KAZA's Q and A with Artist, Colleen Graham
"I just wish I could live 24 hours a day in my studio!"-Artist, Colleen Graham
I met Colleen about 3 years ago, at KAZA. She always seemed so quiet and demure. As you can imagine, we meet many Artists everyday (its a great job) and the one thing I have learned in this business, is that most insanely creative Artists don't even wear black. Not even a beret. Did you see that lady behind you at the food store yesterday? She could be a creative genius...and you might be her next subject, so be nice-lol
When Colleen showed me her artwork, I almost fell off my chair. I clearly remember, leaning forward trying to get a glimpse of her brain, via her eyeballs. She seemed nervous of what my reaction would be, but also had a confidence in her. It was obvious this was serious...deep creativity. And deeply personal to her.
When we met for the interview, she was relaxed and ready to talk. Sipping on soup, she quietly told me stories of her successful (and very impressive) Art life, so calmly, as if these accomplishments happened to everyone. I wanted to hear more. Still do. I know Colleen has many fascinating stories inside of her--but I am convinced, her Art will tell us the story.
To say that this is such a ginormous treat is an understatement. For the lover of Art, this is some serious creative food. Eat up! It may taste like candy, but it is veggies for the creative brain!
Q. Colleen, how long have you been working with this particular encaustic
painting process? It appears to be quite a popular medium for many
contemporary painters to use right now.
A. About seven years ago I took a workshop at the NH Institute of Art on encaustic painting techniques…I was instantly hooked by the sheer versatility of the process, and also by the seductive nature of melted bees-wax. I am still constantly learning the subtle nuances inherent in the process.Q. What exactly does “encaustic’ mean?
A. Encaustic is a Greek work that translated means “to burn in”. The process dates back to the 5th century. Contemporary artists use encaustics in a wide range of applications. The technique requires one to melt bees wax and apply the melted wax onto a porous surface. You can combine the wax with oil paints, oil paint sticks, and collage materials that give you a spectrum of color. The surface must be reheated again, and fused using a heat gun or a propane blowtorch. The basic idea is to build layers upon layer, which creates a translucent and smooth surface. The technique is challenging, and yet so versatile. Many painters really enjoy the luminous surface that one gets from the multi-layered wax…it is a luscious medium.Q. What inspires you, as an Artist?
A. My mind is always visualizing images, colors, patterns, and symbols. A poem, languages, or often something I am reading will trigger an image or an idea. My work tends to be narrative; almost like a personal sketchbook or a doodle. Often I get great inspiration from a gallery exhibition or museum show. There are few contemporary artists that I admire greatly, and I do follow their work, which really gives me a jump-start.
After college, I made a personal decision to do whatever I could to be able to travel and live abroad for a few years. I fulfilled this dream, and will say that this experience was the most influential, in creating the basis of my personal imagery. I was able to live and study in Paris, Scotland, and then create a printmaking studio on a farm in a small village on the North Sea in southern Holland.Q. I know by talking with you that you were trained to be a printmaker and textile designer in the late
1970’s and 80’s in NYC, how has this background influenced your
present body of work?
A. In the late 70's, with my BA in Fine Arts, it seemed that a practical thing would be to study textile design in NYC. Also at the time, printmaking was in its renaissance period and many artists jumped on the “printmaking band wagon”. Since I love to draw, perfecting the etching process was really a personal quest for me. The most well known printmaking facility in in NYC, at the time, was Bob Blackburn's Printmaking Workshop north of Chelsea. At this workshop, young artists from around the world came to study traditional and contemporary printmaking and editing techniques. The international artists that I met encouraged me to go back to art school and redo my painting and printmaking training in the ateliers in Paris. I spent four years just experimenting and studying the technical aspects of etching and printing editions by hand in my studio in Holland. That formative period in my early 20’s, while living in a Dutch artist community, really honed my respect for technical excellence. Now in my 50’s my life experiences, and practices…. muscle memory makes it easier to create more interesting and personal work. The technical aspects do not seem so important. I just wish I could live 24 hours a day in my studio!
Q. How is this series different from your other work?
A. This series is different from my other work because of its scale and the surface quality is somewhat rough. In addition, they appear to be more sculptural.
Q. It is obvious that this series is very personal to you. Please explain a bit about that:
A. The series of ten six “x 6 “encaustic and oil paintings were created using old etchings, photographs from a trip to Ireland, and transfer drawings from my sketchbooks. An ancient text, maps, charts, scientific diagrams, systems in natural history….all of this is a treasure trove of ideas for me. This series was specifically created for KAZA. Each piece can be viewed separately or put together into a larger cohesive work.
Q. What are you currently working on in your studio now?
A. Right now I am working on a much larger painting, using graphite, oil, mica and collage. The symbolic use of the human body, maps, and how this relates to rest of the natural world is the underlying theme in my current work. The scale of the work is going to be as large as I can possibly maneuver in my studio. Bees- wax will definitely be a part of these mixed media pieces.
Q. That sounds SO exciting!! Now, what about commissioned pieces?
A. I have made several commissioned oil and encaustic paintings in recent years. Using personal images, documents, text, and colors, I have made paintings that become personal heirlooms.
Q. Do you have a blog or a website?
A. I am currently working on a blog and website. I am also planning several workshops this spring and summer. I do have a Fiddlehead Studio Facebook page, but would rather spend my time day-dreaming/working in my studio, then the hours spent online with social marketing sites….. Constantly the dilemma for the self-employed artist!
So excited with what is to come, Colleen--you are amazing!
Stop by KAZA to check out Colleen's gorgeous encaustic series, now!
Ciao Bella's & Bello's!