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Encaustic artwork blends an earthy palette with nature’s finest raw materials

by DANA W. TODD / photography by HOLGER OBENAUS

Homeland of the Soul, encaustic beeswax on birch panel, 36″ x 36″

It’s 5 a.m. in Shima Shanti’s studio. It feels as if she has the whole world to herself as she works in total silence on her latest painting. “It’s my open-eye meditation,” Shima says. “I let the spirit flow through me for three or four hours in the solitude of my studio. People say my finished impressionistic artworks are peaceful and serene. I’m hoping I have created an oasis of calm where they can take a breath.”

That feeling of respite and the obvious influence of water in her artwork draw collectors and interior designers from across the nation. “I am guided by nature,” Shima says. “Art is a common soul connector for all of us, even though we all respond differently to it.” She creates with all-organic materials and a limited, neutral-soft palette she has developed over time. The fusion of those pigments with a heat torch creates secondary and tertiary colors in her works, imparting the harmony that viewers often perceive. She spends extra time on the unseen details, such as preparing the board, and the careful attention gives her pieces a sense of luxury and refinement.

Harmony of One, encaustic beeswax on birch panel, 36″ x 36″

A common theme in Shima’s work is the flow of water in motion. Her encaustic design process, based on an ancient art form, is an alchemy of beeswax, pigment and fire with an ever-changing result. She may apply as many as 50 layers of wax and pigment on a birch board over the course of several weeks, heating and scraping each layer until she gets the effect that is just right for that particular piece. Her process makes what would be a typical 2-D painting come to life as a 3-D artwork full of texture and movement.

“I’m not trying to make a statement. Instead, I am letting the artwork tell me when it’s done,” she says. “There comes a point when I am painting, usually 20 to 30 layers deep, when it is really good. Goose bumps good. Don’t touch it good! But it’s still not done, and I know it. There is more to uncover. I’m torn; if I keep going with the next pass of the torch, the resulting mix of color can alter it in irreversible ways. And then it’s gone—in an instant. I face a moment of paralysis and uncertainty at this point in the process. But I can’t stop; the painting won’t let me leave it half-dressed.”

Water Bearer, encaustic beeswax on birch panel, 36″ x 36″

Just as her upbringing in Montana and her life today in a lakeside hamlet in San Diego impact the subject matter of her art, her former background in corporate America affects her work as an artist. Once a month, she packs up and travels across the country to meet with designers and art collectors at fine art and design shows. Everything from her former career helps her with the business side of being an artist—acceptance into fine art fairs, signing contracts, negotiating with designers, travel, shipping and receiving, and all the administrative things it takes to run a business.

Perpetual Peace, encaustic beeswax on birch panel, 36″ x 36″

Shima is passionate about traveling and making her art available for collectors to see the encaustic process in person. “One needs to personally experience the translucency, luminosity and dimensionality of encaustic art, a synergy that cannot be easily established online,” she says.

In addition to fine art shows, Shima is represented by galleries from coast to coast, including her personal gallery, Peace Waters Gallery, at The Dallas Market Center. There, you may catch her in person, as she regularly schedules visits to talk with her fans. Collectors also can meet her this fall at Art San Diego and ArtExpo Dallas in September and Art Week Miami in December.

Desert Sea, encaustic beeswax on birch panel, 36″ x 36″

She accepts commissions from individuals and designers, where she brings the client into a co-creative process with her. “They tell me the size and colors they like and the collection of my work they’re drawn to,” Shima says. “I bring them into my studio with me by taking photos and videos and sending updates as the painting develops. I love having someone in mind when I paint and tap into their spirit and essence.” 

Dana W. Todd is a professional writer specializing in interior design, real estate, luxury homebuilding, landscape design, architecture and art.

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