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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020 2 years ago

Winter Garden artist uses beeswax to make beautiful creations

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Jann Visser has worked with the encaustic medium — beeswax mixed with damar resin and pigment — for 35 years.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

It’s a transformation that happens in seconds — using nothing but beeswax and heat.

At her dining room table in her home in Stoneybrook West, Winter Garden artist Jann Visser sorts through dozens of small blocks of wax the size of classroom erasers. After choosing a few colors that speak to her, Visser applies the wax in layers to a small iron about 5 inches long and 2 3/4 inches wide.

With a few strokes of her heated tool, Visser creates a sky and hills on a post-card-sized piece of paper. She uses the edge of her iron to created tall grass in the foreground while a heated stylus allows Visser to add birds in the sky and posts along a pathway.

She creates a stunning landscape of warm colors on the card. 

It’s therapeutic to say the least, Visser said.

“I always say to people, ‘This is better than going to the spa,’” she said. “It’s calming. Art is calming. I think it’s a very good way of destressing.” 

An artist, author and teacher, Visser has worked with the encaustic medium — beeswax mixed with damar resin and pigment — for 35 years, ever since her sister, Joan, gifted her an iron and blocks of the substance. Visser always grew up with a passion for art, but this medium was special.

“Oils take forever to dry and wax takes five seconds to dry, so for me it was, ‘Oh my goodness, this is an instant art,’” Visser said. “I love this instant art and it’s forever changing. … It’s so magical that the minute you put heat onto that wax it changes. The minute you take it off it dries instantly. … It’s just fascinating the things that you can do with it.”

The encaustic artist taught herself how to create stunning works with the wax using an instructional book by artist Michael Bossom, a renowned figure in the encaustic art world.

She’s lived in Winter Garden for almost three years and currently is a member at SoBo Art Gallery, where’s she’s had multiple pieces featured. Prior to moving to Winter Garden, she lived in South Africa for 30 years, though she was born and grew up in Zimbabwe.

Those African landscapes served as an early inspiration for her artwork, Visser said.

“Living in Zimbabwe, you have some of these most beautiful landscapes to paint,” she said. “I’m an outdoorsy person and I just started painting in oils — then I discovered wax.”

The artist has made it her mission to pass on the knowledge and unique qualities of encaustic art. In 2011, Visser saw the release of her first book, “Wonderful Ways with Wax: Encaustic Art for Craft Projects.” The book walks readers through several of her creations step-by-step so they can be replicated on cards and canvases. 

For Visser, it’s not about selling the work and making a profit — it’s about sharing art with others and giving people a sense of fulfillment.

“I like it because it could possibly bring someone else as much satisfaction receiving it as I got making it,” Visser said. “I think everybody, if they really did a little bit of soul searching, they will say, ‘I always wanted to be able to paint. I’ve always wanted to try pottery.’ … I think very deep down it’s in every single one of us — you just need somebody to bring it out.”

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Tim Freed is the Managing Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida....

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