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What is Encaustic?

Encaustic painting was practiced by the Greeks as far back as the 5th century. The Greek  word “enkaustikos” means to burn in or to heat.


This ancient technique has been revived for modern painting.  Composed of beeswax, resin and pigment, encaustic paint is kept molten on a heated palette. It is applied to an absorbent surface, one layer on top of the other, with each layer being separately fused in by applying heat. 


This technique results in a depth and luminous translucency that is unique to encaustic art.

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Mary’s Bio


A self-taught abstract painter based in Portland, Oregon, I discovered encaustic painting many years ago during an open studio event and was fascinated by the medium. So much so, that after all these years, I’m still working in encaustic and still awed by its possibilities.


Prior to transitioning to art, words had always been top of mind for me.  Reading, writing, editing, printing– all things words. Working in the world of newspapers and magazines brought images into the words, melding photographs with design and color to enhance the textual content. 


For me, moving between words and images is a natural transition. My primary medium is encaustic, where I can layer colors of wax over wax, scraping back to highlight what lies beneath. It feels both creative and process oriented, much like writing and editing.


I work from my studio at Northwest Marine Art Works in Portland’s NW industrial area where I create my art and hold encaustic workshops.

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My Process


The smell of warm, melting wax fills my workspace, clearing my mind of the daily distractions and making way for the shapes, marks and splashes of color that coalesce to form my encaustic art.


My paintings follow an intuitive path finding inspiration in small everyday things: the view from a window, snoozing cats, the bend of a tree branch, even the pile of laundry on my bedroom floor all make an imprint that inspires the shapes and colors in my work. Each layer of wax has its own story: a time, a place, a sound recalled. A fusion of color, collage, sometimes found objects. 


A lick of flame from the torch, a brush of color from the molten wax, layer after layer until it’s complete.

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