YYC Arts Collective 2020

Penny Gunderson’s creative process involves deeply considering what matters to her and the communities she is a part of. The disabled community, being an older woman, the #metoo movement, and the resiliency and companionship of women in groups have all been catalysts in her work. 

Penny works primarily in encaustic, which is molten beeswax combined with tree resin and pigment, fused to a natural base. This is a very intuitive medium since the wax reacts to the heat in many ways. 

The process itself involves heating coloured beeswax on a griddle, painting with natural bristle brushes on a natural substrate, such as wood or silk, and fusing the wax to the surface through heat from a heat gun, iron, or blowtorch. Layers of wax are fused together and then revealed by scraping, carving, or melting. 

Recently, she has begun to combine encaustic with fibre and stitching. When she was young, Penny did sewing and tailoring, and although she is not able to sew at that level anymore, she has embraced the slow stitching movement. With this method, slow intentional hand stitching is more important than perfect stitching. She is currently printing encaustic photographs of COVID-19-inspired artwork on natural fabrics and then combining them with fibre and stitching. 

Penny is inspired by the character of the human face and figure. She works on large, deeply coloured encaustic portraits and attempts to reveal the person peering out of the face she is painting. In her recent works, combining encaustic photographs on silk or cotton she has attempted

  • to capture the community of women as they stitch and visit together,
  • to express the emotions triggered by chronic Illness in encaustic and fibre abstract figures presented as landscape, and
  • to combine centrepieces of encaustic photographs depicting her COVID-19-inspired artwork into crazy quilt blocks with embroidered seams.

Penny has taken encaustic portraiture workshops and figure drawing training, which has been very valuable in building her artistic process.