Kathleen Waterloo

Kathleen Waterloo creates encaustic paintings (encaustic: the ancient technique utilizing pigment mixed with molten beeswax) which are color-based architectural fantasies. Responding intuitively to her passions for and intellectual interest in the design of man-made human environments, Waterloo creates color formed space that blurs the line between 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional perception.

Kathleen Waterloo was trained as an interior architect, and her ideas about how we understand and experience our own created physical spaces play a primary role in the development of her compositions. The impetus for her different series of paintings have included maps, floorplans, and in the case of this exhibition, racetrack courses. But this is just the starting point of her work. For Waterloo, process is the key that unlocks the content. Paradoxically, Waterloo develops her very modern abstract compositions using ancient encaustic processes and techniques. Molten beeswax is combined with resin and a host of pigments. Each color is applied separately with brushes to wood panels, and a torch is continually used to fuse one layer to the next. It is this process of torch fusion that reveals the natural properties and possibilities of the wax and pigment mixture, and it’s the “in-between” spaces - the places where the shapes in the painting butt against each other - that offer such beautiful, exciting visual reward (truly a loaded visual metaphor for our time). "Some artists are afraid of the fire," said Waterloo in a recent interview. "To me that's the purest way of dealing with the work, and how I get the best results."

Waterloo in the studio

Aspen, encaustic on panel, 36x24

Corkscrew, encaustic on panel, 42x42

The Esses, encaustic on panel, 48x40

Hairy Hill, encaustic on panel, 36x30

Kettle Bottoms Hurry Downs, encaustic on panel, 42x42

Kettle Bottoms Hurry Downs (alternate orientation), encaustic on panel, 42x42

Blue Train, encaustic on panel, 36x24

Wiggle Room, encaustic on panel, 24x18

Happy Tune, encaustic on panel, 24x18

Airpoort/Shenzhen (SZX), encaustic on panel, 44x44

Airport/Chongqing (CKG), encaustic on panel, 30x30


Encaustic painting is a technique developed in ancient Greece, and refers to any process that incorporates the use of wax manipulated through heat. Predating oil paint by centuries, beeswax is the oldest known pigment binder. The Greek word Encaustika literally means "Burning In". Typically, in this process, pigment is added to molten beeswax and in some cases resin, a hardening agent, and then applied to a rigid surface. The surface itself may be warm allowing for manipulation of the encaustic paint. It may also be cool causing the brush stroke to "freeze" immediately. After each application, the object is subjected to the "burning in" process, which consists of passing a heat source over the surface, causing a fusing and bonding of the painting. The surface may then be polished with a soft cloth resulting in an attractive sheen. While this is considered the "Classic Technique", encaustic is a flexible medium, accommodating a wide range of experimentation.

Beeswax, with its organic qualities, its evocative translucency, and its inherent feeling of timelessness, can be a seductive medium for both artist and viewer. Today many contemporary painters are rediscovering this ancient medium with amazing and varied results. These artists are experimenting with the expressive possibilities of encaustic techniques, pushing and coaxing the medium in new and unusual directions, always with an eye to its history.

Encaustic artwork has the advantage of not yellowing, of weathering well, being unaffected by moisture, and actually being able to withstand higher heat than oil paintings. It can be used for creating texture and can be applied to any number of surfaces (canvas, paper, stone, wood panels, etc). While at first glance beeswax may seem like a delicate medium, durability is one of it's greatest attributes; many examples of complete and undamaged works survive from ancient times. Unlike paintings produced in other mediums, these works retain a surprising brilliancy of color and freshness of execution. Rooted in historical precedent, this versatile medium remains vital, rich with possibilities for contemporary artists.