Trying out something new

Danvers artist Deb Connolly is used to doing her artwork with pastels or watercolors. In the last year, her daughter taught her a new technique – encaustic painting.

“It’s very old, it’s been around for a long time,” Connolly said. Encaustic painting uses heated beeswax and colored pigments.

Connolly’s art will be on display throughout the month at the KK Berge building in downtown Granite Falls. The exhibit is being sponsored by the Granite Area Arts Council.

Connolly said her daughter learned the technique when she was at the University of Minnesota, Morris. The liquid that is created is applied to a surface, such as wood.

“Basically, you have an encaustic medium, which is a combination of beeswax, damar resin and other additives,” Connolly said. “This medium is basically encaustic paint without pigment. It is used to prime your surfaces, extend colors and to create transparency.”

Paraffin in a liquid state is used to clean brushes and then you have encaustic colors that are purchased to paint with, Connolly said.

“All these are kept liquid at about 220 degrees and are painted on with a brush,” she said. “With each layer you do, you have to set it with a heat gun.”

She said the “sky is the limit” with what you can do when you paint this way.

“It’s just really exciting to do,” Connolly said.

Connolly recalled doing art back in school.

“I’ve always got asked ‘will you draw this?’ Connolly said. When she went to college for interior design, several of her classes were in the fine arts, she said.

When her children were little, Connolly took an art class through community education.

“You really have to make time for it,” she said.

Then a friend encouraged her to take a watercolor class in Benson that was taught by Nancy Olson of Glenwood.

“She said, ‘Deb, you like to paint, why don’t you come to this?'” Connolly said.

It was Olson that got Connolly entering art contests, submitting works to the Minnesota State Fair and doing juried art shows.

“She was kind of the drive to do that,” Connolly said.

Connolly typically paints watercolor and pastel pieces.

“My pastels are done by working back and forth between watercolors and both hard and soft pastels,” she said.

Connolly said she likes to use local surroundings when creating her artwork.

“The fields are really so wonderful to paint,” Connolly said. “The silhouettes of the trees, the lights and shadows.”

She said her paintings of florals are usually “loose.”

“I don’t (make) anything really tight or photographic,” she said. She said she likes using lines and tends to have more geometric shapes than rounded ones.

Connolly’s studio has also been a stop on the annual Upper Minnesota River Valley Arts Meander. She said she decided to jump on the first one.

“It sounded like a great idea and a great experience,” she said.

And she has people from all over the state come to visit during the Meander, she said.

“I have people come every year from Edina, Duluth,” she said.

And she’s also submitted about half a dozen artworks to the Minnesota State Fair, following Olson’s advice.

“You have to be willing to drive it there and pick it up,” she said. “There’s a lot of amazing art, and a lot of pieces.”

Five of her encaustic pieces are in the exhibit in Granite Falls.

“They’re hanging in my laundry room typically,” she said.