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In the Land of Art and Honey: The Unique Process of Iowa Artist Karess Knudtson
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In the Land of Art and Honey: The Unique Process of Iowa Artist Karess Knudtson

When you think of an artist’s studio, you probably would imagine it doesn’t smell great --- the muddy scent of clay for sculptors, the odor of turpentine in a painter’s paradise, the sharp aroma of linseed oil in a lithography studio.

Step into Karess Knudtson’s studio, and you’ll smell something much sweeter-- honey.

That’s because she uses encaustic --- a mix of beeswax and damar resin --- to create unique, mixed media works of art.

See examples of her work displayed October-December at the Dickinson County Nature Center in Okoboji.

Knudtson’s mixed media pieces start with the selection of her canvas --- from a piece of upcycled wood or barn wood planks to a window frame or an antique cupboard door.

Oftentimes I start with the ‘canvas,’ which then dictates sizes and possibly what the content will be,” Knudtson said.

The next step is selecting a photo from her catalog of environmental photography, which is often digitally manipulated.

Finally, Knudtson uses the encaustic medium to create a layered look. Sometimes the encaustic wax is used in its clear form, sometimes she tints it or paints between the layers with oil paint. She may even mixes in other media, like soil.

All of those processes create different looks,” Knudtson said.

Her mixed media form has grown through the years, and Knudtson said she was mainly focusing on photography when she discovered the amazing world of encaustic painting. Intrigued, she began reading about the medium and dove in full force.

The encaustics really gelled everything I had been doing,” she said. “It’s gone to being less about the pure photography and more about the mixing of several different mediums.”

Probably one of her favorite things about encaustics is the natural aspect that the beeswax medium gives to her pieces.  The melting wax carries with it just a hint of the sweet smell of honey. This medium has a direct link to honeybees, one of the most prolific pollinators out there. 

As a naturalist and artist, my aim is to bring images captured of nature and create something new utilizing natural products.  Using beeswax from pollinators opens a door to educating in the process, it brings it all together,” she said. “There are not a lot of media that allow you to do that.”

As people examine her pieces, she wants them to be inspired.

It’s evolved into hoping the subject matter gleans some appreciation,” she said. “One of the pictures that’s going to be in the exhibit features a grackle, which is not usually a favorite bird, but when you stop to really examine one as the sun shines on the iridescent feathers on its head, you realize that it really is a very beautiful bird.”

An exhibit reception will be held in Knudtson’s honor 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8, at the nature center. Hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be served, and Knudtson will give a short presentation at 6 p.m.

Her works of art will also be for sale, with prices ranging from $50-$200.

For more information on any facets of the Art & Nature series, from exhibits in the eARTh gallery to monthly classes, please call the Dickinson County Nature Center at 712-336-6352, visit our website or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

The nature center is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Leave a Comment

  1. Travel Iowa Team
    Travel Iowa Team
    Incredible! Thanks for filling us in on this unique Iowa talent!
    Log in to reply.

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