For most artists, blowtorches and a freshly painted canvas mix as well as Superman and Lex Luthor. But to Claire Kendrick, it is the beautiful morphing of heat, wax and oils that makes her abstract encaustic botanical paintings alive.
“You have to be prepared to lose a certain amount of the painting,” Kendrick said.
“Sometimes it gets destroyed in the process. The wax has a resin within it, so when it dries it dries really hard and actually speeds up the oil painting process, because oil paint can take months to dry. This allows me to work into the painting again. So these pieces are made up of layers upon layers of paint.”
Now on display through June at Plum Gallery in downtown St. Augustine, Kendrick’s latest series, which focuses on still life botanicals, showcases her unique style of work.
“I mix the oil paint with wax, and then I take the painting outside, and with a blowtorch, blast it,” Kendrick said. “That’s how you get all of these drips and playful elements within the painting.”
Upon first look, her paintings are what they seem: a beautiful mix of flowers in a vase. When focusing into the detailed layers of pastels and bright colors, however, noticeably strong brushstrokes and rich textures are beautifully apparent.
“The brushstrokes to me are really like the handwriting,” Kendrick said.
“Everybody’s handwriting is different. I love to see that texture and it’s just as important that it’s not all over the painting. It’s just in places where it’s key. It’s like a punctuation mark.”
Relocating to St. Augustine seven years ago from Europe, Kendrick utilizes a background as a fashion designer to maintain a strong business ethic.
She has been professionally showcasing her paintings for three years, which she cultured through growing up within an artistic family in Ireland. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts Honors degree from Manchester Metropolitan University in England, she lived and worked Paris, Sweden and Belgium, where she met her husband.
“I think my foundation in the industry sort of gives me that good work ethic,” Kendrick said.
“The painting aspect is very free, and that’s the part I love, but with business side it certainly helps to have a fashion background.”
Kendrick attributes the introduction of her utilization of the encaustic style into her work through Cynthia and Anne Packard – noted still life, landscape and figure painters.
Around five of Kendrick’s 25 painting series are now on display at Plum Gallery, located at 9 Aviles St., in downtown St. Augustine.
“Everybody has a different approach to painting,” she said.
“They’ll see the form and they’ll paint it out and it’s almost like filling in, and I don’t believe you should paint that way. I think it should be much more free. When you have the drawing capability you know you’ll always be able to pull it back. But those brushstrokes somehow express an emotion or a feeling in the piece. That’s important.”