Behind-the-Scenes : Art Workshop

I had the privilege, recently, of meeting one of the artists who inspired me to try working with encaustic wax in the beginning, Alicia Tormey. I attended a 7 day art retreat in western Ireland. Three days I was taught by Alicia (check out her amazing work here), and three days I was taught by encaustic wax portraiture artist, Lora Murphy (check out her amazing work here). I had not heard of Lora before this retreat, but realised I had been using the brand of encaustic wax colours that she helped to design.

Each class approached working with wax in such different ways, and opened my eyes to the versatility of this medium. Being self-taught, they also taught me a lot about ways I have been working that might not be the most effective.

In Alicia’s class, I learned how to use a propane torch to melt the wax into a beautiful fondant-like texture, and then add more wax, textures, printed transfers, and stencils for brilliant effects. Plus, I learned how to burn shellac onto the wax into stunning organic structures.

In Lora’s class, I learned how to use a paintbrush to paint with encaustic wax onto wood, paper, and fabric. We all painted portraits, and I had chosen self-portraits. I never painted a portrait before, and most of my current work doesn’t look like anything recognizable, so this was a huge challenge. Lora has been classically trained in portraiture, and could easily spot places on our portraits that needed that little extra shading or lightening or blending. By the third day, I was finally feeling like something clicked in my mind, and I was finally able to see the shadows, half-tones, and most of the many colours that are in a person’s face and skin tone.

My fellow workshop attendees were all encaustic wax enthusiasts, all in different places in their journeys with encaustic wax, some professional, some not. All of us brought a lot of talent, kindness, and laughter to the magical setting of the retreat studios.

Here are a few photos from those days.

Melted encaustic wax colours waiting to be used.


My first attempt at torching shellac over wax. I love the organic cell-like effects!



Me, and my torch.


A close-up of the shellac effects, beautiful!


Image transfer technique practice.


The inspirational views from the Essence of Mulranny Studios, where the retreat was held.


My practice boards from Alicia’s class.


The results after Day 1 of my portraiture class with Lora Murphy. Encaustic wax on birch board.


The results after Day 2 of my portraiture class with Lora Murphy. Encaustic wax on paper.


The results after Day 3 of my portraiture class with Lora Murphy. Encaustic wax on Belgian linen. (This one was my favourite, as it looks ancient and like it was uncovered at an archaeological dig!)






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