Cheryl Gibbs Lyon has always been an artist. In high school she painted with acrylics, later she focused on nudes, and for the past 10 years she has primarily been working with encaustic wax painting.
Cheryl is a very welcoming, friendly person. She strikes me as very ebullient but not in a cheerleader-y sort of way; more just naturally optimistic. Her studio is full of light and color, quite reflective of her personality. She has created a workspace out of her home that allows privacy while still being connected to her household so she can be available to her kids. It's a pretty sweet arrangement.
I met Cheryl through high school friends and she was kind enough to let me into her space and walk me through her creative process. It was fun to see her in action and understand more about how she concepts and creates.
Encaustic is an entirely new technique for me and watching her work was mesmerizing. She uses wood blocks, tapes off the sides to keep the painting neat, sands any rough spots, treats the wood with a medium, and then essentially melts it into the wood with a butane torch to seal it. The medium is comprised of resin and beeswax.
This torching process is so satisfying to watch!
The paint she uses is oil paint mixed with beeswax that comes in solid chunks. To mix her colors she uses a heated pallette and simply swipes the blocks of color around the tray and swirls them together. To dilute colors she adds plain beeswax to the warm plate.
Once she is satisfied with the colors she keeps them on a warming tray for accessibility.
The next step is to do a rough sketch of her intended design. Cheryl uses a Stabilo Woody 3 in 1 wax pencil. These early guide marks will end up being subsumed by the wax and won't be visible in the finished product.
And now, we paint! Using a light touch with her brush, she layers the paint across the wood.
After she's satisfied with each layer, she fuses the wax with the butane torch again. She continues this technique repeatedly - layering colors, manipulating the wax, and then sealing with the torch.
With each layer of wax and subsequent fusing, the painting changes. New colors are created and older layers are revealed, adding intense texture to each piece. Fauvism has been a major influence for her and you can see that come through in her work.
It was surprising to me that the wax fused so solidly. That said, don't keep them near any heat source, keep them out of the sun, (and don't feed them after midnight...) They can also get nicked or chipped if you don't take care when handling them. The cool thing is that the colors will always stay true; you won't see any fading over time. And if the piece gets a little dull, simply buff it with a soft cloth to return the painting to its original luster.
Cheryl is constantly experimenting and trying new approaches in her work. She's inspired by nature and her love of the Alaska wilderness is very evident in her pieces. Her sunflowers are very popular (and sold exclusively at Dos Manos) and I really love her landscapes. Cheryl's work can be seen in Anchorage at Georgia Blue Gallery as well as Sevigny Studio. If you would like to meet Cheryl, please let me know, I would be happy to introduce you. Otherwise, like her Facebook page so you can keep seeing these moving creations.