Warning: Encaustics May Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health


Messy artist studio takes over the entire house including the dining room.

“Oh no, not the living room, too!”

I had just flipped over a 3×4′ painting onto the rug so that I could apply hardware. It was the last bit of clear space left in the house, and my husband was feeling squeezed out.

Two days before my show at the World of Art Showcase I was, as usual, pressed for time and managed, yet again, to take over every square inch of walking space. I had temporarily moved my studio from the bonus room into the screened-in back porch, as well as the kitchen. For the volume of painting I planned to do leading up to the show, I wanted to ensure a continuous supply of fresh air.

I had also taken over the kitchen, which was once again a disaster zone. Because I was painting encaustics on large canvases, I needed an even larger work area. Everything was bigger: brushes were wider, the 4″ tin containers were now bread loaf pans, and I needed the stove to heat the wax while taking advantage of the kitchen’s exhaust fan. Other encaustic supplies and utensils were scattered everywhere. Beeswax, powdered pigment, muffin trays, mesh fabrics, scrapers, and trivets lay on newspapers and drop sheets to protect countertops and floors from wax drippings.

Canvases were leaned up against walls in the dining room and guest bedroom. As if this wasn’t enough, I was due to retrieve the remaining paintings I had on display at a local store, which were promptly stored in the laundry room and hallway. Then to top it off, my new dolly was still sprawled on the floor, awaiting a metal file to complete assembly.

The mess was driving me crazy, too. One morning, I reached for mango and found packaging tape, a jar of powdered pigment, and a soup ladle coated in wax in my fruit bowl. Later that day, a painting was literally getting in the way of making spaghetti.

Fortunately, there’s no telling when you look at my paintings of serene landscapes. So if you see a drop of red in my paintings, have no fear. Although it might be a little more than you bargained for, it’s just a little souvenir of the encaustic storm before the big day.