I’m excited to share with you the exciting and interesting work of Stacy Gresell.
Stacy is an encaustic and multi-media artist living in Houston, Texas. When I saw some of her latest work on Instagram, I knew I had to learn more about her and her art. She has such an interesting life story and an unusual journey toward being an artist! You’re going to be inspired, delighted and have fun with her art!
VeryCreate: How did you get started creating art?
Stacy Gresell: “I grew up in an artistic home. My mother was a stained glass artisan. Although she taught me what she knew, I never mastered the precision that medium requires.
Once I got married, I knew I wanted nice art in my home. It wasn’t in the budget to buy what I wanted and I have always had a philosophy of “How hard can it be?” So, I just dived in and started creating things for my home. I learned from YouTube, books, classes and videos.
When my daughter was born I wanted to create a mural for her bedroom. I had never done a mural before, but I just dived in. Pretty soon I was painting murals for people. I did that for years.
I was constantly intrigued by anything that looked hard to do. I would research, read books and figure out how to do something that initially was difficult.”
VeryCreate: Stacy is like many creative artists. She has a day job. Stacy is the department chair of Communications at Lone Star College and teaches full time. She is as dedicated to creating her art as she is to her students. There is something about creating art that just feeds the soul!
Professional Art Journey
Stacy delved into metalsmithing and jewelry enameling for a number of years, creating beautiful things to sell at art show fairs. After a while, it started to feel repetitious similar to production work, even when she tried experimenting with new innovations like doing portraits in metal etching.
Experimenting with the intriguing medium of encaustic was an instant a-ha moment. She began combining collage, found objects and using encaustic in finishing art pieces that immediately struck a chord with her audience.
Stacy Gresell: “I love the feel and the texture of encaustic. You use a BLOW TORCH to create! How exciting is that?! I also love that it was HARD to do. You can’t just pick it up and be successful right out of the gate. There is a lot to learn about encaustic. It is such a unique medium. When you hit the surface with the blow torch, the medium goes ‘poof’ and spreads out. ”
VeryCreate: I can’t even imagine the working process of encaustic. It sounds like the perfect medium for someone who likes hard things and loves the tools, the process and the exploration necessary to create different art images with it. Totally opposite to painting still lifes in oil, for example.
Stacy’s art journey fueled by attending an intense workshop with Alicia Tormey, Seattle encaustic artist and teacher. Here she learned the finesse and fine craftsmanship necessary to create her wonderous art. Alicia encouraged her to ‘just do you’ and gave her the validation to veer off into unknown territory that may or may not be acceptable to a given marketplace. That’s the freedom that every artist craves.
A turning point for her came when a colleague at the college where she teaches attended one of her jewelry shows. This professor was highly encouraging and prodded her to apply for a solo show at the college. Not only did she summon the courage to apply, but she was accepted. The six-month deadline combined with the necessity to create a body of work sufficient for the show was the impetus to vault her work into the next level: to get better faster. Still uncertain if she should accept such a huge commitment, her husband encouraged her to just jump in and do it.
Stacy Gresell: “My husband really supported me during this time. He took over a lot of our family responsibilities for that time so that I could paint. He said to just GO for it. One of my driving forces in life is that I never want to live a life with regrets. My mentor at the college told me once ‘scatter your seeds in the wind because you never know where they will grow’. I’ve found detours, unexpected directions and opportunities open up for me because I didn’t say no to experiences.”
VeryCreate: The solo show, “Mostly Mixed Messages”, was a success and lead to applying for a space in a Co-Op gallery in town. This was another turning point for Stacy. She found mentors and peers within that gallery who inspired her and helped her navigate the marketing and sales world of fine art sales. The connections she made are still strong today.
During the world pandemic, places to show art shut down. Not one to wool-gather, Stacy used this time to explore paper collage. This medium is time consuming. But Stacy likes to learn hard things!
Her studio partner Lisa Morales, suggested a collaboration during this time. Keeping to strict isolation and safety procedures, they would take turns working on a piece of art. One of them would create something on their piece, then it would sit in germ isolation for 72 hours at their downtown Houston studio. Then the other one would pick it up and start working on it. This went back and forth six or seven times between them. What was energizing was that it was totally unpredictable what the piece was going to look like or what direction the person would take it before your turn.
It was a reactionary and serendipitous exploration together and very exciting!
VeryCreate: Each of your pieces is so unique. Where do you get your inspirations? Is there a big back story to your pieces?
Stacy Gresell: “Sometimes there is a big story and sometimes there is no story whatsoever. Sometimes my ideas come from some weird thing that I’ve acquired like a box of piano keys that I morph into ocean waves at the beach. Sometimes I’ll be working on a problem with one of my pieces and the answer comes to me just as I start to wake up in the morning.
I’ve learned woodworking in order to create the wood substrates for my work. I LOVE using power tools and having the freedom to know how to create whatever shape or object I need is totally freeing.”
There is something totally unique about Stacy’s work. From across the room, the art is interesting, but as you walk closer and closer there is this delightful moment of surprise and discovery that there are ‘things’ that make up the art. It’s so interactive! Stacy calls it a Where’s Waldo activity. If you are not familiar with this, Where’s Waldo are kids’ books with hidden pictures where you have to find Waldo hidden amongst a busy illustration. It’s a visual game.
Stacey Gresell: “I love the duality of encaustic collage. There is the one experience from afar, that is typical of all paintings, but when you use ephemera and objects there is the delight of the close-up examination where surprises can be found. I love to overhear observers look at my art and exclaim over every suddenly discovered thing.”
I ask most of my artists whom I interview what one thing they are most proud of in their career or life. Stacy had a profound statement that rings true for me as well.
“What comes to mind is my teaching career. I ran a mentoring program for at-risk teenagers in Detroit. I still keep in contact with many of them and they are doing well. I can say that in the past and currently at my college I’ve had a positive impact in my student’s lives. I can’t say if my art has had a meaningful impact in anyone’s life, but I see evidence that my teaching career has done something that has or is helping people in some important way.”
VeryCreate: Yes and yes! As artists, we hope to feed our soul and hopefully create something that helps the world in some way, but nothing beats teaching people for giving of yourself unselfishly and helping others with their hopes, dreams, problems, talents, or development. It is a very unselfish and nurturing action.
Stacy is an explorer, a conquerer and a constantly evolving artist. She refuses to pigeonhole herself into one genre, one subject, or one specialty. This is one of the reasons that she is an artist to watch! You never know what you’re going to see from her.
Currently, she is working on a dozen pieces at once. It’s not unusual for her to be working from piece to piece. Talk about keeping things fresh!
I really enjoyed interviewing Stacy. I’ve never talked to someone who has such a fresh method of working or such interesting finished pieces!
Find Her Work Here
The best place to view her art is on Instagram, where she actively posts. Often her work will sell quickly, so if you love it, get it when you see it. Here is where you can find her work:
Perimeter Gallery, Houston, Texas