Count live art demonstrations among the events making their way back after five months of entertainment lockdown.
Saturday afternoon, Farmington-based artist and teacher Michael Billie will set up shop at Create Art & Tea (in Durango Arts Center) for a sidewalk artist demonstration. His work will also be available for sale.
Billie, a Navajo mixed-media artist, said he always knew he was going to have a career in art. And while he attended art school, most of what he learned he learned on his own, especially the technique of encaustic painting.
“I’ve always been in art. I’ve been to art school and all that, but most of the stuff I’ve learned I’ve just taken workshops or learned on my own through YouTube, especially with the encaustic. When I first started doing it, I didn’t even know what it was,” he said.
For the uninitiated, Billie said encaustic painting is when an artist takes damar resin, which is a tree sap, and beeswax, and melts them together to get the medium. Add dry pigment to it to get the encaustic, and then it’s ready to paint with. He also adds sands, beads and horsehair to his pieces – “materials that are used in ceremonies and other traditional events,” he said on his website.
He said he got into the technique more than a decade ago in an usual way.
“I stumbled upon a piece in Albuquerque in a gallery, and I was asking the woman that worked there what it was and she told me, but I didn’t know what that meant. I did some research when I got home – this is over 10 years ago, and nobody in the area was doing it or working with it, so I just learned a little bit about it on YouTube, and I was getting a lot of mixed information, so I took a couple of classes in Santa Fe and one in Tucson,” he said. “From there, I got my bearings right, and I just started collecting material for what I needed. It’s just limitless what you can do with it, you can add so much to it; the sky’s the limit.”
After a lot of experimenting, Billie hit a stride, so much so he was asked to teach encaustic workshops around the region. In fact, Billie is part of an online exhibit through Santa Fe’s Encaustic Art Institute, “Two Worlds,” along with Cat and Harriette Tsosie, which will wrap up Friday.
And for Billie, art can provide a lot more than just something neat to look at – especially in today’s chaotic world.
“Therapy. It’s therapy. It keeps everything balanced,” he said.