By Tara MAcCarthy

Local artist Kirsty Wells was noticeably filled with anticipation last week. As friends scurried around The Old Fire Hall caring for finishing touches, Wells’ latest encaustic and ink works stood out from the white gallery walls stretched throughout the venue.

The show’s title was lifted from a common phrase: Two Steps Back. And although it was technically Wells’ third exhibition, it carried sensations of excitement and nervousness for the young artist.

“I think it’s important to show [artwork] because people get a sense of who you are as an artist. I’ve heard a couple of people say that people look like the art that they do. And I think that shows with my art and many local artists,” she explains.

“People can get the feeling that they want, whether it’s a darker tone or a more upbeat tone, or earthy. I think that’s why people want to buy art, because it has a certain je ne sais quoi.”

Two Steps Back was billed as an exhibition exploring “life’s unnoticed beauty.” It zeroed in on the small, perhaps overlooked elements of nature – from dandelions and berry branches, to the textured lines of a tree.

Larger scale India ink works on mulberry paper expressed a sense of simplicity from the artist. Simple lines convey a sense of whimsical animation to cranberries clinging to branches and create images of dancing dead dandelions.

“For whatever reason, I’m totally hooked on dandelions right now,” Wells says gazing at the exhibition.

“When I was a kid I always used to blow on them and get a wish from them so it’s sort of a representation of that, I guess.”

Smaller-scale encaustic pieces on wood incorporate not only the molten beeswax technique, but also beads, found objects and etchings.

In these works Wells played with witty titles like Orange You Glad (employing a brilliant orange hue) and Life’s A Birch (which included actual strips of birch bark underneath its smooth wax surface).

Encaustic might not be the most widely used medium, but Wells says she’s come to appreciate what it has to offer her.

“Acrylic painting has really good blending factors, but I really like the texture and the character of the paintings that I make with the encaustics,” she says.

“I also like the fact that I can add mixed media into the pieces.”

Training under seasoned artists such as Nicole Bauberger and Meshell Melvin has assisted in Wells finding her footing with her favoured media of ink and encaustic.

And beyond exhibitions, Wells is open to commissions and currently working on an encaustic portrait for a friend.

“I’ve never done a human face before with the encaustics. So it’s a good challenge and I actually like working under pressure. Plus, it’s fun to push your boundaries,” she says.

While she admits she’ll stick with ink and encaustic for now, Wells says she is looking forward to exploring new and different subject matter that stretches away from nature. But regardless of the focus, she’ll always include passion.

“I can’t paint unless I’m feeling an emotion,” she explains.

“I think that’s really important because if you don’t paint when you’re feeling something then your piece is completely void of any emotion and it won’t send a message to people.”

Kirsty Wells’ work is found on Facebook and she can be contacted for commissioned pieces via kirsty.m.wells@hotmail.com.