Fran Schiavo and Encaustic “Magic”

Fran Schiavo and Encaustic “Magic”

By Cathy Taylor


Where does art fit when we’re grappling with so many structural and societal issues? 


Fran Schiavo first talks about the creative process itself. “Time in the studio has always been a stress-relieving break for me – my mind quiets into a non-verbal interaction with the brush and torch.”


Schiavo works in encaustics, a medium of beeswax and damar resin. She applies the melted medium with brushes and palette knives, mixing in pigments as the work progresses. The work is built in layers blended with a torch. 


“Much of the magic comes from the torch,” she says. “It melts the layers, reveals glimpses from what is below, and creates a flow of color that can become a significant feature of the finished work. It’s sometimes unpredictable … and that’s the appeal for me. It brings me fully into the moment, engaged in the process.” 


Many of her works are miniature (six-inch square) pieces. She loves working with this size since it minimizes some of the technical issues of the medium. “Encaustic begins to harden as soon as it leaves the hot palette. In the small pieces, it’s simple to apply a brush stroke across the full surface.” 


More challenging is working large. Her latest work is a one-meter by two-meter piece, “The Wall.” It’s an abstract landscape showing water cascading over a barrier. It was inspired by (and the painting process was a distraction from) the damaging storm that San Miguel de Allende experienced in June. 


Schiavo notes that this piece, like all her works, are imagined places. “I do feel like I’m entering the space that’s taking shape, and it’s almost always a calming space.” 


That brings her back to the initial question about how art “fits.” 


Clients often remark that the work is calming to them, and it can be evocative of some remembered space with special meaning. One piece was variously attributed to a lakeside vista in Michigan, New York, and New Zealand. That work is now in a Canadian home. “I like to think that it continues to influence the feel of their home making it a more relaxing and satisfying space. Perhaps as we spend more time in our homes, that’s one small way that art plays a positive role.”


Visit Magenta to see Schiavo’s work, Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11am-4pm.


Learn more about all seven of Magenta’s artists—Harry Ally, Steve Ellis, Pat Miller, Lola Picó, Fran Schiavo, Cathy Taylor, and Fernando Pérez Vázquez—at