Like many seasoned artists, Lisa Orselli delights in the unexpected. Although she went to art school with the intention of becoming a printmaker, after attending her first encaustic workshop some 15 years ago, she was hooked. Melting pigment into wax, adding layer upon layer, the unanticipated variations thrilled her. “It’s the element of surprise that keeps me engaged.” she says.
Encaustics is an ancient method that was used by the Greeks. The word encaustic actually comes from the Greek word enkausticos, which means to heat or burn. The medium is made up of beeswax melted with a small amount of damar resin to make it hard and then pigment is added to make it usable as paint. The practice of using encaustics had virtually disappeared until Jasper Johns started using melted beeswax again during the 1950’s. Ever since, encaustics has experienced a steady resurgence.
Typically when Lisa enters her studio she has a vague idea of something she wants to explore. She then goes through a long period of working with a special pen that enables her to draw with the wax. She’s enamored of making dots, building them up with many colors and then painting over them and then scraping the paint away to see what’s left behind. In the midst of this she’ll often add photographs, painting on them and arranging them into patterns.
Like Hansel leaving a trail of breadcrumbs through the forest, Lisa leaves a trail of personal experiences on her waxy canvas. There are images of the many places she’s traveled to. The homes she’s lived in. The bits of tickets and maps and printed material that’s caught her eye. In it all, the natural quality of the polished beeswax is so very pleasing and Lisa’s small paintings are like little jewels, often small enough to hold in your hands. Each one is imperfectly perfect, letting the light come in and revealing a corner of the mystery that is Lisa Orselli.
In addition to being an artist Lisa is married, has grown kids, grandkids and is a yoga teacher. Luckily, like her long time yoga practice, her art brings her a sense of balance. “When the piece stops talking to me, I know it’s complete. The satisfaction found in that completion is hard to come by in other areas of my busy life.”
Come meet the artist at her show, Paper, Patterns, Places—Encaustics. It opens on First Friday, November 2nd, 5 pm to 8pm, at the Northcoast Artists Gallery in Fort Bragg, CA.