“I’ve done a lot of paintings of architecture and machinery and locomotives,” says encaustic painter Dana Brown of Topsail Beach, NC, “and now I’ve fallen in love with doing these smaller nature pieces that call on me to use a different part of my brain.” When painting buildings and machinery, Brown takes a more realism-based, representational approach.
But when painting leaves and branches and vines, she likes to take risks.
“With nature I depart from the colors I’m looking at and I think more about tonal values and contrasts, and negative and positive space. Whatever value goes down first, the rest of the painting continues from there, flowing out without any preconceived ideas,” she explains.
Creative license means that the result “can’t be wrong, as long as the composition hangs together, and that gives me a lot of freedom.”
Both sides of Brown’s artistic process will be on display at Momentum for her upcoming untitled show, which opens April 1 and includes a very springlike strategy to keep the exhibit fresh. At the midpoint of the nearly three-month exhibit, she’ll add new works – refreshing the show with a mixture of large and small works now in progress.
Brown works with beeswax and resin on wood, carving and layering the pigmented wax (encaustic) to create a complex painting infused with organic texture and layered detail. She traces her recent transition into flora to her love of kayaking, which takes her painterly journey into the wilds, where the rigid structure of machinery and urban orderliness can give way to a tangle of leaves, branches, and vines.
“When you’re out in nature it’s so restful and reassuring and calming,” Brown observes. “But it can really look random and messy. Nature has its own reliable order to it and knows what it’s doing, even if I don’t.”
To differentiate the parts from the whole, she relies on color and contrast.
“I want to capture the feeling of being out there in the middle of it — to pop those seven leaves forward out of a tangle of a thousand.”