Telling Alaska’s Story: Encaustic artist Gayla Ranf loves to work in wax

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 6:53 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - When Anchorage artist Gayla Ranf was introduced to encaustic painting 14 years ago, she knew she had found a new love. Ranf has been working in the medium ever since.

Encaustic painting is an ancient artform used by both the early Greeks and Egyptians that involves laying melted, pigmented beeswax onto a porous canvas such as wood. Individual layers are fused together with a blast from a torch or heat lamp to keep them in place.

The result is a multi-textured painting that can also include elements of collage and other medium. In Ranf’s case, her paintings are colorful and abstract.

“I encourage people to actually touch it,” Ranf said, pointing to a finished painting. “Because it does lend itself to be able to feel the tactile, and how fun it is to have all that texture in there.”

Ranf, who was born and raised in Anchorage, has paintings that hang in galleries. But in 2019, she opened the Spenard Art Studio at 2263 Spenard Road to share her passion and offer classes to the public.

“Encaustic really lends itself to people who’ve never done anything in the art world, or what they think is the art world,” she said. “It’s something that allows people to play and explore,” adding that she believes everyone has a creative side and inner artist.

Ramf recently started her own clothing line featuring her original prints on athletic wear.
Ramf recently started her own clothing line featuring her original prints on athletic wear.(ktuu)

But the onset of COVID-19 brought new challenges. In early 2020, Ranf decided to offer classes at a discounted rate for nurses and other medical personnel to see if the creative process could help them through the daily stress of working with COVID-19 patients.

She also pushed her creativity in a new direction, putting prints of her original paintings on athletic wear and selling them online.

Ranf calls her clothing and accessories line The Art of Purpose, which she said could mean anything from figuring out your purpose in life, to remembering to pause and live purposely.

For her part, she considers herself lucky to have a profession and passion that match.

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