Waxing Artistic: Encaustic Works On Display At Veronica’s

Marion Nelson and Zirrus VanDevere discuss Nelson's encaustic works at Veronica's in Old Town Kenai


A new art display is up at Veronica’s Café in old town Kenai. It features encaustic works by local artist Marion Nelson.



Encaustic is an art medium dating back some 2,500 years. It’s Greek and it means ‘to burn in.’ An apt name for creating works of art using layers of hot wax to produce a huge variety of colors, patterns and textures.

Marion Nelson has been making encaustic works for about four years, and her show at Veronica’s features dozens of one-of-a-kind pieces.

“Often times, the wax ends up making as many judgement calls in that decision making process as I do, because it moves around,” Nelson said at a reception for her work Thursday.

Her introduction to the form was serendipitous, she says, born of her relationship with a colleague at the travel magazine The Milepost.

“The Milepost editor took an encaustics workshop just because she’s a great life long learner…she called me up and said ‘Marion, you need to take one of these workshops.’ I took the next workshop, and kept on taking them,” she said.

Four years later,  her home studio is full of encaustic pieces.

Building one of these works takes time, patience, good technique, a little luck, and some relatively hard to find materials.

“You work on a heated palette. Maybe if somebody were looking at the palette, they wouldn’t call it that because it’s a little platform with four legs. The mixture of beeswax, dammar resin and pigment are in a bunch of cat food cans…You work with one brush per can, one brush per color. You can keep applying this, because if you think of a candle wax melting, that wax sets up very quickly. So you can apply many, many layers,” she said.

Taking in the pieces hanging on the walls, it’s not always easy to decipher what exactly is going on. The fluid nature of the wax blurs lines and the layering of the different colors adds depth that further allows you to interpret it your own way. Certainly, some pieces are identifiable. You can always pick out a salmon, but for others that aren’t so easily defined, what’s the motivation?

“My muse…in my brain there a lot of muses running around…I’ve been doing art with various mediums throughout many years. No ‘Barn in the Vally’. I was once asked what kind of artist are you, the barn in the meadow with the trees or the carrot in the Coke bottle. I said I’m the carrot in the Coke bottle artist,” Nelson said with a laugh.

Nelson’s work is on display and on sale at Veronica’s through the end of September, but if all of those pieces are snatched up, I might have to make a trip to her studio and take a shot at hot wax painting myself.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-