Thursday, January 29, 2015

Alchemy of Process, Workshop with Elise Wagner and Lisa Pressman, and the New World of Cold Wax

Workshop studies
cold wax, oil on paper
Just last week, I spent three game changing days in the Portland, OR studio of Elise Wagner.  Elise teamed up with Lisa Pressman for "The Alchemy of Process" workshop.  Two amazing artists sharing their processes and how they intertwine between their two styles to create something really magical.  Elise Wagner finds her roots in printmaking and Lisa Pressman is fluent in cold wax medium, together they share a love and common ground of working in encaustic painting.  While their artwork and methods are different, there are wonderful similarities that make this teaching duo a perfect pair.  Over the course of four days, a new door into the world of art was opened for me and I walked away with the keys. 

Elise Wagner and Lisa Pressman
Wagner is the winner of Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award for 2015
Pressman is featured in the Huffington Post article "Ten Memorable Paintings from 2014"
This is a four day workshop with our first day kicking off in the beautiful Butters Gallery where the works of both Elise and Lisa hung in the show "The Spaces Between".  The workshop is so popular that a second session was added this year.  The sessions ran back to back with an overlapping day ending the first and kicking off the second.  For day one, we talked - inspirations, shared artwork, and lots of questions around websites, artist statements, approaching galleries and any and all art profession questions we could dream up.  Elise and Lisa were genuine, helpful, and direct with their answers making us all feel at home in a nurturing and educational environment.  The next three days we rolled up our sleeves, parked all expectations at the curb and dove in to the alchemy of process. 

Lisa Pressman and Elise Wagner working together in encaustic
We worked with Elise making encaustic collograph prints on the first day.  The anticipation of seeing the first print after rolling it through the press has the same level of excitement as opening the envelope of 4x6 prints from a roll of film that has just been processed.  There was a lot of thought that went into the preparation and then the crowning moment of the reveal and seeing how you did.  Its pretty uplifting. 
Day two was about learning to use cold wax medium with Lisa.  She warmed us up with some drawing and mark making exercises that got us loosened up and then introduced us the world of working in cold wax.   I'm overboard in love with this stuff and the world of abstract painting.  Totally different than where I dwell in my little corner of the encaustic world.  Thought provoking, playful but not without a new set of frustrations that come with learning any new medium - like mud. 
Day three - encaustic and then whatever we wanted to work more on.  On this day, Elise and Lisa worked side by side at the hot wax palettes.  So interesting to see the differences in how they work the same medium so proficiently.  Different styles, different approaches, same language. 
Each day we learned to see more, to edit, to add and subtract.  We learned new mediums, new ways and magical insights.  Great meaningful discussions, questions answered, sharing and all of this in a comfortable and nurturing way.  Great teachers, great workshop.  I told them both that when I came on the first day I felt like for quite a while I had been searching for something in my art that I could not define, but felt like whatever it was I couldn't find it.  When I left, I felt like I could rest my search and stay in this spot for a while with all of the information that came in - there are answers for me.  But, I have to work it and experiment and play a lot for it to take shape in a tangible way.   Got a lot of discovery ahead of me which sounds like fun.  Many thanks to Elise and Lisa for an enlightening four days and giving me new tools of inspiration.
Happy Students
Melissa Lackman and Mary Lee and a whole lotta art created in 3 days


  1. Marji this is so awesome! I wish I had workshops like that near by.... can't wait to see all your new work!

  2. Wow. What an amazing workshop. Can't wait to see your work!

  3. What a fabulous way to open your horizon! Very exciting! Can't wait to see what else you have to share! Hugs Giggles

  4. Inspiring artists and their work! Fantastic workshop!

  5. Wow, that sounded like a fantastic workshop! great post.
    ~ karen

  6. Wow, amazing backgrounds on these papers. I love also to work with wax! The workshops sounds fantastic!

  7. This sounded like the perfect way for you to blend your knowledge and expertise in encaustic and lino cut prints and merge them both together in a different way to create something new entirely. Your joy and passion for what you are learning is clear in every word of your blog post Marji - I'm delighted that this workshop was such a lightbulb moment for you artistically - I love it when that happens and suddenly everything makes sense and a whole new path opens up for you. I'll look forward to seeing the results of this new direction.

  8. What a fabulous post. I am so glad you were able to spend the time and learn the porcess. Sounds like you had a great time.

  9. Sounds like a pretty amazing workshop. I've never tried wax before. Hope to see some of your results!

  10. Looks like a great workshop! The backgrounds look lovely...I need to try this too :)

  11. What a marvelous opportunity for you. You already do such fantastic wax related art that I am looking forward to seeing what else you come up with.

  12. wow-that sounds like one amazing workshop! I would love to be able to take a workshop on using encaustics and cold wax. The section about it in Serena Barton's book looks so interesting but I am not about to purchase any supplies without seeing how to use them or if I'd like it enough to be worth the investment. I think you're going to be producing lots of fabulous art inspired by your workshop!

  13. I have goosebumps reading your post and had to slow myself down. You enthusiasm is infectious. I am happy for you that you found your next step.

  14. Great review! Thanks for posting it!


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