Artwork Spotlight

Artwork Spotlight: Encaustic Journals with Andi Dees

In the Artwork Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights a specific work by an artist in the community. Artists with lived mental and emotional health challenges show the power of art for mental health. These works range from short stories to visual art, music, poetry, and more! This is art that explores mental health. Today, Andi Dees (she/her) will share her encaustic journals and process.

Andi took the time to participate in a Q+A with The Layered Onion, but before we share the dialogue, here’s a little bit more about our artist:

Andi is a visual artist working in the realms of encaustic painting and pottery (sometimes together). With 23 years of clay experience and 15 years of encaustic experience, she has a lot going on. Currently, Andi is working on encaustic-covered journals, which are hand-bound with tea-stained paper.

Before talking with Andi, I wasn’t familiar with encaustic work – man, is it remarkable! The word encaustic refers to a painting technique using hot wax mixed with pigments. In a painting, the result is similar to oil paint – the work is bright and enhances expressive brushwork. Using hot wax can be challenging, as monitoring temperature needs to become part of your process.

Andi participated in a Q&A with The Layered Onion, expanding further on her work:

Encaustic journal or encaustic journals by Andi Dees. Andi's are available on Etsy. Mental health through the arts. Shows the power of art for mental health/ art and mental health.

What first led you to art?

My family is full of artists. It was something that came naturally to me as a child, and I just built on those natural abilities as I got grew up. I still take classes all the time. I am a perpetual learner.

How would you describe your artistic style?

I think it depends on the medium I’m using. When it comes to painting, whether it is watercolor, encaustic, acrylic, oils, etc., I tend to be more abstract and loose (something that took me years to accept after doing realistic drawing and painting for a long time). The tediousness and OCD of perfection went away, thankfully. In clay/pottery, I am very “tight;” everything must be smooth and perfect. Abstract in clay is very hard for me. I like clean lines and designs.

What are your favorite materials and mediums to work with?

I think my favorite materials are clay and encaustics. As a potter, clay is a given. In encaustics, I use a multitude of mixed media – the hot wax, of course, but also paper clay, colored shellac, alcohol inks, oil paint, and paper.

Encaustic journal or encaustic journals by Andi Dees. Andi's are available on Etsy. Mental health through the arts. Shows the power of art for mental health/ art and mental health.

What is an encaustic journal?

An encaustic journal is a handmade journal with an encaustic cover. I make my own encaustic medium, so the wax mixture is harder when it dries and resists dents and dings better than the manufactured encaustic medium. I use fancy papers for the back cover and inside cover and bind the watercolor paper signatures by hand with a Coptic stitch.

How did you first get started making these?

I started encaustic painting about ten years ago and found that I really enjoyed the creative process. Another encaustic artist, a friend of mine, did encaustic journals a little differently, and she showed me some examples of hers. She used purchased journals and did the encaustic on the covers. Of course, I had to be a little more technical and do the binding myself. LOL.

What is your favorite part of the textile process?

It’s more of a mixed-media process. I think my favorite part is the design process. Coming up with the wax backgrounds and building from that.

What unique elements do you add to your journals? People seem to get very creative!

I have a lot of found objects, animal bones, teeth, and paper-clay-molded objects to choose from. So coming up with different themes for covers always excites me. I tend to make them more on the creepy side of things. Anything that is a little off or makes people think, “hmmm.” I’ve used cigarette package images from England with rotten teeth to owl pellet bones to 3-D paper clay forms painted with watercolors.

How long does it take to make a journal on average?

It’s a long process that involves a lot of different steps. Generally, with the design, the wax background steps, additions, painting, signature making (paper cutting, folding, and hole punching), and then papering the covers. It takes about 2-3 hours a day for about four days to complete.

Inside pages. Encaustic journal or encaustic journals by Andi Dees. Andi's are available on Etsy. Mental health through the arts. Shows the power of art for mental health/ art and mental health.

Anything else on your mind?

I think if you’re an artist of any kind, having a dedicated space is crucial to it being your happy place. I also feel that if I am having a really bad day, I don’t force myself to be creative. I just walk away with the understanding that with my mental and physical health diagnoses, it’s just not the day for it. So instead of making art, I watch Youtube videos on bookbinding, watercolor tutorials, or even just Ask a Mortician. Anything that is interesting to me and non-taxing mentally or physically. Taking care of your whole being is most important, and knowing that there are days that will not be easy. It is just a matter of taking a step back to take care of yourself first. Tomorrow may be better. Maintaining an attitude of acceptance is what keeps me grounded in my art. It’s important, so I don’t force it. 

Anyone else want their own encaustic journal? You can see more of Andi’s work on her website, Cloudbusting Worx. Thanks for sharing your work and designs, Andi!