Nothing about gentle artist and teacher Felicia Touhey is caustic. However, much is encaustic.
Portsmouth resident Felicia, 55, shares herself and her space at Beach Studios on Aquidneck Avenue in Middletown, breathes in the magnificent views of First Beach and Easton’s Pond and frames her life (as well as her prints).
Since getting her BFA in Painting and her MFA in Studio Teaching from Boston University, the New Jersey native and certified K-12 teacher describes all of her art as a snapshot of what she witnesses through her automobile’s fronted glass.
At her small press made for printmaking in the cooperative studio space shared by ten working artists, Felicia specializes in encaustic work.
According to Felicia’s own website, encaustic is a beeswax-based paint that is kept melted on a heated palette. It is applied to a surface and reheated to fuse the paint into a uniform enamel-like finish. The word encaustic comes from Greek and means to burn in, which refers to the process of fusing the paint.
Greek artists as far back as the 5th century BC used encaustic painting. (The best known of all encaustic works are the Fayum funeral portraits by Greek painters in ancient Egypt. These portraits of the deceased were placed over the person’s mummy as a memorial. Many of these paintings have survived and their color is as fresh as any recently completed work).
Three elements are the foundations of her work as an encaustic painter and printmaker – materials, process and manipulation. “I became aware of these interrelated forces when I discovered printmaking in college. The rich black lines, textures and tactile responses of the printmaking process inspired me,” says Felicia. “I found that I could experiment, play with materials and challenge myself in ways that other art mediums did not o!er me.”
“I am attracted to textures. My discovery and ensuing passion forencaustics is a logical outgrowth of my. The process of creating and the manipulation of the materials often dictate the outcome of my images. I work in small series where I explore an idea or a particular visual image. I am inspired by nature – its lines, shapes and the atmospheric changes in light and color,” she adds. “Like printmaking, encaustics are a material that can easily be altered and can be combined with other mediums.”
Tactilely and tactfully, she delves in a series from a prepared plate, or plates, but does not print them in editions. “Instead, I prefer to print each image differently and work back into them either through overprinting or adding other materials, such as collaged paper or drawing materials. My encaustics are developed the same way,” says Felicia. Inspired by nature and the light, colors and shapes that develop between objects, she often thinks that her work “is a recording of a moment recalled while driving and looking through the windshield of my car.”
Her signature works of leaves, trees and shapes are as uniquely hers as, well, her signature. “It is made from my marks and my thoughts and therefore different from others,” says Felicia. She loves to share, and teaches students drawing, printmaking and encaustic classes in her studio.
“I have had many of the same drawing students for years. In fact, I have trouble calling them ‘students.’ They keep coming back, so they must feel I have something to offer. I think that is what makes teaching so rewarding to me,” adds Felicia. Felicia Touhey is a member of the DeBlois Gallery where her artwork is always displayed. 134 Aquidneck Ave., Middletown.