Our latest Q&A is with Irish artist Lora Murphy. Lora uses PanPastel regularly in her encaustic paintings.
Tell us about your background as an artist.
I have always been an artist. It was all I ever wanted to do. Some of my earliest memories include my “discovery “ of perspective, whereby if I drew a horizontal line behind figures in my drawings, they became located in space or in a room. I was about 5 years old at the time and I was so excited by this.
Art was not offered as a subject at my school so I did it alone and went on to study the History of European painting at University, followed by another study in archaeology. After graduation I moved to New York and enrolled at the Art Students League. Later I retured to Ireland and studied at the Crawford College of Art and I finished up at a traditional atelier school in Florence, Italy. A few years ago I took a course in Art therapy with Jungian Psychology, which was fascinating .
Although I trained as an oil painter; when I encountered Encaustic 10 years ago it was love at first sight, and I now work almost exclusively in encaustic and mixed media.
Describe your artwork.
My work draws on unconscious symbolism, myth, dream motifs – always an interplay and often a struggle between darkness and light and shadow, always a search for the underlying – the elemental. Archetypal imagery often appears in my work, goddess, witch, innocent, harlot. These are the things I think about. Love is central to who I am and if I paint my son or one of the Magdalene Laundry women or a scarlet woman, I am thinking about Love. I specialize in contemporary portraiture in encaustic and mixed media, and that is what I have become known for, but I also love to work in abstract and more narrative type mixed media pieces. I am excited by rich colours and a varied and layered surface.
Tell us about your creative process and the materials that you use.
Apart from encaustic, I use many mediums including PanPastel, oils and acrylic. Encaustic, especially when combined with such mediums as PanPastel Colors and OilBars is the one that most inspires my passion. It gives me the freedom to express myself in a way that feels most true to me. I can’t explain it exactly but it feels right.
I use encaustic as an oil painter would use their oils. I do not have tins of melted colour on the griddle but I rather use the griddle as my palette and mix the paint I need as I go. This allows me to make so many more subtle variations of colour and tone and is especially important for portraiture.
How do you use PanPastel colors in your work – what is your technique/process for using them?
I love PanPastel. They work beautifully in layers in my mixed media work and they are excellent for rendering fine details in portraiture and figurative work. They add interest and excitement to dull passages and can unify disparate elements of a painting. They have replaced my use of OilBar to a large extent in portraiture as I do not have to worry about creating unstable layers or encapsulating oil in the wax.
Are you combining PanPastel with other media – if so, which media – and how do you use them together?
Yes, I use them with all the media that I employ. They are so versatile and rich, very easy to use and I love not having to wait for them to dry! They work great with collage too.
Are you doing things creatively with PanPastel that you were not doing before?
Absolutely ! Not having to wait for paint to dry is fantastic and allows so much more spontaneity in the work .
What surface(s) do you normally use with PanPastel?
Usually, panel, canvas and paper…I love velour paper, if it is a pure PanPastel piece.
What do you see as the main benefits of using PanPastel in your work?
Versatility, pure colour, no mess, no fumes, works with encaustic, no waiting time, can be mixed on the surface…broad areas of colour, subtle temperature, value, colour changes, ease of use with stencils, vibrancy… what’s not to love ??
Do you have any tips/techniques to share with other artists who are using PanPastel?
Try using a very small brush with the PanPastel, in an area where you need fine detail…you will be amazed by the subtlety and ease of application …
Describe the space/studio where you normally create.
I have two studios, one is at my home with doors leading out into the garden. This is my sanctuary and I feel very relaxed here. It is a very creative space and my dog, Lois, usually curls up in the corner and keeps me company. I listen to audio books and music, or Ted Talks while I paint, trying to keep my left brain occupied so that I can be more in the “zone” and right brained. My other studio is much more utilitarian. It is in a building occupied by several artists and it is subsidized by the Council of the city I live in, in Denmark. It is a great space for making videos and large works and I am currently shooting a video here for my upcoming E-course.
Who / what are your creative inspirations?
Painters, such as Hals, Rembrandt, Sargent, Sorolla, Nerdrum, inspire me greatly with their brushwork, I especially love Henri Matisse and am constantly inspired by his colour and vision but funnily enough, it is poetry as well as the spiritual aspects of life that inspire me most. Maya Angelou, Pablo Neruda, Karl Jung, Seamus Heaney, Wade Davis, Alain de Botton, Ken Robinson, Terence Mc Kenna and Alan Watts are some of the people I love to listen to and anything to do with studies in neuro science, astronomy, ethnobotany, biology, archaeology and spirituality are so interesting to me always.
What excites you most about your life as an artist?
The unadulterated passion and joy I feel everyday for what I do. It never gets old!! There is so much freedom in loving what you do.
What’s the most valuable lesson you have learnt on your journey as an artist?
Never give up! Keep painting .. follow your bliss, that is where your joy is and to be fearless.
What are your artistic (and other) goals for the future?
I am currently working on an E-course at the moment as I have had so many requests from people all over the world, who cannot physically attend a workshop. I also want to create an art center in the Burren, Co Clare in Ireland to offer workshops in various media and to have visiting artists. This is such a beautiful part of the world and so inspiring.
When you are not working on your artwork, what other interests do you have?
I do lots of set design for several theatres in Ireland. This is really fun and creative.
Apart from Art, I am an avid yoga fan and I enjoy mediation. I am very interested still in archaeology and love to visit sacred sites, both in Ireland and other countries. I love to travel and plan to go to Egypt next year.
Any upcoming events, workshops, shows, book launches, projects you’d like to tell us about?
I am teaching a workshop in Mayo, Ireland in October at a truly lovely place, right beside the sea. Then I am in Colorado, at the ArtFusion Event in Estes Park. I have never been there so I am really looking forward to it .
Next year I will be teaching a two day workshop at The International Encaustic Conference in Provincetown in June, plus doing a Demo.
In June 2017 also , I will be teaching at the studio of Kathryn Bevier in Rochester New York
In September 2017, together with Kathryn Bevier, I will be creating an art retreat in Galway, Ireland. An opportunity to come to Ireland, and paint for a week at a lovely place and to visit Galway, the Burren, Lough Boora Sculpture Park, Clonmacnoise and lots of other amazing sites in the area.
“Follow your Bliss”- the E-course will be launched in the next few months. If you are interested please let me know: Email Lora
Lora Murphy was born in Ireland and educated in Ireland, USA and Italy. Trained as an oil painter, she now works primarily in Encaustic and mixed media. Lora teaches workshops in Contemporay Portraiture in Encaustic throughout the world and is currently working on an E-course, due to be released this year. She divides her time between Ireland and Denmark and maintain studios in both countries.