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Students learn heated artistry

Suffolk high school students learned a new art technique in a professional workshop meant to broaden their creative horizons using hot beeswax.

Sixteen students were selected from Lakeland, Nansemond River and King’s Fork high schools and Nansemond-Suffolk Academy for the Virginia Museum of Fine Art workshop held at King’s Fork High School on Thursday.

The workshop was part of Suffolk Art League’s program that brings professional artists to high schools for lessons that may not otherwise be available to the students.

“We want art education to come out to the community, and be able to introduce different techniques to different schools,” said Suffolk Art League Education Coordinator Beth Netts. “This allows them to have a full time of creativity.”

This workshop was “Encaustic Painting and Mixed Media Lab” with Karen Eide, a professional artist based in Charlottesville. Encaustic painting — also known as hot wax painting — combines heated beeswax with colored pigments. The end results are luminous, richly layered works, Eide said.

“There’s a lot of depth to the way the pieces look,” she said. “They can be a sense of mystery and an almost ethereal feel to the painting because of the translucency of the paint.”

The material is versatile and could be combined with other techniques and materials like pastels, markers and ink.

Joined by their respective school art instructors, students gathered around tables with griddles heating beeswax. The smell of hot wax filled the art room along with fresh ink and paint. Some of them painted jack-o’-lanterns in the spirit of Halloween, and others combined images cut from magazines with painted backdrops of bright-green pastures.

Sydney Kania penciled her design onto her board before adding each layer of pigmented beeswax. Hall used netting to add texture and added chalk with a paper towel to make her illustrated peacock even more eye-popping, she said.

Each student in the art room had their own inspirations, and hers came from an interest in animals.

“I think peacocks are very majestic birds,” said Sydney, a 15-year-old Nansemond River High School sophomore.

Stephany Hall, a 17-year-old Nansemond River High School senior, used a blend of colors and a heat gun to create a smoky, black background for her jack-o’-lantern. She said she never used hot wax before and that it was fun to experiment with it.

Hall and Kania were selected by their school art instructor Brian Kershasky based on their aptitude, interest and desire to do the work.

“It gives them a real fun taste of what artists really do,” Kershasky said.

The workshop was meant to be an inspiration for art teachers to expand their lesson plans, and for the students to improve their portfolios for college applications and perhaps share what they’ve learned with their classmates, Netts said.

“What we do here with a small nucleus of 16 can end up reaching many more people,” Netts said.