Each of Cindy Lesperance’s encaustic creations begins with an idea that is sketched and then placed in its own file folder. As the idea develops she adds inspiration images, ideas about size and scale, different texture combinations, and possible colors to the folder.
“I keep moving the idea along until it tells me it’s ready to be made,” Lesperance says. “Seldom does the finished piece resemble the sketch exactly but it prepares me to work. Once begun, I let the piece dictate the direction it will take working more intuitively.”
A Unique Process
The artist’s Chicago studio shares space with her family’s construction company in a large industrial building. The large space is a clean, bright environment where she spends 3-4 days a week creating her encaustic work, working as a bookkeeper the other 2-3 days.
The word encaustic means “to burn or fuse.” Lesperance explains that the medium is “a combination of beeswax, pigment and resin. It is very versatile and can be translucent or opaque, polished, carved, scraped, layered, textured, cast, the possibilities are endless. When it cools it is dry but it can always be reworked just by heating it up again.”
Though encaustic is a largely unfamiliar medium, it has stood the test of time. Ancient Greek artists used the medium as far back as the 5th century B.C. Farther east, the Fayum mummy portraits have survived in pristine condition for thousands of years.
In the studio, Lesperance executes a careful science she has honed through years of experience. She explains, “I have a technique of applying small droplets of encaustic paint one-by-one to the surface of the painting, using a special process I developed that fuses these drops to the base layer underneath. The overall effect produces a tactile pattern that’s powerful when you encounter it in person. It captivates viewers and entices them to touch.”
This tactile element is one of the most alluring features of Lesperance’s work. Even viewing her work from a distance or on a screen, it’s clear that it’s rich in texture. In fact, her encaustic pieces are reminiscent of tapestries. They often incorporate inspiration from nature and abstract representations of the world as seen from above.
“I love spending time in nature, traveling, and learning about other cultures: their art, traditions, and architecture,” Lesperance says. “I’m always aware of color, pattern, and texture, these experiences are inspiration for my work.”
The ideas that arise from these sources end up in her file folders, brewing until their time comes. Lesperance describes one example of this kind of magical moment: “One weekend morning, I was watching a program online and happened to glance at my ‘in-progress’ files. I suddenly realized that by combining 2 ideas that I had been struggling with, I could have one strong direction. In the time it took me to just glance at them, I had the idea. I think it was divine inspiration! I created that piece just as I saw it that day and led to the ‘Strata’ series.”
Lesperance loves working in series, weaving in and out of themes and exploring them thoroughly. Even when she starts to investigate something new, she’ll often revisit old series and add to them.
Though there are clear differences between each group of pieces, they build on each other and contain related elements. Once, for example, “While working on my Tapestries collection, my son, a pilot, took me for a ride in a small private plane. I found the view from above so interesting. Familiar but at the same time abstract. It inspired me to begin work from an aerial perspective—my ‘View from Above’ Series.”
Recognition and Successes
Lesperance is the president of FUSEDChicago, a Chicago-based organization of Midwest artists who work in encaustic. Her work has been exhibited at the Rockford Art Museum, Freeport Art Museum, Museum of Encaustic Art, Zhou B Art Center, and Bridgeport Art Center, and a number of other venues. She has also won awards at juried shows across the country and been featured in the Encaustic Arts Magazine and had her work on the cover of the Journal of Financial Service Professionals. Her work is displayed in private and public collections throughout the nation and is on view as part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Encaustic Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Dan Addington, owner of Addington Gallery in Chicago, has recently praised Lesperance’s work as “powerful.” He said, “A lot of artists struggle that they can do a ton of things and there’s almost too many choices. She has said, ‘This is going to be my realm of investigation and I’m going to investigate everything I can do with it.’”
To see more of Cindy Lesperance’s work, visit her website at www.CindyLesperance.com. You can also find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CindyLesperanceArtist and Instagram at @cindy_lesperance_artist.
View past artist features here.