Soon after arriving, I took a couple of weekend workshops with Santa Fe encaustic artist Ellen Koment. She is a great teacher who introduced many techniques and encouraged experimentation; I really began getting a strong sense of all of the possibilities with this medium. Then I learned about the Encaustic Art Institute (then in Cerrillos, now in Santa Fe) and became a member. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were so many other encaustic artists not only in the state, but in the country. Around the same time, I was working diligently to incorporate nature into my life (something I was beginning to long for in Chicago)—hiking regularly and exploring New Mexico. Knowing a little about how the old masters created paint, I began to wonder if I could somehow incorporate all of the spectacular colors I was seeing in the landscape into my work. While hiking in the badlands near Cuba, NM, I filled about a dozen zip lock baggies with various colors of dirt and clay. I reached a whole new level of excitement and motivation once I discovered that I could utilize the actual land that was inspiring me in my work. The Process I start with clumps of dirt or clay that I’ve gathered, place them in a bag, and break them up with a mallet. Next, I grind the dirt with a mortar and pestle and then sift that through a fine sieve purchased at a pottery supply store. As a base, I usually start with 2-3 layers of encaustic medium on a board before using a brush (or sometimes my fingers) to sweep the dry pigment onto the wax and then use a torch to fuse it into the wax. It takes numerous layers — anywhere between 2-5 — to build up a rich color. Often I layer different colors to add more depth and/or interest.