Kirk Weller

Artist Biography


I was born in Grand Junction, Colorado at a time before interstate highways. A 15 minute drive away, the Colorado National Monument was a wonderland of red sandstone, pinyon, junipers, and vistas of 100 miles to the North and East. From ages 3 to 9, I and my year older brother, caught lizards or bull snakes bare handed as we scampered along rimrock precipices. On a different day, on the Grand Mesa, there would be walks through spring fed glens filled with quaking aspen, bordered by sweeping valleys dotted far below with turquoise lakes. This was what the world looked like. Now painting from my mind’s eye, this was where my painting career began.


My mother Phyllis, was an artist, illustrating remarkable pen and ink images—her love of painting was personally unfulfilled but enriched by the art world and indeed the world’s art. She showed me how to soak and stretch watercolor paper, what a happy accident was, and the difference between a meticulous line and a free expressive hand.


I have been painting since adolescence. Several college classes in figure drawing were my only instruction in the human form, but I returned to the human figure repeatedly in my 20s. Thereafter I concentrated on oils, occasionally monotype, and then 5 or 6 years doing intensive medium and large format landscape photography. Starting around 2003, encaustic became the medium that compelled me most. During the 2000s I took courses from several painters through the Pacific Northwest College of Art. Most of this was in landscape or abstract landscape.


Especially in abstracted landscape, I have discovered encaustic holds unknown potential. Like water media, encaustic can have a “mind of its own.” This unpredictability and fluidity can either force a tedious hand, or alternatively, as in my case, a method embracing the process of painting as one of discovery.


Much of my process remains intuitive. Setting up accident, I find a landscape image declaring itself on the panel. This happens especially during the fusing process whereby the beeswax medium is heated briefly back into a molten state after it has been applied to the panel. A vast variety of organic patterns and effects are produced.


Over the years I have discovered a long but loose set of principles that guide this process. For instance, when using a heat lamp, dark colors on the panel re-heat quicker and this can be harnessed as an advantage (or suffered as a curse). This

is not so true when fusing with a propane torch. Resins such as gum elemi, or essential oils such as limonene, may be added for special effects as varied as their many ingredients. R&F Pigment Sticks are often a finishing layer. I also use a wax, turpentine and gum elemi medium from an old book of Painter’s Formulas. These are both applied with various spatulas and painting knives prior to fusing with torch, heat lamp or heat gun.


Painters influencing my work include James Lavadour, Rick Bartow, Morris Graves, Mark Tobey, George Inness, Mu Xin, the European Impressionists of the late 19th century, and the Canadian Group of Seven painters.


I thank great local artists, with whom I have studied, or received encouragement including Jef Gunn, Stephen Hayes, Martha Pfanschmidt, Jack Portland and Tom Prochaska.


When it comes to giving acknowledgements, I should not neglect public domains of “Solitude,” which are an eternal influence, and many of which we are undeniable and persistent threat of losing. Pressures to develop and extract resources from these places have approached inexorable. These include:

●  US Bureau of Land Management lands (e.g., vast swaths of the Colorado and Columbia Plateaus, and deserts of the American Southwest)

●  447 Designated Wilderness Areas, (e.g., Eagles Cap, and the Mt. Hood Wilderness)

●  62 National Parks and 128 National Monuments (e.g., Yosemite, Canyonlands, Arches)

●  155 National Forests (e.g., forested areas around Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams)

●  3,200 National Wild and Scenic Designated Free-Flowing Rivers (e.g., the

● White Salmon, Owyee, and Rogue rivers)

●  National Scenic Areas (e.g., the Columbia River Gorge)

●  Designated Preserves (e.g., the Metolius River—thank you Gov. Ted Kulongoski; and the Deschutes Land Trust)

●  170 Oregon State Parks (e.g., Smith Rocks) and 6 Oregon State Forests

●  City Parks (e.g., Forest Park in Portland)

●  Wildlife Management Areas and Refuges, both federal and state (e.g., Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Sauvie Island and other riverine and coastal islands)

●  Watershed protected areas (e.g., Bull Run, a truly pristine set-aside)

●  Intertidal public domain—the Oregon Coast—thank you Gov. Tom McCall)

●  Rivers legally navigable by such crafts as kayak and canoe

●  The oceans and their estuaries

●  The Arctic, Antarctica and their ever important, precious ice

●  All such protected areas thankfully preserved in other countries (e.g., Greenland)


We must honor those individuals and organizations who have acted to protect these lands, particularly when under threat. There are too many to list and they are my greatest influences.