A conversation in a series of isolated events.

I just completed this encaustic commission for my college roommate from 1986/87. We were close friends back then and lost touch after college, but reconnected on Facebook, as you do these days. She has been following my art work for the past several years and reached out to me about doing a commission of her for her new house.

This woman has been an English teacher and reporter for 15 years and in her own words, “…I am fascinated with words; my life is words.” She turned 49 (as did I) last year and has begun practicing yoga, an important connection to her Indian roots.

She had seen some of the pieces from my “Woman and Her Needs” series of drawings of women in a 100 year old book, as well as this particular encaustic piece, Downy (right), which depicts a woman in my signature style surrounded by leaves over a collage of vintage dictionary pages and other found papers.

We agreed on a 20×20” encaustic piece that would fit beautifully in a place of honor in her home and I suggested that she choose words that had special meaning for her. Here are her words and her explanations for her choices:

Figurative

Figurative

Highlights my love for speaking metaphorically, especially to my students. This also has a double meaning. The drawing is a figure, so I thought it appropriate inside and outside of the canvas window.

Form

Form

Another word for structure, which I am – sadly so or not.

Formal

Formal

I prefer a formal, classic style in décor, writing, literature, dress, etc.

Tree

Tree

Has been a theme of my life. My home décor gives a nod to nature. One of my favorite newspaper pieces is called “The Cherry Tree” written by Lisa Pollak. My word wall in my classroom was a tree mural for the longest time. Also in yoga, the Tree Pose is one of my favorites.

Root

Root

The pose selected looks to me like the gnarled roots of a tree. “Root and rise,” is a favorite phrase of my yoga instructor.

Rise

Rise

One of my favorite poem is “And Still I Rise,” by Maya Angelou.

She had her husband take a beautiful photo of her, accidentally reminiscent of Edward Weston’s 1936 Nude, which I have coincidentally drawn and used in an encaustic piece previously.

Using the photograph as reference, I drew her, scanned the drawing and enlarged the image to use as a toner transfer on the surface of the encaustic collage that I created on a 20×20” inch cradled wood panel. The collage is made of the original dictionary pages from an 1890 dictionary with the words she chose highlighted in certain areas. The rich sepia tones in the final piece are from the foxing of the aged dictionary paper soaked in encaustic medium (beeswax and damar resin) and layered together.

I just shipped it off today, so she hasn’t received it yet, but I sent a photo to her with a note saying, “I hope you love it!” Her quick response was, “Ah Nikki, I do LOVE it! You have amazing talent. I love the leaves and the pages of the book. I know you do that a lot in your work, but it is also me – nature and books.” I can’t wait to hear what she says when she receives it tomorrow and hangs it in her house.

Working as an artist is such an interesting dichotomy. Artists mostly work alone and isolated in our studios, expressing ourselves through our wordless language of symbols and materials and colors. It’s a very personal and solitary process for the artist – but once we put the work out in the world, it becomes a conversation with the viewer or even a solitary personal experience for the viewer. This kind of commission work especially so; beginning with her image and her words, interpreted by my style and my techniques and then finally her experience of the merging of those. A conversation in a series of isolated events.

Interested in your own commission?

I would love to talk to you about a commission of your very own! Have a landmark occasion to celebrate? A loved one who would appreciate a very personal gift? Talk to me about commissioning a drawing or encaustic piece like this one for a treasured work of art that is as personal as it gets!

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