Shannon Passon: Encaustic art exploring the exchange of energy

Portland Open Studios’ artist Anne Mavor (Artist #60) had a chance to sit down and talk with fellow encaustic artist Shannon Passon (Artist #71)  last month. Here is her interview.

Working primarily in encaustic, but also in acrylic and mixed media, Shannon’s vibrant and layered paintings explore what is elemental and lies at the core of life: exchange of energy. Though her paintings all have a landscape feel, they are overlaid with images of wind turbines, molecular diagrams and water to evoke scientific meaning.

Shannon’s favorite part of being an artist is the doing, when she becomes lost in the process, free of overthinking, worry or distractions. This is not surprising, since she describes herself as a hands-on, even messy process painter, which means she does not plan out what the finished painting will look like. She paints until it is done and she has a painting. Over the years she has discovered it is the best way for her to work because she needs to respond to what is actually happening. Even if she does make a plan, at some point she will find herself going elsewhere. Mistakes are a chance for a different response.

Since her painting process is all about freedom, Shannon hopes people can perceive that spirit of freedom in the work. The images are not contained or boxed in, but pour over the edges. She also hopes people get something positive, but knows she can’t control how people how they might react. However people respond, positive or negative, she is ok.  Engagement is the most important thing.

In 2010, after moving back to Portland, she started going on the Portland Open Studios Tour and was in heaven. This is her second year as a participating artist. She loves going into studios and seeing work. She is always impressed by the quality of work and the warm welcome at each studio. She also likes that the visitors are such an enthusiastic and open group of people. It is a rare opportunity for her to share her work and interact with people differently than she might while at a gallery opening.

During Portland Open Studios Shannon will be demonstrating the hot wax process of creating encaustic art but also wants to show the wide range of other materials she uses in combination with pigmented wax.  Like so many artists who use encaustic paint, Shannon appreciates the versatility of the medium and endless possibilities. Her current SE Portland studio is in a large building filled with a variety of small businesses, including many artists.

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Artist Highlight: Chantel Greene

Chantel Green (PDXOS Artist #34) is both a scientist and an artist.  “I use art to investigate and dissect the world around me. Art allows me to understand and connect with things by exploring the associations between ideas and images. My work is heavily influenced by my formative teenage years spent in an alternative science centered high school, where my art was limited to dissection drawings and microscope illustrations. My understanding of how things worked was not complete until I drew it in some way. When I started making art as an adult I always came back to these technical and biological themes and I enjoy using these images in a creative way, merging art and academics.”  Chantel is an encaustic artist.  Here she shares a recent blog in which she explains the process of creating encaustic art.

An Explanation of Encaustic

I create my artwork with encaustic paint which is bees wax, damar resin, and powdered pigment for color. Beeswax is relatively durable, flexible, and has a high melting temperature so it won’t melt under normal indoor temperatures. The resin raises the melting temperature and adds hardness and shine. The wax is kept liquid while painting by keeping your paint in metal tins on a heated surface that will reach 220 degrees, like a pancake griddle.
The word encaustic means “to burn in” and is an ancient medium that Greek artists used back as long ago as the 5th century BC for portraits and panels. The earliest surviving encaustics are the Fayum funeral portraits found on mummies that were created by Greek artists in Egypt between the 1st and 3rd centuries A.D. Encaustic paint was also used by contemporary artists like Rembrandt, Diego Rivera, and Jasper Johns.
There are a few simple rules for dealing with encaustic paint. Number one is that you must have a sturdy substrate so that the wax won’t bend and crack. Number two is that you can’t mix acrylic paint with encaustic because the wax won’t adhere to the paint. Finally, number three is that you have to fuse your painting after every layer with a heat source like a heat gun or torch.
What I really enjoy about encaustics is how it is both flexible and unpredictable, which leads to a lot of experimentation. The process of painting with encaustics is technical and creative which allows me to walk the line of scientist and artist. You can scratch lines in it, build it up, scrape it back, add texture, collage materials, and even do image transfers. It’s versatile, flexible, fast, and just plain beautiful.

To see more about Chantel Green, visit her website at

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PDXOS artists participate in ArtBurst Northwest

ArtBurst Northwest (the rebranded West Linn Arts Festival) occurs on Aug 2 & 3, and will feature two of our 2014 participating artists: Jeni Lee (Artist #50) and PM Shore (Artist #79).  Be sure to stop by and check it out!!

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Jesse Reno showing in August

PDXOS mixed media artist #76, Jesse Reno will be busy in August getting ready for these two shows!

He will be having a solo show at Nebraska Gallery. 5001 NE 30th Ave, Portland. The artist reception is on Wednesday, August 27th, with the opening on Thursday the 28th. Visit

Also on Thursday August 28 he will be live painting at Collage,1639 NE Alberta Street, as well as showing new work there.

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A tribute to women’s handicrafts

Artist Anne Mavor (Artist #60) recently interviewed fellow artist Beth Yazhari (Artist #96)

Imbedded in the dense, layered, and intricate images in Beth Yazhari’s fabric paintings is the story of women’s relationship to craft, domestic work, and creativity. The mandala-like pieces are filled with fabrics, beads, doilies, table clothes, saris, from all over the world in order to bring cultures together. One contains pieces from Norway, Dubai, India, Pakistan, Germany, Africa. The elements come from family, friends, and vintage stores. In addition, she also includes images gleaned from photos printed on fabric.

Beth was inspired by her maternal grandmother, who created beauty all around her home but didn’t see that domestic work as artistic or important. In fact, one goal of Beth’s artwork is to help viewers to acknowledge women’s handicrafts as fine art. The separation of craft and fine art seems arbitrary to her. She also considers her artwork to be collaborations with those anonymous workers.

Her Mountain Park studio is in the downstairs of her house and is covered with pieces in progress and some of her vast collection of colorful and intriguing materials. Her favorite part of the process is preparing the canvas. She starts out by building up a velvety, textured surface using acrylic paint. The resulting image feels and looks like fabric. She then then lays out fabrics and other interesting pieces of women’s domestic history. The hardest and most labor intensive part is sewing all the pieces to the background. It reminds her of the long and invisible hours women have worked doing housework and keeping families together.

Her main reason for being involved in Portland Open studios is to network with other artists and build community in order to encourage each other. When her children were younger, the feeling of isolation as both a mother and artists was acute so she knows the value of support and community

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Inspiration – where do artists get it?

It’s interesting to contemplate how artists get the inspiration to create their art pieces. I think you’ll find Chas Martin’s blog on his process very interesting indeed.

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Change and growth!

I find it so exciting to see how our artists change and grow over time. Check out Donna Cooper’s blog. She’s headed off in a new direction in fabric.

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An Oregon potter for 38 years, I use my photographs from around world and the NW as reference for carving clay in bas relief, creating depth and emphasizing perspective. I layer, carve and texture the clay image, painting colored slips onto the dried clay before a high temperature firing.
Along with the sculptured wall pieces that I juried with POS, in April, I began a new side exploration: sculpting newborn lambs and different breeds of chickens!
Why lambs and chickens??
I had a dream about life size clay lambs cavorting in my yard. A visit to a farm followed. Making lambs led, naturally, to chickens and they kind of took over….
My home is an 1890 farmhouse on a 1/2 acre near SE 34th and Hawthorne. I think that, and my childhood in rural Ohio, have finally taken hold. I have embraced my inner farmer!
Chicken bodies defy gravity. They have spindly legs, teeny heads and fat bodies.
I throw several basic vessel forms on my potters wheel. Using chicken photos, I alter the vessel to fit the body shape. I adjust the feather textures depending on the breed and the glaze I will be using. Then I watch each hen reveal her personality. “Contrary Mary” fought me for two days, “Curious Georgia” has an inquiring head tilt, “Proud Mary” really wants to be an eagle. My leaping lamb was called, “Wheee!!!!”
Chicken Breeds so far: Astrolorp, Barred Plymouth Rock, Buff Orpington, Rhode Island Red, Welsummer, Dark Cornish Rooster, Ameraucana, Buff Brama, Welsummer, Buckeye, Leghorn
Advantages of Jeanne’s chickens over live ones:
Salmonella free! (You can kiss them without getting sick! Seriously!
They’re housebroken, kind, clean, friendly, quiet, long lived.
Don’t smell, wander, need feeding, coops or permits
Raccoon proof, don’t mind rain
Can stay outside all night

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The rhythm and sound of handwoven textiles

Check out PDXOS textile artist Donna Cooper’s video showing the process she goes through in making her beautiful textiles.

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Let us hear from you!!

Don’t forget, to help promote the tour this year, we’d like to post blogs from artists on the tour on our website, This will bring traffic to the site, spark discussion on our social media outlets, and help you promote your open studio. The blogs can be about many things, like your artistic process, your history as an artist, or a how-to detailing a specific technique. It is OK to resurrect previous articles you might have posted on your own blog and I will modify if necessary for PDXOS blog. Our blog posts will appear under the “News” tab on the website.

We’d like each blog to be about 300 words and include at least one high-resolution image. We will help as much as we can with editing or suggestions for adding to the blog, if you have the seeds of an idea but are unsure how to complete it. If you write a blog, it counts for one hour of volunteer time. The more chatter online about the tour, the better the turnout for all the artists involved. If you are interested in writing for the site or have any questions, email Pat Kane at

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