BY LISA KOIS
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
August 27, 2014
Encaustic artist Anne Smidt describes herself as a tech nerd. She came to art after a career in the tech industry. It was her encounter with encaustic painter Michel Tsouris during the 2005 Whidbey Studio Tour that helped steer Smidt down a different path. She was immediately taken with Tsouris’s work and told her she’d be interested in taking a class if Tsouris ever offered one.
Smidt took the class and, by 2006, she was painting. The experience, she said, was transformative—helping her move out of a reclusive year grieving the loss of her stepfather in 2004, followed by the death of her mother in 2005.
During that year, Smidt spent much of her time in the small woodshed-turned-cottage where Smidt’s mother lived during her final months. She rarely left the house. The 2005 Fall Studio Tour changed that, drawing Smidt out. Now, eight years later, Smidt is one of the artists on the Tour and that cottage is her recently renovated art studio.
The earliest known encaustic painting dates back to Egyptian mummy portraits from the 1st Century BC. Encaustic—or hot wax painting—employs hot wax mixed with colored pigments that are applied to a surface, typically wood. The wax is then layered, painted upon, collaged, shaped and molded. The results are diverse—from transfers of simple timeless images, to original paintings and collage, to three-dimensional sculptures and installations. Encaustic painting made a resurgence in the 1950s when technology caught up with the form, making tools of the art more accessible. Smidt’s favorite tools are spoons and nails.
“I’m known as the bee lady,” said Smidt, about her successful series of paintings using antique images of queen bees.
She laughed and added, “I’m deathly allergic to honey bees.”
Although known for her bee and botanical transfers, Smidt’s real love is three-dimensional installations. “I think my best work is 3-D. It’s more expressive,” she said, and admitted that she is eager to move on to bigger paintings and more 3-D installations.
Smidt and fellow encaustic artists Shirley Ashenbrenner, Kathleen Otley, Patty Picco, Kim Tinuviel, Ellen Vlasak and Ron Ward, richly represent the ancient art form of encaustic painting in the Whidbey Working Artists Summer Art Tour. The number of encaustic artists in the Tour speaks to the popularity and diversity of the form. Smidt’s work and the work of the others can be seen Friday through Sunday, Aug. 29, 30 and 31.
The Whidbey Working Artists Summer Tour is on two consecutive weekends: Aug. 23 and 24 and Aug. 29, 30 and 31, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. This self-guided tour features 27 artists at 18 locations from Oak Harbor to Freeland. The participating artists invite the public to see how and where they create their art. Art mediums include pottery wheels, looms, liquid glass, wet paint, wood and clay. For more information visit www.whidbeyworkingartists.com and a brochure can be downloaded here.
Photo at the top: Anne concentrating on her work in her studio (photo by Lori Tate)
After 13 years in South Asia working as a human rights lawyer, writer and documentary filmmaker, Lisa Kois returned to Whidbey Island with her daughter and founded Calyx Community Arts School, the 347-acre classroom at South Whidbey State Park. She believes passionately in the transformative powers of nature and the arts.
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