Today, we introduce you to Penny Treese, an artist who uses a fascinating technique called encaustic painting. Welcome, Penny!
Where did you grow up? If not Atlanta, what brought you here?
I grew up in a rural town called Mahomet (population 2,000) in central Illinois just outside Champagne. I played in the forest in my back yard and the cornfields in my front yard. An ideal childhood for a budding artist with a huge imagination. In 1992, after graduating Cum Laude from Illinois State University with an art and design degree, I moved to Atlanta to start a career as a graphic designer and art director. Over the next decade and a half, I worked at most of the successful agencies as a high-end graphic designer and art director, as a full-time, part-time or freelancer. Then in 2008 I revisited my love for painting.
You studied art and graphic design in college. Did you always know you wanted to be a creative artist?
Yes. I was lucky to have incredibly supportive parents. When I was around 5 years old, they began providing me with every type of art lesson—from drawing, painting and sculpting to learning watercolors from a famous local artist on her horse farm. They’re practical Midwesterners, though, and so they also encouraged me to get a degree in graphic design and learn the (just-surfacing) digital arts. Don’t you hate it when your parents are right?! Luckily, I didn’t resist their advice, and it paid off in spades.
Can you explain to us about encaustic painting?
It’s a method where color-pigmented beeswax is melted, applied to a surface and reheated to fuse the paint into a smooth or textured finish. The surface can be polished to a high gloss, modeled, sculpted, textured and combined with collage materials. Encaustic is one of the most versatile mediums available for artists today.
Where does your inspiration for you paintings come from?
I currently create two bodies of work: Landscapes and figures. The landscapes are “self-scapes” inspired by my upbringing in the Midwest. Although surrounded by vast cornfields—literally for hundreds of miles—my family vacationed by the ocean every year. I couldn’t get enough of the equally expansive ocean. The creation of these land/sea/skyscapes is my preferred method of therapy and reminder to stay in the present. My figurative work is best summed up in my artist statement. Instead of making excuses for these nude, distressed, deformed female figures, I strive to glorify the blemishes. My hope is that our culture will learn to accept our changing bodies and faces rather than so stubbornly resist the aging process.
Do you have a place or a space in Atlanta that you turn to for inspiration?
Oh, I find inspiration everywhere. Underwater in our pool, under the magnolia at the Decatur Cemetery, watching the clouds or smoke ascending into the night from our fire pit as my children make s’mores. I don’t have a specific place. However, one thing I crave is silence. There’s quite a bit of inner chat going on in my mind that needs quieting. My husband calls it “the monkeys chattering” in our brains. This is only fully muted when I immerse myself in painting/creating, like when I’ve become one with a vintage iron or fiery blowtorch as I crawl over and “into” a painting, fusing the luminous layers of wax and pigment to the substrate.
How do you “mute” the distractions of everyday life so that you can focus on your creativity?
I meditate in one of the aforementioned areas—poolside or beneath the warm water’s surface; sitting or walking at the cemetery; or by cleaning and preparing my home art studio and listening to Marvin Gaye, Jackson Browne…or Prince.
It sounds like you have your “dream job.” Can you ever imagine doing something else for a living?
I do have my dream job. I am unimaginably blessed. I’d like to include more art therapy into my teaching. I’ll continue to study the healing powers of art for children, teens and adults and hope to pass on the peace I receive through creating to others.
Tell us about your art therapy classes for children. What life lessons from you learned from your students?
My students teach me to create with a freedom, vitality and openness that adults seem to have lost along the way. I don’t formally teach art therapy, but instead incorporate mediation and healing processes into my art lessons. I try to emulate their fearlessness and ease and joy. I wish I could bottle it up and take a swig every time I can’t seem to get out of my own way, which is the secret of painting!
What is your favorite work of art, either by another artist or something of your own?
Honestly, my favorite works are those of my students and my 11-year-old daughter, Gabrielle. When students or children are first learning a new technique or experiencing a new medium, they have a freedom that is difficult to duplicate. Therefore their works have an open, raw quality that’s so powerful.
What are you looking forward to this summer?
Swimming and playing with my family and friends in our pool at our new home. Teaching a painting class in Banff, Canada. And spending time at my best friend’s lake house with our families.
What is the greatest piece of advice you have been given?
Grace is sufficient. It’s from the Bible, and it keeps my perspective in check.
What is your favorite restaurant in Atlanta?
New, swanky restaurants pop up in Decatur almost monthly, and I love walking to the square and revisiting all of them. However, for the past 21 years, Steam House Lounge and sister restaurant Fontaine’s have been my go-to places for fresh seafood, their beach-like atmosphere and great prices.
What is your favorite indulgence or treat?
Any treatment administered by Jessica Kane at Fabu Face Spa in Decatur, which feels like a massage and out-of-body-experience.
What is your favorite vacation spot?
Name three things you can’t live without (besides God, Family and Friends)
1. Being alone on the beach, lying on my back in the sun while the surf lulls me into the present.
Thank you, Penny! To visit her website and read her artist statement, click here. You can find Penny’s work at the following galleries:
- Kai Lin Art: www.kailinart.com
- Decatur Market and Gallery: www.decaturgallery.com
- Homegrown Decatur Art Co-op: http://homegrowndecatur.com
And, once again, thank you to Amy Lesesne!