Taking an interactive approach with our featured artists and gaining a deeper perspective on their lives, their inspirations, and their work as a whole. Join us as we interview the hands and faces behind the works you have grown to know and love.
An insight into the blossoming world of encaustic painting, Adair’s personal method and style, and a deeper understanding of this unique art form.
E= Ecce Gallery A: Adair Peck
E: How long have you been making art?
A: I grew up with an artist mother who was a huge influence, always very supportive. We didn’t grow up in front of a TV and were never allowed to not have anything to do. Always drawing or painting; doing something in her large studio. I can’t remember a time that I did not have art in my life. I went to college and received a BFA in art, and Graduate School for still more art. College in Boston, Graduate School in New York.
E: What kind of art do you do?
I actually majored in both painting and print making. I love them both, but probably printmaking more. I think might even be a tad dyslexic, because it was actually easier for me to read and write backwards. Carving out and then printing the image rather than starting in front of a blank canvas. This also lends itself to encaustic, my current work, because you are not only adding, but also scraping, taking away, working with multiple layers. For instance, a painting with a white background can still have numerous layers behind it. I love the luminous quality of the wax that allows all the textures to come through.
E: What is encaustic art?
Adair Peck: Encaustic is a mixture of beeswax and pigment, with a damar varnish. Oil paints, for example, are made from oil and pigment, so the process is much the same. You can buy sticks of colored beeswax, or use plain beeswax to add pigments by hand and design your own colors. The varnish allows the wax to harden, while also creating a shine, and gives you the opportunity to create those layers I talked about earlier.
[Describing “Emotional Rescue”] Here I once used a layer of newspaper, leftover grounds from my morning coffee, and made a stamp from a circular household object. I put the metal right on my pancake griddle and stamped it directly into the work. Once the piece had hardened, I painted over with a layer of black oil paint. After wiping the oil off, the black color showed itself in all of the divots and various shapes that I had added or removed. On top of all it all, I decided to use color. My favorite colors are bright; hot pinks and oranges. Once I was satisfied, I scraped off some of my layers using a razor blade, and revealed the original white from which I started.
E: How did you discover encaustic art and what is it?
A: I had never heard of encaustic art until I moved to Bozeman 13 years ago and I met Stacy Harreys who is an encaustic artist and teacher. At the time I was making paper machier trophy mounts; moose, elk, deer, sheep, you name it [we have 2 of her sculptures left here in the gallery]. The whole time I had an eye on what Stacy was doing and always found myself both inspired and curious.
E: Why did you choose encaustics?
A: Encaustic is so different than anything else. You can only paint with it while it’s heated. One day a few years ago I went over to Stacy’s studio to check things out, and she gave me a brief tutorial. From there I experimented on my own at home. Last year, I had my first showing here in Ecce gallery, and couldn’t believe the response. This past year I spent in Southern California with my youngest daughter, and luckily found myself with a four car garage and a lot of extra time on my hands. I painted nonstop for almost nine months. Encaustic has such a free spirit; just you, some hot wax, and a blow torch. You can move colors around, scrape things away, and reveal old layers or add new ones. The less rules you can have the better, as long as you know when to stop.
E: Describe your working routine when you are focused on creating a new piece.
When I am here at home [Bozeman] I think my daily routine is to wake up, get some coffee going, and write down a small to-do list. I then try to get those things done as quickly as possible so that I can run into the studio and spend the rest of the day painting. In California, I had a lot more time when I was no longer in charge of caring for all the kids, a husband, and a dog. I had time to run on the beach, swim in the ocean, and enjoy the California sunshine.
E: Tell us a bit about your creative process.
A: [Describing “Strangers”] here I had a lot of old carbon paper (from before Xerox machines) and drew over lines with a sort of squiggled abstract shape. I then went in and dug out some figurative, abstract heads. This piece sort of came to me all at once, and may have been one of those occasions where I finished in just one day [Bob Ross style]. I’ve got a dental tool that I use to go in and draw fine lines. [E: Did you steal it from the dentist?!] No. But every time I go in, I ask if they have any to spare. So far I have only received one.
E: Do you sketch before you start a piece?
A: Not so much. They are all a little different. “Summer,” in particular; has about 7 other paintings underneath it that I just couldn’t love. I had about 3 different seagull paintings at one time or another. I just liked the piece more as an abstract, but still see that feeling of flight coming through. I actually get in trouble if I get too far ahead of what the finished picture is going to look like; I end up getting trapped in the idea of itself. I also try to work on multiple pieces at the same time so that nothing gets too precious and I don’t get stuck focusing on one piece that I’m married to.
E: What advice do you give to other artists?
Even working with my daughters on their own pieces this summer, my advice to them was “don’t over think it. “ Don’t sit down with a vision in mind because as soon as you do, you wind up stuck. Start off loose and abstract. There is always an option to create something that is representational, but I don’t feel it should start out that way. There are plenty of artists that can start off with a plan and end with a plan, but this medium creates so much opportunity to simply experiment and have fun. For me it is so refreshing.
E: Do you have any tips for artists thinking of trying encaustic art?
The nice thing about encaustic is that there are rules, as there are with anything, but not a lot. Just don’t keep your encaustics in the car all day or direct sunshine, but it is such a free medium and you can have a ton of fun. Remember to always seal your colors with a blow torch so that they don’t blend and get muddy.
E: It seems like a lot of people enjoy the feeling of encaustic works, is it okay to touch these pieces?
A: Yes! You should always smell it to, because it even smells like beeswax.