Member Interview: Heather Douglas

Member Interview: Heather Douglas


New England Wax member Heather Douglas was recently interviewed by fellow member Soosen Dunholter.

Recently I had the pleasure to talk with Heather Douglas. We sat outside the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts on a beautiful sunny day and chatted before the opening reception for SHIFTS: Approaching Encaustic from All Angles. Heather said she is lucky to live on a beautiful piece of property in Rockland County, New York with her husband. When not in New York, you can find her at her home in Vermont, which she shares with a dog, three cats, and a menagerie of wildlife.

Can you talk about the evolution of your work?

After college I began selling landscapes created in batik while living in Boston. I eventually switched to oil painting and black and white photography. As I raised three children, I continued with photography, putting the oil painting aside.

When my children were older, I returned to oil painting and eventually discovered encaustic through a workshop with Lisa Pressman. For me, it was the perfect way to blend wax, oil painting, and photography.

One of the things I love about encaustic is that it forces me to loosen up. When I paint in oils I veer toward realism, even though that’s not really the direction I’d like to go. I’ve struggled with it for years, but my work in encaustic tends to be looser and often I feel, more interesting. That said, I still have clients who love realism, so as usual it’s a matter of personal preference.

I frequently explore my art from two separate viewpoints: the first as a nature girl who loves the ocean, gardening, and the details of flora and fauna. These are issues I often tackle in my realistic oil painting. But they take on a more abstract character when working with encaustic. Using my own photographs, I begin by manipulating the image in photoshop, playing with the contrast and texture. In these “tonal transfers,” not all of the source image is transferred, thus the final piece is nonrepresentational.

Wind Swept, encaustic on panel, 5″ x 7″

The second approach deals with more structured imagery. This includes my fascination with architecture, the animation of people, and the cityscape. One of my favorite pieces, Chelsea Umbrella, is an example of this structured style. I was standing outside in the rain, waiting for a gallery to open. I noticed people walking by across the street, and began taking photos. That is when I caught this great image of a woman with a red umbrella, partially reflected in glass, and partially seen against a beautiful brick wall.

Chelsea Umbrella, encaustic on panel, 10″ x 10″

I feel an energy, both in nature and in urban environments, which I find very appealing.

Do you have any particular routine when creating your work?

I typically start with a study, sketching out ideas or concepts in one of my journals. I then decide whether to enlarge it and how to improve upon it. When I enter my studio the first thing I do is turn on music. Often I will then create a small encaustic to work out kinks before doing a larger piece. Like a lot of artists I do love to experiment and frequently incorporate other mediums into the wax, such as shellac, spray paint, embossing powder, pastels, pen and ink, anything I feel the piece calls for.

Pages from Heather’s journal

I heard that some of your work has been used in films and television commercials. How did that come about?

The film was called “The Greatest” and it starred Pierce Brosnan. In 2008, I was sharing a studio space in an old factory in Orangeburg, New York. One day, Mr. Brosnan was touring the building for his upcoming film and noticed several oil paintings on the studio wall. He asked if I would mind if he used them in the movie……. of course I agreed.

County Tipperary, oil on panel, 8″ x 10″

A variety of my artworks have appeared in commercials and film production. My mother, Marjorie, and I run a location facility called the Douglas House in Orangeburg NY.

This business, started by my parents, has allowed me the flexibility of having a steady income, while still pursuing my passion as an artist.