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Encaustic Artist Sarah Starling Gives a Private Look into Her Studio

Updated: Jun 10





Denver, CO - As I walk into the apartment studio, the first thing that strikes me is the distinct, almost nostalgic smell of beeswax and wood panels. It was as if I had stepped into a world where time moved a little slower, a sensory retreat from the rush of everyday life. This olfactory welcome is complimented by a cheerful corgi mix who greets me at the door, tail wagging in a rhythm that matches the sunny, relaxed atmosphere of the space.




Sarah Starling, whose warmth mirrors the inviting ambiance of her studio, invites me in. Her studio, a closed-in porch just off her apartment, is airy and sunny. Large windows allow the sun to pour in, illuminating her workspace and giving life to the array of colors she worked with.


As we walk through, the corgi trots along happily, almost as if giving its own personal tour. The artist gestures to the various tools and materials she uses, explaining the fascinating art of encaustic painting.


She begins by explaining what encaustic art is—a technique involving heated beeswax mixed with colored pigments, applied to a surface, usually wood. The word "encaustic" comes from the Greek "enkaustikos," which means to burn in, a reference to the process of fusing the paint. The technique is ancient, dating back to the Greeks and Egyptians, and requires both precision and a deep understanding of the materials.


As she speaks, I watch her work, mesmerized by the way she manipulates the wax. Using a heat gun, she fuses layers of wax and pigment onto a wooden panel, creating rich textures and vibrant colors that seem to dance in the sunlight. The wax, once cooled, hardens into a beautiful, luminous surface.


Her dog, sensing our engrossment, lays down at our feet, contentedly observing the artistic process as Sarah methodically continues mixing her next color, a bright magenta, pressing the wax stick to the burner until enough has been deposited to create the right hue.


"Each piece is more about how I remember feeling in that location rather than an exact representation," she explains, her hands deftly applying another layer of wax. "Memory can be selective and emotive, and that's what I try to convey in my work."



(pictured) “Escapism” Sarah Starling’s solo exhibition from May 2024



Behind her, on the easel, sits an elongated painting of a line of yellow-leaved Aspen trees. I lean in to get a closer look at the fine details she’s been able to create. She turns to explain that it’s a commission she’s been working on and asks if I want to see how she does the trees.


“Yes, please!” I nod, and she carefully takes it from its perch to place it down on the table before grabbing the brick of yellow pigment.


“You can use any paint brush.” Sarah works as she speaks, dotting on a small amount of the yellow. “It’ll ruin them, though. Wax is hard to get out.”


It’s hard to wrap my head around the sheer amount of detail and texture in every corner of the piece. It must take hours to paint, carve, and manipulate each layer. I realize that before now, I’d only had vague depictions of how encaustics are made, and it’s fascinating to see how it works in real time.


“What do you hope people will get out of your exhibition?” I ask.


“Encaustic is well known if you’re already in the art world,” Sarah contemplates, setting the brush down, “but I think outside of that it’s relatively unknown, so I hope it’s educational as well as fun to look at. I hope it brings people a sense of happiness and tranquility.”

 



Watching her work, I can see how her memories infuse each piece with a unique spirit, making her art deeply personal and evocative. It is a beautiful reminder of how art can transcend mere representation to evoke the very essence of our experiences.


Even after leaving her studio, the scents and images linger in my mind. Sarah’s process—and the captivating work it yields—has left an indelible impression on me. In fact, I’m sure it resonates with most who see her pieces. If you want a contemporary encaustic landscape for your home or office, you can buy Sarah’s work at RemainReal Fine Art


RemainReal Fine Art is an art gallery in Denver, CO, featuring a dozen resident artists, including Sarah. They also host group art classes for those needing a creative outlet. Whether you want to adorn your space with original works by inspired professionals or take art classes in Denver so you can create breathtaking pieces of your own, look no further than RemainReal Fine Art.


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