Aptos artist specializes in, teaches encaustic art

ABOVE: This work in encaustic, titled "Uncharted," is by Aptos artist Terry Dowell and is part of her current exhibit on the fifth floor of the Santa Cruz County Building, 701 Ocean St. (Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

APTOS Terry Dowell’s artistic journey has been long and all-encompassing. From photography and oil painting to clay sculpture, the Aptos-based artist has pretty much dabbled in most mediums out there.

But one very specific and not-so-common technique caught Dowell’s attention after attending a demonstration, and as they say, the rest is history.

Encaustic painting is a technique using paint made from melted beeswax combined with color pigments. It is one of the oldest art forms, having been around for thousands of years and used by the Ancient Greeks.

“I’m always searching for something that expands my knowledge,” Dowell said. “I was immediately hooked on [encaustic]. I knew I wanted to pursue it.”

In the past decade, Dowell has made a name for herself not only as an artist but as a teacher of the encaustic method through her business, Rocket Encaustic. She converted her Rio Del Mar home’s garage into a studio and now leads monthly workshops, as well as offering weekly time slots for students to come practice.

“I’m dedicated to people learning,” Dowell said. “I think it’s really important to have a community of artists, where we can create together and share ideas in a positive way.”


Terry Dowell of Aptos shows off the multitude of supplies available for use in her home art studio. (Johanna Miller/Register-Pajaronian)

A self-guided artist from a young age, Dowell moved to the area from the East Bay in 2006. She had been involved in art there as well, even owning a large art studio in Pleasanton.

Living in Santa Cruz County, she said, has become in itself a source of inspiration.

“We live in such a beautiful place,” she said, “with so many creative people. I feel so fortunate to be here.”

With encaustic art, Dowell explained, one can utilize their skills and supplies from most other artistic mediums. Everything from photographs to textiles can be incorporated into a painting. And the wax itself can then take on a life on its own.

“I’ve always liked using nature as inspiration,” Dowell said. “And with encaustic, you’re also working with it. You don’t always know what will happen.”

Nadine Baurin, an artist who regularly schedules visits to Dowell’s studio, said she appreciated all that Dowell has done for the community and for introducing her to the encaustic method.

“Terry’s amazing,” she said. “All the supplies she offers to us, not to mention her knowledge and support. It’s incredible.”


Artist Nadine Baurin works on a series of encaustic paintings at Terry Dowell's studio in Rio Del Mar. (Johanna Miller/Register-Pajaronian)

About 50 of Dowell’s pieces are currently on display at the county government building, 701 Ocean St. in Santa Cruz, and Dowell will be taking part in the Open Studios Art Tour in October. She hopes to continue to gain more students.

“Art makes a difference,” Dowell said. “It can make a social statement. It can be spiritual, bringing viewers to tears. It makes a community more alive.”

For information on Dowell’s art and to inquire about classes, visit rocketencaustic.com. For information about Open Studios, go to santacruzopenstudios.com.


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