Tag Archives: Encaustic Painting

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Phyllis Bryce Ely: Not My Father’s Iceberg

Joseph Loder Bryce

Joseph Loder Bryce

I began painting this series after the loss of my father, Joseph Loder Bryce, in 2015.

Loder served in the US Navy as a photographer aboard the Icebreaker USS Edisto in the early 1950s during the cold war era. His ship supported the installation of the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW Line) in the Arctic region with a mission to dramatically reduce the warning time of possible Soviet attack. The DEW Line, along the 69th parallel, was the northernmost radar system, taking my father into the Arctic region with his camera to photograph sea and air missions, life aboard the ship, and the extreme beauty of the Arctic landscape and its inhabitants.

Photographs by Joseph Loder Bryce. Caption of lower left photo reads, "Aerial view of the Edito, note the paths we made by circling about in the ice. Sondrestrom, Greenland. 5/18/54."

Photographs by Joseph Loder Bryce. Caption of lower left photo reads, “Aerial view of the Edisto, note the paths we made by circling about in the ice. Sondrestrom, Greenland. 5/18/54.”

I grew up with boxes of these photographs in my life; they were a perennial choice for “show and tell” in grammar school and I loved to share the exotic icebergs, people, polar bears, and frozen ships with my friends.

The images, shapes, places and people I “knew” but never met became a visual foundation for me. I now know I was influenced by my father’s eye for composition, shapes, and light as well as his interest in telling stories that come from landscape. These attributes have become the very context of my nearly 40 years of art-making.

"On my easel: ice formation off Greenland with kayaker, working from my Dad's photos." July 26, 2017

“On my easel: ice formation off Greenland with kayaker, working from my Dad’s photos.” July 26, 2017

After Loder’s death, I found myself engaging with his photos yet again and was struck and inspired by the old familiar shapes and simple colorless format. No longer able to hear my father’s stories about the pictures, I started a new conversation with my paintbrush. I began with no plan in mind as I painted one iceberg, then some polar bears, and then a ship…one by one the photos found their way into my studio. Working on these paintings was a form of meditation for me.

Detail of painting "Exodus"

Detail of painting “Exodus”

My first paintings were in oil on a vivid red ground I typically use when painting en plein air. The vibration of the limited, cool palette against the red quickly appealed to me; I connected with the raw edges of color as I worked, excited by how the colors created an emotional response and competing feeling of calm and urgency. I also chose to work in encaustic wax because of the rich texture and intimate scale made possible in that medium.

Photograph by Joseph Loder Bryce (left) and detail of encaustic painting "Ice Journey" by Phyllis Bryce Ely.

Photograph by Joseph Loder Bryce (left) and detail of encaustic painting “Ice Journey” by Phyllis Bryce Ely.

As I finished each painting I tucked the work away with no particular plan for sharing them,  but knew I wanted them to be together. On New Year’s Eve, I set a goal of pulling the photographs and paintings together for a show, which ultimately led to this exhibit.

"Not My Father's Iceberg" exhibition at Main Street Arts

“Not My Father’s Iceberg” exhibition at Main Street Arts

"Not My Father's Iceberg" exhibition at Main Street Arts

“Not My Father’s Iceberg” exhibition at Main Street Arts

I am grateful to gallery director Brad Butler for his early interest in these paintings, which he first saw when my first iceberg painting was juried into the Utopia/Dystopia exhibit at Main Street Arts in 2017 and was awarded “Best in Show.”

Phyllis Bryce Ely with her painting from "Utopia/Dystopia" (left); Joseph Loder Bryce (1930–2015) at an exhibition of his photographs in 2014

Phyllis Bryce Ely with her painting from “Utopia/Dystopia” (left); Joseph Loder Bryce (1930–2015) at an exhibition of his photographs in 2014

Please enjoy my contemporary consideration of a decades-old Arctic landscape that once was my father’s place in the world. 

Not My Father’s Iceberg, a solo exhibition on the second floor at Main Street Arts, presents paintings by Phyllis Bryce Ely made in response to photographs taken by her father, Joseph Loder Bryce. The exhibition runs August 3 through September 15, 2018 and can be viewed on the gallery’s Artsy page.


From The Director: Re-Emerging Artists

Installation shot from the exhibition

Installation shot from the exhibition

Our current exhibition, Re-Emerging Artists features two painters who have both been making art for longer than I have been alive. Considering this fact as a painter myself, I find it so encouraging and inspiring to see two artists making such fascinating work after more than six decades of making art.

John Greene and Robert Marx met each other around the year 2000 but their history goes back to the 1950s when John purchased a print of Robert’s in a gallery on Madison Avenue in New York. Over the years, John acquired more of Robert’s work and was delighted to find out that he lived and worked in Rochester when he was in town for a meeting at the Memorial Art Gallery. The two met in Robert’s studio and immediately became friends.

Fast forward to 2017 and we have the first showing of their work together in an exhibition at Main Street Arts!

In Robert's studio at Anderson Alley. An early, in-progress shot of the painting "Solana" that is in the exhibition.

In Robert’s studio at Anderson Alley including an early, in-progress shot of the painting “Solana” that is in the exhibition.

I had the pleasure of visiting both artists in their studios multiple times in preparation for this show. With Robert, both in his studio at Anderson Alley and in his current basement studio in his home. He spent almost 30 years in the Anderson Arts building on Goodman Street in Rochester. He now has the convenience of not having to commute to and from the studio—unless you count the walk from the kitchen to the basement steps.

Making the initial selection of work for the show back in May of 2016

John and I in his studio, making the initial selection of work for the show back in May, 2016

I visit artist’s studios frequently and going to see Robert was a quick trip to Rochester. However, visiting John’s studio meant going on a bit of a road trip—he lives in the Hudson region about four hours southeast of Main Street Arts. During our first visit in May of 2016, I was thrilled to be welcomed into his home studio to see his encaustic paintings in person for the first time. I was particularly drawn to the “Dimensional Landscapes”, four of which are included in the exhibition. I had never seen a painting stick straight out from the wall before!

Dimensional Landscape, oil and encaustic on wood—John Greene

Dimensional Landscape, oil and encaustic on wood by John Greene (two views)

The seeds of this exhibition were sown in September, 2015 at an opening reception at Main Street Arts. Grant Holcomb, former director of MAG and Marcia Lowry, on the board of managers at MAG, approached me with the idea of having a show with Robert and John. Already being a Robert Marx fan—and soon to become a fan of John Greene—I quickly obliged and we set the date of April, 2017 for the show. All of us thought that 2017 sounded so far away, but here we are!

One of the sections of the show where John and Robert's work is paired together as one

One of the sections of the exhibition where John and Robert’s work is paired together as one

One of the things I looked forward to the most, besides seeing all of this work in person, was being able to curate it together in one space. I am always drawn to the idea mixing things up. Rather than have John’s work in one room and Robert’s in the other, we have sections like the one shown above, where pieces by each artist are hung as a cohesive singular installation. Other areas of the show allow for specific pieces to be highlighted on their own but for the most part the exhibition is a unification of both artist’s work.

Pictured from left to right: Marcia Lowry, John Greene, Gwen Greene, Bradley Butler, Francie Marx, Robert Marx, Grant Holcomb

Pictured from left to right: Marcia Lowry, John Greene, Gwen Greene, Bradley Butler, Francie Marx, Robert Marx, Grant Holcomb

Re-Emerging Artists runs through May 12th, 2017. On Saturday, April 29th, from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., John and Robert will be discussing their work in the gallery (discussion begins promptly at 11 a.m.) RSVP by calling or emailing the gallery. More info: Artist Discussion Facebook Event

Purchase work from the Exhibition in our online store.
See photos from the exhibition and opening reception on Flickr.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Kristen T. Woodward

Lucky foot (except for the rabbit)

A native of Rochester NY, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to exhibit my work at Main Street Arts. On display in the current Flora and Fauna exhibition are 16  encaustic paintings on wooden panels. The imagery involves abstracted animal forms, often referencing parables and children’s games.

Donkey Games

A small installation in the show also features a full scale deer target and small paintings on Black Forest carved antler plaques.

 painting on antler plaque

Painting on Black Forest carved antler plaque

While on a trip to Germany as a visiting artist last fall I encountered these plaques which included antlers from Roe deer. I found them beautiful and fascinating, and thought they would make provocative supports for small paintings that explored landscape and our sensory relationship to the natural world.

Can you guess whose lips served as a model?

All things are possible, 14x17, mixed media on wood

All things are possible, 14×17, mixed media on wood

As a Professor of Art at Albright College in Reading, PA I teach a wide variety of painting and printmaking processes, but of late I have been personally attracted to the encaustic medium (download my encaustic recipe).

wax in solid form

wax in solid form

This image shows the refined beeswax from an art supply store (it comes yellow or white) next to an unmodified block from a local beekeeper. The local brown block contains a good bit of slub gum, an impurity (bee poop).

encaustic cans on a hot plate

encaustic cans

This last image shows a skillet filled up with a bunch of small mixed colors. I have another skillet for just white and soy wax, which is used for cleaning some of the wax out of the brushes.

I’m also actively writing short reviews for  www.artists2artists.net
You can see my artist2artist page here.

Stop by Main Street Arts to see Kristen’s work in our current exhibition, Flora and Fauna. The exhibition is up through Friday, February 12. Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by watercolor artist E.L. Ryan.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Virginia Cassetta: The Road Taken

I was raised in a very traditional Italian family and and when I graduated high school the only road open for me was either attending nursing school or becoming a teacher. I chose a career in nursing, although in my heart I wanted to work in the arts and move to NYC. I married, had children, and pursued a career in healthcare. At 57 I was working at a job I had fought hard to get, only to discover that it was not for me, and not where I wanted to be. I began to take night art classes at MCC, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I came home from work late one afternoon, stepped out of the car, dropped the weighted briefcase, undressed from my suit of armor and began to run through the fields naked (we lived in the country at that time). I came upon my husband, who was quietly reading his daily newspaper, sat down next to him and said, “ I am going to change my life”. And then I did. I quit my job, my husband took early retirement, and we relocated to Portland, Maine for 3 years, when in 2004 I obtained my BFA in Sculpture. We relocated back to Rochester, NY and in 2006 I obtained my MFA in Sculpture.

A scholarship to Florence, Italy, and art residencies served to give me solid working experiences in both sculpture and painting, as well as forcing me to understand what I wanted to communicate in my work. Women, the aging process, identity, nature were all issues that I was drawn to. It has been an ongoing struggle to narrow some of those ideas down and build cohesive bodies of work. My website virginiacassetta.com will give you an idea of some of the artistic methods that I have worked with over the past few years.

Womanscape Series 2012

Womanscape Series, 2012, 21″ x 19″, Thread, oil on linen

This oil painting of “Three Women” incorporated sewing and painting on a linen background. With this series I was able to add sculptural qualities to a painting by first sewing the design onto linen and then paint over the thread in oils.

I was seeking a way to continue this method of incorporating texture into my work when I discovered Encaustic Painting. Encaustics is an age old art that was practiced by the Greeks and dates back to the 5th Century. It involves the painting of hot pigmented beeswax & resin (which hardens) on a structured panel. The hot wax is then manipulated by the process of melting, brushing, layering, fusing, scraping, filling and gouging to reveal imagery that can result in a glossy translucence, or texturally sculptural works. “House II” was one of my first ventures. In this image I use heavy brushes to create the textured look.


House II, 2012, encaustic on panel board, 24″ x 18″

I wanted to learn more about this technique so I began watching the tutorials from Enkaustikos Paints, and when the opportunity arose I took a week long workshop in Encaustics to develop technical skills and learn how to incorporate other materials into the wax process. It was here that my artistic energies began to unfold, and encaustics’ is now my medium of choice.

In my Small Scapes series, I turned to the landscape for my inspiration and created a series combining the layering of paints to create a translucent effect. With metal tools I drew in much of the detail work.

2014, 6" x 6"

Smallscape Series, 2014, encaustic & oils on panel board 6″ x 6″

The melted wax process is difficult to control. The fusing and multi- layering of pigmented wax (sometimes 5 or more layers) will create visual narratives that tell their own stories, and as the images and colors change, so may my original designs. This is why Encaustics is my medium of choice. I am continually challenged to draw on my hidden creative energies. The end result surprises me and will often change the direction of the series I may be working on.

A series called the Big Bang speaks to positive energies and the motion of life; we are not alone in our universe. This again presents the effects of the layering, fusing, drawing and scraping of images and colors to present the movement of female images and objects in space.

Big Bang, 2014, 23 3/4' x 23 1/2", encaustic & oils on panel board

Big Bang, 2014, 23 3/4′ x 23 1/2″, encaustic & oils on panel board

So where do my ideas come from. I love poetry and much of the Big Bang series came from reading the poetess Sappho. My house series came from reading the Poetics of Space. Womanscape came from my own direct life experiences as a women and how I see women functioning in today’s world. Observation of self and my experiences of being female over the past 70 years has become a metaphor for me; I draw on the female form to express the social, cultural, and religious conditions of a woman’s life. Nature and landscape imagery represents the sensuality, feelings, fecundity, and the colors of femininity.

2014, 6" x 6", encaustic & oil on panel board

Half Moon Scape, 2014, 6″ x 6″, encaustic & oil on panel board

Night Scape is new and in development. I am intrigued with the comets, planets, and star formations. Following the Big Bang, this series brings me closer to our ever expansive universe and our spiritual interactive roles within.

Night Scape, 2014, 24" 25", encaustic & oils on panel board.

Night Scape, 2014, 24″ 25″, encaustic & oils on panel board.

For the past 13 years I have been engaged in exploring, discovering and experimenting with various art mediums and media. I see this as a lifelong engagement with the artistic process. I have a newly remodeled studio room in my garage at home, I recently put together my own website, I am on Facebook, and have two new shows coming up in 2015. At this new age of 70, I have not looked back and glad I choose art as my road taken.

You can see more of Virginia’s work at her website, virginiacassetta.com. Or stop by Main Street Arts through December 29, 2014 to see one of her encaustic landscapes in person.

Check out our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by jewelry artist Vanessa Rivera.