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Turchin encaustics workshop attracts artists from all over

Adjunct+Instructor+Greg+Howser+held+a+workshop+to+teach+about+encaustic+painting+Saturday+afternoon+in+Turchin+Center+for+the+Visual+Arts.+Photo+by+Lauren+Joyner++%7C++The+Appalachian
Adjunct Instructor Greg Howser held a workshop to teach about encaustic painting Saturday afternoon in Turchin Center for the Visual Arts. Photo by Lauren Joyner | The Appalachian

Instructor Greg Howser hosted the second in a series of workshops at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts on Saturday, focused on the practice of encaustics, one of the oldest forms of painting done with wax. The process has been employed since the days of the ancient Greeks, when it was used to add color to the now-white marble statues, which may have been better preserved due to the waterproofing properties of the wax, Howser said. Today, the art form involves playing with layers, manipulating photos with shellac and fusing it all with specialized heat guns.

“I don’t paint directly with encaustics,” Howser said. “I use it mostly for layering over drawings, but it’s a way for me to create a drawing and unify it more. It’s a tool to unify my

Adjunct Instructor Greg Howser held a workshop to teach about encaustic painting Saturday afternoon in Turchin Center for the Visual Arts. Photo by Lauren Joyner  |  The Appalachian
Adjunct Instructor Greg Howser held a workshop to teach about encaustic painting Saturday afternoon in Turchin Center for the Visual Arts. Photo by Lauren Joyner | The Appalachian

work, and give it a layer of interest.”

Howser, who has been teaching printmaking and foundations courses for the past two years, first got involved with the process when he took a workshop during his undergraduate studies at East Tennessee State University, and now teaches his own workshops to show other artists the different types of waxes and other techniques employed by professionals in this little-known medium.

He said that the class attracts artists who have no idea what the technique is, but also those who have some idea and want to learn more techniques. The medium is now in what he calls a revival, with more budding interest. As a result, more companies are producing commercially available supplies, whereas before many artists had to make their own paints.

Linda Norris, a high school counselor in Winston-Salem, made the drive up to take part in the workshop. Norris learned about the Turchin center three or four years ago through classes she took at the Sawtooth Center in Winston-Salem, and now comes to summer workshops when she can. After not finding an outlet to learn encaustics at home, she came up for this one on the weekend to take advantage of the chance to learn from an artist who knew what he was doing.

“I’m just fascinated with different mediums of art,” Norris said. “There seems to be more layers and a depth to the pieces of art, and it’s just such a neat idea.”

For her, workshops like this force her to make time for her own art and creative expression, which she otherwise sweeps under the rug.

“It’s more like playtime for me,” Norris said. “The goal isn’t really to create an end piece of art, it’s more to see what happens with the skills that we learned.”

Artist Helen DiBenedetto was also in attendance from Florida, living in Boone for three months during the summer to escape the heat and focus on her art. When she first discovered the university, she began taking workshops available and relevant to her work in mixed media as a fine art nude photographer. She took encaustics to explore different avenues in her work after looking up Howser’s work online and seeing its similarity to her own.

DiBenedetto learned how to transfer her photographs into the wax and embellish them using shellac and powdered pigments, as well as melt the colors so they blend together, and use etching tools to add texture, techniques she hopes to eventually use in her own work for show.

Story: Lovey Cooper, Senior A&E Reporter
Photo: Lauren Joyner, Intern Photographer

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