor
Deborah Kapoor Physical Pleasure (Kama) 2011 Photo Transfer on Paper, Snaps, Encaustic 19 x 1.5 x 3 inches

Deborah Kapoor, Physical Pleasure (Kama), 2011; photo transfer on paper, snaps, encaustic; 19″ x 1.5″ x 3″

“My sculptural work is about defensiveness versus vulnerability. The Cluster series falls on the vulnerable side of that spectrum. They are open and fluid, rather than closed and static.”
– Helen Dannelly
Helen Dannelly White Gray Cluster 2013 Encaustic, cone coffee filters 11 x 9 x 4 inches

Helen Dannelly, White Gray Cluster, 2013; encaustic, cone coffee filters; 11″ x 9″ x 4″

“I have always been drawn to the beautiful fragility of paper. Using Japanese papers (mostly Kozo and Gampi), allows me to have a surface that is fragile and sensible yet strong enough to suffer the beating I impose to the paper while working with monotype.”
– Alexandre Masino
Alexandre Masino Je touche au monde IV  2014 Intaglio, gold leaf & encaustic monoprint on Kozo paper 12.5 x 10.5 inches

Alexandre Masino, Je touche au monde IV, 2014; intaglio, gold leaf & encaustic monoprint on Kozo paper; 12.5″ x 10.5″

“My current works explore intuitive mapping of evolving landforms in our rapidly changing environment, and systems in weather and other phenomena and events whose interaction resemble neural networks of the mind. These are reflected in the works on paper and paintings through physical movement and response to media.”
Paula Roland
Paula Roland Dual Map I 2014 Encaustic monotype (two layers) on kitakata paper 36 x 25 inches

Paula Roland, Dual Map I, 2014; encaustic monotype (two layers) on kitikata paper, 36″ x 25″

 “I am interested in the relationship between manmade architectonic structure and the natural landscape, and the interplay between these two forces in an urban environment. My prints work as a shorthand for movement and space between manmade and the natural environment.”
Jeffrey Hirst
Jeffrey Hirst Circuit 2014 Encaustic collagraph on Rives BFK 20 x 15 inches

Jeffrey Hirst, Circuit, 2014; encaustic collagraph on Rives BFK, 20″ x 15″

“The encaustic image was created on a Hotbox as a monotype. It was then twisted and glued into a continuous strip and suspended from the forged iron framework.”
Pat Spainhour
Pat Spainhour Mobius 2013 Rives BFK, encaustic paint, forged iron 17 x 12 x 6 inches

Pat Spainhour, Mobius, 2013; Rives BFK, encaustic paint, forged iron; 17″ x 12″ x 6″

“Using a technique that I learned in San Pablito, Mexico, I draw with and layer cooked mulberry fiber. Using minimal systems of circular repetition, I engage in the act of constructing/arranging and deconstructing/rearranging until the dialogue between the components is complete.”
Jennie Frederick
Jennie Frederick Construct/Deconstruct #3 2013 Thai Kozo (mulberry) and encaustic 30 x 30 inches

Jennie Frederick, Construct/Deconstruct #3, 2013; Thai Kozo (mulberry) and encaustic, 30″ x 30″

“Illuminated by multiple light sources and hung off the wall, these hand sewn cut paper lace works produce a visible dance of light. In this way, the work visually alludes to the delicate yet strong relationships that we form with one another when we are physically distant or separated by time. What is not there is as important in this work as what is there.”
Milisa Galazzi
Milisa Galazzi Waggle Dance Four 2013 Paper, thread, bees wax, damar resin 48 x 24 x 8 inches

Milisa Galazzi, Waggle Dance Four, 2013; paper, thread, beeswax, damar resin; 48″ x 24″ x 8″

“I use paper on its edge to create sculptural drawings that convey the immateriality of clouds, while referencing the curly strokes that an artist (and everyone!) often uses to sketch clouds or smoke. Wax creates warm translucence, and the reflected colors and dimensionality (shadows) change with the light.”
Shelley Gilchrist
Shelley Gilchrist myCloud 3 – Ninfa (side view) 2014 Kozo paper, wax, ink 5 feet x 5 feet x 5 inches

Shelley Gilchrist, myCloud 3 – Ninfa (side view), 2014; Kozo paper, wax, ink; 60″ x 60″ x 5″


This issue’s featured images have been curated by Deborah Winiarski, now Featured Artworks Editor for PWJ.  Deborah Winiarski teaches a mixed media class at The Art Students League of New York and has been teaching encaustic workshops there since 2009. Her work has been exhibited at venues in New York City and across the United States. In 2014, her work was included in WAXING at Denise Bibro Fine Art in NYC, ‘Far and Wide,’ The 6th Annual Woodstock Regional, Woodstock, NY, and BIG BAD WAX at Mount Dora Center for the Arts, Mount Dora, Fla.  In 2014, Ms. Winiarski was an invited artist-in-residence at The Studios at Key West in Key West, Fla. She was also a presenter and workshop instructor at the Eighth International Encaustic Conference in Provincetown, Mass.  This is her first contribution to PWJ.

Too Much, Too Soon

by Heidi F. Beal

A trend I’ve been seeing is that students new to the world of art (young and old) are publicly showing their works earlier than ever before. I do not think this is a good thing.

Until recently, an emerging artist had to painstakingly pierce through a web of fair and unfair critiques, public opinions, and slave labor to achieve the opportunity to show their work. This took years, usually a decade or two. As a result, only the most dedicated and focused artists got to that level. The rest unfortunately quit or were content to show at county fairs and in their living rooms. But things are different and more equalized now. New art makers (young and old, good and bad) are showing everywhere before they have vetted themselves, before they really know what they are saying with their work, before they have discovered how their work fits within the global art community, before they deeply know who they are as artists, before they are confident enough to endure the kind of critique that a mature art community will and should evoke.

Beal_A_PWJ7Many new art makers are doing so at a later age, perhaps as a second career. Because they are more mature, they are usually more confident, have more life experience, more discretionary time, and often more money to do with what they want. At the same time, because many vanity and co-op galleries, alternative exhibit spaces, art organizations, and art centers are eager to make money any way they can, they are not always discriminating and can take whatever they get from whomever will pay the price. While there are exhibition spaces that are dedicated to show the best of the best, it’s often difficult to distinguish them from those who have more monetary goals. The accessibility and equalizer of the internet makes all this possible!

Ok, so what’s wrong with this picture?
Well, for starters, it’s a disservice to the new artist because these vanity exhibiting opportunities (aka easy-to-get-into-shows) reinforce complacency in the new art maker’s work. Rarely will new artists get real feedback from the people whom they desperately need to hear from. Experienced art voices rarely invest their time and eyeballs on these vanity kinds of events. Instead, they are working in their studios/galleries and critiquing the work of private students/apprentices who are actually taking the slow and steady route. Sadly, because new artists have not yet learned to detach themselves personally from their art, the sometimes harsh professional feedback and critique within the context of a more mature art world can be debilitating.

Beal_B_PWJ7I’m reminded of a friend of mine who had a tree planted in her front yard. It grew to have a lovely canopy. A time came when a few of the surface roots had to be cut to accommodate a concrete pad around the tree and beautiful new patio furniture. Within a week with the concrete poured and furniture being delivered, the tree fell over and died! After investing so much time and money she was horrified, blaming the workers who cut the small side roots. She later learned that the tree had not been planted correctly and never developed a core stem root required to support itself over time. Like this tree, art makers who show too early get the emotional goodies they want without earning it over time, thereby reinforcing a low standard of creative discipline and stability.

But having so much immature art out for the world to see also diminishes the best of the best, teaching an uneducated public that it’s all the same. Instead of showcasing the best examples, the community has now cultivated gallery owners, curators, and jurors who don’t know better. Yes, there are credible galleries and museums. Many exhibition spaces, however, drive their profits not from the sales of great works, but rather from entry fees and rents from artists who simply want to show their work. I’m disheartened when I enter galleries and even museums, only to see examples of immature work. I’m also tired of established great galleries closing their doors in this climate of mediocrity. It’s exploitive and disappointing on so many levels.

Beal_C_PWJ7So what’s the solution, I ask?
How can the internet help elevate all of our work instead of dilute it? Should art exhibitions be clearly categorized, identified, or rated so a predetermined hierarchy is labeled as such? Should new art makers show less? Should exhibitors be more discriminating? How can new art makers show their work, get the goodies they need to keep going, and get critical feedback within a supportive environment? As artists, when are we ready to show our work? Does anyone really care? Or should we just wait it out and see what spits out the other end of the art history timeline?

I don’t have any grand solutions to offer but will share with you some of the guidelines I’ve set for myself within my art practice. (I use the word “guidelines” to underscore that this is a working framework, not a list of hard cast rules.)

  • I rarely submit work to juried shows unless I have a specific and strategic reason for doing so. I would prefer a solo show every couple of years to being accepted into juried shows all year long. Am I showing less? Yes. I’m also working in the studio more, living more, paying less in shipping and entry fees, and eating less finger foods
  • I only want to show work in places that are dedicated to showing and selling art. This could mean a pop up show in an alternative space, but it does not include cafes and offices
  • I will be patient and seek out the right exhibition opportunities, at the right time for me and my work
  • I know my work is ready to show when it finds its context in a well-developed series or collection. It might seem like a “one off,” but there is some reference and authentic content that gives it meaning and a purpose to it being made. “An experiment” in technique remains in the studio and is not reason enough to be publicly shown
  • Despite my work being very personal, I must be able to detach from it before showing it to others
  • People and relationships are paramount. I deeply respect those who are ahead of me on this journey, and I take every practical opportunity to assist those who have just begun. When I need critical feedback, I will invite key persons with critical judgment into the studio for this purpose.
  • When I need emotional support and encouragement, I seek it from loved ones but understand they are primarily helping my heart and ego, not necessarily my art.
  • I will be at the helm of my practice, not the whim of art circles that tangle around me.

What are your guidelines for showing your work? If you are a new student, have you thought about the consequences of showing too soon? If you are a seasoned artist, what are your strategies for knowing when and how to show your work?

Artist Communities: Ruth Hiller

By Milisa Galazzi

As a regular feature in ProWax Journal, this month’s Artists & Community is Milisa Galazzi’s (MG) interview with artist Ruth Hiller (RH) about her recent residency at the Golden Foundation Residency Program in “the beautiful rolling hills of central New York”.

Ruth Hiller at

Ruth Hiller at the Golden Foundation Residency Program

Milisa Galazzi: Ruth, thank you so much for taking the time to share with the ProWax Journal readership a little bit about your recent time spent at Golden participating in their residency program. Can you explain how the paint company and their residency program are connected? How long were you there, and how many other artists were there working with you?

Ruth Hiller: Golden Paint has a really interesting history. The founder, Sam Golden, made oils in New York City for famous artists in the 1930s to 1970s; it was Bocour Paint Company. Sam wanted to retire to upstate N.Y. and signed an agreement in the 70s not to make paint for seven years. After living upstate for a while, a lot of the artists he worked with in N.Y.C. were calling him to make paint again. He made mineral spirit acrylic for Louis Morris’s big spill paintings. Then he started the Golden Paint Company. It’s always been family run and now is run by his son, Mark, his wife, Barb, and their daughter, Emma, who runs the Golden Foundation. All are passionate about paint, quality, and artists.

They had a dream to run a residency because, since their dad’s time at the company, it was well known that their paint techs loved working with artists to fill special needs for products. That’s why they have so many products! They converted an old barn across the street from their paint factory into three small apartments, a huge kitchen, and five studios. They are so generous with their time and products. They came by the residency every day.

The residency was a month long and there were three artists there including myself.

MG: Ruth, you typically work with wax. Golden makes a tremendous amount of acrylic paints and mediums. Please share a bit about your interest in applying to a residency that was specifically designed to explore another medium.

RH: I love working with encaustic but had become frustrated with the fragility and the expense. I saw that Golden always had so many products that looked so interesting and I didn’t know how to use any of them! I had tried acrylic before and did not like the texture or the quality of the paint because I did not know how to work with it.

Some of Ruth's Work at Residency

Some of Ruth’s Work at Residency

The residency was appealing to me because the Golden technicians were available to help with any questions. It was a month with an unlimited amount of supplies and a fantastic studio. The technicians gave a few demos a week to teach how to use the products. The technicians formulate custom products for anyone and they are great at troubleshooting problems for artists. The demos consisted of:

  1. testing each and every ground and medium on a board to take home for reference,
  2. photo transfers, digital grounds
  3. pouring
  4. making skins
  5. working with Williamsburg Oils (which Golden bought a few years ago)
  6. working with glazing and varnishes
  7. visiting the paint factory
  8. working with their new watercolor line QOR

MG: As a professional artist, what was it like to have complete access to all of the materials that Golden makes? How, if at all, do you think you might use some of these materials in your future work?

RH: One of my favorite qualities of beeswax is the thickness combined with translucency. It was fun to be able to pour large quantities of acrylic mediums with wild abandon, not thinking about price or if it was going to work or not. As a professional artist I am always open to learning and experimenting with new products or techniques. Right now I am keeping my encaustic work separate from the work I do with acrylic. The mediums are not compatible. I will be exploring some ideas that deal with juxtaposition of the mediums and each medium offers different qualities that can complement the other.

MG: During your time at Golden, you had mentioned on Facebook that you experienced some frustration during your residency. Setbacks are a natural and common part of making art anywhere! If you are willing, could you share some of the challenges that you experienced?

RH: The biggest challenge for me was the isolation. Since there were only two other artists, there was not much interaction between us during the day. The factory and the technicians were down the street. I was working in the studio at least 12-hour days six days a week! I was learning a new medium and was doing a ton of test panels and not making what I thought was “real work.” I experimented for almost two weeks with the different products before I decided how I wanted to incorporate them into my work. Sometimes it felt like I did not know what I was doing or what message I was trying to convey through my work. I started to feel that maybe it was the medium. encaustic, that I loved more than the message.

MG: Looking back now, what do you think are the three most important things that you gained from your time at Golden?

RH: It confirmed my love of painting, no matter the medium. I gained time and space to play with any imaginable material for learning sake and not care about the outcome. I am excited to have the time to have learned a new medium to expand my horizons in my art making.

MG: Ruth, what advice can you share with anyone who is thinking about a residency experience, presently applying to residencies, or planning on embarking upon a residency in the near future?

RH: Do your research and make sure the residency fits your needs in your career. I was really interested in learning the mediums that Golden offered. A month is a long time but I feel that it is necessary to immerse myself completely. I have done workshops at Anderson Ranch for a week, and somehow that seems too short. It is also good to be able to drive with a car full of supplies to the residency. I would love to apply somewhere abroad, but shipping supplies is another consideration. There are other residencies that host more artists at once than the Golden residency, so one should decide how she or he wants to spend time during the residency. There was a residency going on at a nearby place, totally different vibe, writers, musicians and artists, but they didn’t have great studio space.

MG: Lastly, what else would you like to share with the ProWax readership on this topic? Again, thank you so much for your contribution, Ruth!

RH: I must admit that it seemed that acrylic was a lot less fragile and less expensive than encaustic. But, this isn’t the case. I poured liquid grounds on my panels that are just as expensive as the beeswax medium. I also thought that the working time would be less, but sometimes the pours and base coats took up to three days to dry. However, as a geometric painter, the taping situation is much easier with the acrylic, but it takes more coats to get the effects that I am looking for with the paint.

International Viewpoints: Luxembourg, Ireland, Israel

by Elena De La Ville

I have been actively seeking perspectives of artists living outside the United States who work in encaustic. Some I have met at the International Encaustic Conference on Cape Cod and others through my travels. As I talked with each of them, my interest was renewed in finding out the different ways of working in wax and how their different styles came into being.
Accessibility to classes or teachers, materials, and peer groups seem to be some of the most influencing factors in this equation, though strong work goes beyond boundaries and languages to form part of the ‘what is going on’ in encaustic at this time, from beginners to accomplished artists on both sides of the pond(s).
When asked if he felt some responsibility to offer educational opportunities for artists, Richard Frumess of R&F Paints said in an interview recently, “Oh, absolutely! We used to say anybody could figure out how to use a paint stick, but nobody knew how to do encaustic. There was no literature. The schools didn’t really teach it.”

So, one of the most common links among the first three artists in this series is their perseverance in finding out how to work with the medium. In their countries, they are pioneers in their field.

Reiny Rizzi-Gruhlke from Luxembourg depicts portraits, isolating her subjects against a colorful backdrop, highlighting their particular features, clothing, and demeanor, to produce a frank and intimate image. Her color and subject matter are refreshing.

Rizzi-Gruhlke, who has been working in wax for several years, paints mostly figuratively. She says, “I think, first of all, encaustic is fairly new in Europe and its many possibilities are not always known. We as European artists are mostly self-taught and work alone, as there are nearly no classes available. In the United States there are classes and a big conference held, and many artists are showing the possibilities of working with wax. That’s something missing over here. If you want to be a serious encaustic painter in Europe, you need to research a lot on the web and in books, and experiment on your own.”

Reiny Rizzi-Gruhlke, Cupcake Queen, 2014, encaustic and shellac on wood panel, 40” x47.4”

Reiny Rizzi-Gruhlke, Cupcake Queen, 2014; encaustic and shellac on wood panel; 40” x 47.4”

Reiny Rizzi-Gruhlke, Believe, 2014, encaustic and ink on wood panel, 40” x47.4”

Reiny Rizzi-Gruhlke, Believe, 2014; encaustic and ink on wood panel; 40” x 47.4”

Reiny Rizzi-Gruhlke, Just a Man, 2014, encaustic and pan pastel on wood panel, 40”x47.4”

Reiny Rizzi-Gruhlke, Just a Man, 2014; encaustic and pan pastel on wood panel; 40” x 47.4”

Lora Murphy, who lives and works in Killarney, County Kerrin, Ireland, creates complex, strong faces with textures and masterful handling of the central important features. She also brings a sophisticated sense of technique and composition. She says, “I think there is much more figurative and representational work done by artists outside the United States. The majority of North American artists seem to work in abstraction if they are painting with encaustic. Artists in the U.S. have much more access to all things encaustic: exhibitions, classes, workshops, materials, other artists!

“I am deeply inspired by the interconnectedness of all beings, the human journey that has brought us thus far, and the realms of consciousness and imagination that can be explored. I paint my responses to the world around and within me, the people who inspire me, and the elements of life that ignite my deepest passion. Beeswax becomes not just the medium of expression but also a symbol of transition and transformation connecting me to a world of emotions and feminine energies. My work is often layered with symbolism, and my studies in Jungian and Archetypal Psychology and Alchemy find constant echoes in my painting.

“My current body of work, Sinner, the Lie of the Land, has emerged from a visceral response to the tragic events that have been uncovered in Ireland over the past few years. Countless young women and children have suffered at the hands of the Magdalene Laundries. These were laundries run by nuns and staffed by women who were essentially slaves. The women of all ages could be committed by their families, the courts, the police, other institutions, or even by kidnapping. The babies of pregnant women were taken from them and often sold for adoption. The women were incarcerated for years, sometimes their entire lives, and have only recently gotten an apology from the State. The last operating Laundry closed in 1996! Punished and humiliated, they still receive no recognition for their loss. These paintings tell the story of life, struggle, death, and transformation.”

IV-LM In Studio

Lora Murphy in her studio in Ireland


Lora Murphy, Sinner, the Lie of the Land, 2014, encaustic on wood panel, 18"x18"

Lora Murphy, Sinner, the Lie of the Land, 2014; encaustic on wood panel; 18″ x 18″

Lora Murphy, Fearless, 2014, encaustic on wood panel, 18"x18"

Lora Murphy, Fearless, 2014; encaustic on wood panel; 18″ x 18″












Myriam F. Levy, living and working in Israel, works geometrically with mastery of the medium, using wonderful combinations of colors and textures that bespeak a fluency with contemporary abstraction. Levy employs simplified, color-dominated fields in her reductive paintings.

“My work is experiential, meditative and intuitive,” she says. “In my work process, I am adding layers of material, scraping, concealing and revealing underlying layers of material in various states of solidity. This allows me to explore textures and rhythms which evolve into various time sequences. My challenge is to achieve simplicity and harmony that exceed materiality in a world full of opposing forces, inner and outer, private and universal.

“My work moves between the lyrical, meditative and the defined geometrical divisions. I am interested in time, space, color, and texture. The first time I was exposed to artwork with wax was in 2006. I was participating at the Art Expo in Toronto and came across two artists working in encaustic.

“A few months ago, I moved to a studio located in an artists’ village. This gives me the opportunity to participate from time to time in group exhibitions which are organized by the village gallery.”

Myriam F. Levy, Quer ll, 2013, encaustic on canvas, 12" x 12”

Myriam F. Levy, Quer ll, 2013; encaustic on canvas; 12″ x 12”

Myriam F. Levy, Black Sun, 2011, encaustic on canvas, 24" x 20"

Myriam F. Levy, Black Sun, 2011; encaustic on canvas; 24″ x 20″












Myriam F. Levy, Divided Sky, 2013, mixed media on wood, 35" x 35"

Myriam F. Levy, Divided Sky, 2013; mixed media on wood; 35″ x 35″

– • –

As an international artist myself, I am actively looking to compile a list of artists worldwide who use this medium. I want to create a link, as it were, to support each other as artists, to connect the different expressions, and to ‘bridge the gap’ so that it benefits all global professional artists working in wax. I am in the process of curating an online exhibit of artists living outside the United States who work in encaustic. This will be published at the beginning of October. If you would like to be considered, please email me at Send name, link to web page, and a short paragraph describing your work. Put ‘Online Show’ in the subject line. Thank you all. I am looking forward to working with you. No attachments, please. – Elena De La Ville


Essential Questions: Works on Paper

by Jane Guthridge 

“For those of you who work on paper, do you find more of a reluctance from galleries to show your works on paper rather than works on canvas? I ask, because the response I have been getting from galleries on my latest body of work is, ‘We love your work, and would love to show you, but we don’t represent works on paper, we mostly sell paintings.’ This response is driving me to consider other ways of expressing the same ideas in a more concrete, painterly form.”

This was the question posed by a member of ProWax recently. Several of our members responded:

Joanne Mattera  Most of the galleries that show work on paper tend to show the work of artists who are well known for their painting and sculpture, so having lower-priced work on paper by these artists would be an affordable bonus. The print galleries are showing the work done under their own aegis, which is what we see at the Print Fairs. I suspect that once you have a body of work that is painting or sculpture, you’ll be better able to show your prints and drawings.

Pullquote_Wagner_EQHoward Hersh Works on paper that are mounted on cradled panels, (without the paper border), become mixed media “paintings.”

Shawna Moore I would agree with Joanne.  When you create a body of work, some of the paintings or drawings that are on paper can be exhibited alongside paintings. For example, I have had good luck with selling framed encaustic on paper pieces in galleries. The price point is lower and when collectors are nervous about wax, the glass acts as a protector. I myself collect almost exclusively work on paper because I love paper and can afford art in this form. Framing is always a dilemma for work you make or collect. A good frame is usually expensive.

Elise Wagner This is a well-established problem among galleries. They always like my collagraph monotypes and take a few for inventory. They often like showing the versatility that exists in the work between printmaking and painting but most often they only sell the paintings. Yet, time and time again, I invest in framing a few prints to go alongside my work in each show to illustrate the process of its making. What I’ve done over the years to make the works on paper more marketable has been to mount them onto panel and embellish them with oil or wax or both. This solution works and I am contemplating creating a body of prints on panel and framed plates for my next show in Boston.

Pullquote_Nodine_EQJane Allen Nodine I have encountered this problem many times with galleries. I think there is a mindset that works on paper have less “value” than works on canvas or panel, maybe not always by the dealer but by their clientele. Also, many dealers feel they can charge higher prices for panel/canvas. For example, it takes the same energy to sell a $500 work on paper that is does a $2,000 work on canvas. This is more about marketing than about “collecting art,” but it is true. I hear the same discussion from sculptors. Dealers feel it is much easier to sell paintings than 3D works.

Pamela W. Wallace A gallery interested in showing some of my encaustic work has also requested thematically related work on paper to demonstrate the evolution and contrasting technique involved.

Jeff Juhlin All my galleries resist works on paper. The one gallery that has taken my monotypes has sold most of them and wants more but that is the exception.

Pullquote_Cochran_EQDorothy Cochran There is a pecking order for galleries and clients and paintings reign. There is a long history here as drawings and prints have been seen as preliminary studies and not original works in themselves.

Cheryl McClure I intend for the work I do on paper to be incorporated into “paintings” mounted on panels and then painted into more. I am sure I will end up having some that will remain on paper, too.

Christine Aaron Once mounted on board/canvas, what do you “protect” the surface with? That’s why works on paper are behind glass. Sounds like some here are using encaustic medium, but not all. An artist friend mounts her woodcuts on dibond (aluminum) and they are coated with something that can literally be wiped down. It is not a noticeable “surface” on the piece. That said, it is a very contemporary look. I know that with certain pieces I’ve sold, the purchaser wanted the piece in a float frame at least.

Rebecca Crowell I sold works on paper at a wonderful gallery in the past that would give the purchaser the option to either keep the frame that I had used or to buy the work unframed and then re-frame it themselves. (A lot of people do have their own ideas about framing.) If they bought it framed, the cost of the frame was added onto the overall price and that amount went directly back to me (as reimbursement, not split with the gallery). If they didn’t want my frame, I got it back and could re-use it. That seems to me like a very fair policy to handle the whole issue, at least with relatively simple frames. It worked very well. But I haven’t found any other galleries that would consider doing this.

Pat Spainhour I am excited to read this discussion. This is a problem I deal with. I have float mounted monotypes as well as mounted on panel, but I am not satisfied with either. I like the high contrast of black encaustic on white paper. When mounted on panel, if I lightly wax, then the paper becomes yellowed. If it is behind glass, again it’s not as bright. Not the effect I am looking for, but galleries and shows want it framed. I am still searching.

Shawna Moore It is interesting that so much of this has to do with selling. If you love paper, work on paper.

Pullquote_Roland_EQ_PWJ7Paula Roland Thoughts on the topic from my experience: some galleries like paper; some don’t. Keep looking. Art consultants often like unframed works on paper for clients. If an artist is “known” for paper works it makes it easier. Presentation is important. I think alternative framing makes the work more “object-like,” and it is looked at differently. Some of my galleries only want my back-lit works; some don’t want to be bothered. Having a lower price point body of work is often a plus. Yes, it should be lower because it is usually much less time involved. You have to follow your passion, really, and you will be rewarded. Be ambitious in what you create; no artist ever made it by playing it safe. Consider an installation or other project that will get attention. If it does not sell, it will bring attention to your more conventional works. No one gallery will want everything you do so find markets for paper and if you want to make paintings or sculpture, hopefully you can find the home for those, too. Or maybe they can all support each other in the same venue. You gotta do what feeds your soul.

Jeff Juhlin All of your points are well taken. We use paper because everyone on this post loves paper but we still have to deal with it somehow. A few of us make part or all of our living making art. We are always faced with the conundrum of art and income and try to stay with our passion and purpose, always being mindful of why we do this but still considering the realities of the market. Shawna and Paula and everyone else has great points that it can’t all be about selling and $$. We all know being a visual artist is one of the worst business models out there but we do it anyway and thank god we do. In our own way we make the world a richer place because of it.

Elise Wagner The mounting of prints is really a process unto itself that doesn’t end with a layer of wax. I love to draw and like that I can manipulate a print by adding colored pencil or ink to it, then reference the texture and color in the print through the wax. There is a point in its evolution and layers that it does become a painting though and it’s priced the same as a painting.


In Memorian: Gilda Snowden


Gilda with her work. Image from her Facebook page

Gilda Snowden, the art doyenne of Detroit—painter, teacher, blogger, curator, mentor, friend, political activist, and enormous Facebook presence—has died at the age of 60. Using the floor as her easel, she made large, expressive and chromatically ebullient paintings, many in encaustic, a medium she had used for over two decades. The encaustic connection, coupled with her enormous achievements, led her to our ProWax group. “She just connected with people in a great way; she was an amazing powerhouse of a woman with wonderful warmth. It’s a huge loss,” says ProWax member Leslie Sobel.

Even those of us who knew her just through cyberspace are reeling. Twice we almost had her for the Encaustic Conference as a Saturday Morning Panelist. Family obligations intervened for Conference 7. Bad knees kept her from Conference 8. “Third time’s the charm,” she said in a phone conversation recently. If only.

You can read obituaries from the Detroit News and Metro Times, or visit her Facebook page, which is filled with loving tributes and memorials.
— J.M.

Metro Times Obit link:

Detroit News:

Facebook page:


Gilda Snowden, Monument, 1988, encaustic on wood with objects, collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Image from her Facebook page