Home Magazine San Diego Artist Shima Shanti Paints Visions of Peace Fused by Fire

A conversation with Shima Shanti and the ancient art form of Encaustic.

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Shima Shanti is an Encaustic painter working in the ancient art form of painting with beeswax and fusing with fire. In her artworks she paints visions of Peace revealing what lies beyond appearance free of the confines of perception. Art is her way of connecting to her spirit, an open eye meditation. Her aesthetic is minimal, her palette is neutral, deep, and rich. In this simplicity, unexpected levels of complexity surface, Shima holds a special reverence for the unseen details in the complex and labor-intensive encaustic process. The energy she infuses into each painting stirs something within the viewer, awakens us and beckons us to linger a moment longer in our shared appreciation of art.

Kooness: Tell us how you became an artist.

Shima Shanti: My life has followed a circuitous path, full of rich and varied experiences that have touched me in unexpected ways. After a successful corporate career, writer and published author serendipitous opportunities opened the door into the art world. Today, I am a nationally recognized encaustic fine artist and exhibit nationwide at some of the most prestigious art fairs in the United States. where I am now a nationally recognized encaustic fine artist.

Shima Shanti. In All its Many Forms, 2022. Courtesy of Peace Waters.

Kooness: What is the inspiration for your artistic vision?

Shima Shanti: I paint visions of Peace revealing what lies beyond appearance and free of the confines of perception. My paintings don’t make a statement, rather they evoke an emotion. Art is my connection to Spirit; an open-eye meditation. My inspiration is borne from growing up in the abundance of water and endless big sky of Montana that has forever connected me to nature and gifted me with an innate sense of color and composition.

Kooness:You paint with encaustic–pigment mixed with hot wax. What made you choose this difficult, labor-intensive medium?

Shima Shanti: I am asked that question a lot, especially by well-known and well- respected artists who have mastered oil and acrylic. They exclaim, “Why would you!? It is one of the most difficult, expensive, and complex processes!” Encaustic is an ancient art form of painting layers of molten, pigmented, I was drawn to the all-organic elements, the historical significance of the ancient and alchemic medium of encaustic, the ecology and importance of bees in our environment, and the qualities of depth, dimension, translucency, and luminosity that only beeswax can convey.

Kooness: Please, can you explain the process of painting with encaustic?

Shima Shanti: Layers of purified molten beeswax combined with a small amount of a fir-tree sap called Damar, mixed with all-natural earth pigments are painted on Russian Baltic birch panels. Each beeswax layer is fused to the layer beneath with the flame of a torch. I may paint as many as 50 layers of pigmented beeswax on a painting over the course of several weeks. Once I have painted and fused 15-20 layers of pigmented beeswax I begin scraping back to the underlayers. Adding and redacting until I see the beginnings of a composition and my desired effect of depth and dimension. Often, the color palette will direct the painting and its compositional outcome will surface later in the process. The fusion of pigments with the flame of a torch creates secondary and tertiary colors in my work, imparting the harmony that viewers often perceive.I let the artwork tell me when it’s done. My “purist encaustic” process makes what would be a typical 2-dimensional painting come to life as a 3-dimensional artwork full of texture and movement. After the painting is complete, I finish the edges with gilders’ wax to complement the painting. It is customary for encaustic artworks to be left unframed leaving the unique interest of the edges exposed. Finally, I sit with the painting listening for its message and poetically ascribe a title.

Shima Shanti, Unified Field, 2023. Courtesy of Peace Waters.

Kooness: You only work with natural materials, is that correct?

Shima Shanti: I hold a special reverence for the unseen details in the complex and labor-intensive encaustic process. My choice of all-natural earth elements is a quiet whisper to the authenticity and integrity of my work. I create with all-organic materials and a limited, neutral-soft palette that I have developed over time. My unique color palette is signature to my minimal aesthetic. There is a patina, gloss, and texture of earth elements that cannot be replicated by synthetic products. The beauty of encaustic is imperfection. There will always be bubbles, ripples, and markings unique to nature that create an artwork that is storied, dimensional, and translucent. Beeswax is one of nature’s best preservatives. It is impervious to moisture, UV light, and will not yellow or darken with time, thus making my artwork durable, archival, and created to last.

Kooness: You have written that you do not think about what you are painting, rather “I allow the energy in each artwork to convey its own feeling.” Does that mean you never know what a painting is going to look like?

Shima Shanti: I will have an idea in mind of what I will paint, usually guided by my choice of color palette. The palette often guides the process of whether the painting will be water in motion, golden fields of grass, or mountain vistas. If I am moved to hard lines the painting will go in the direction of the urban landscape. If my brush strokes are loose it tends to water in motion, sky and atmosphere. Neutral colors and white open the door for abstract expression. How I control the flame of the torch creates my desired effect, the secondary and tertiary colors, the depth and the movement. It is a mastery of the skill of painting with fire.

Kooness: Some of your paintings resemble landscapes, is that intentional or a representational association?

Shima Shanti: Nature and what lies beyond appearance are my source of inspiration. In all its many forms, nature spans the spectrum of realism to abstraction. There is most often a horizon line in my work. It is this horizon line that grounds me to begin a painting. Or, if I get lost as to where a painting is going, when I draw a horizon line I can begin to see a composition emerge. A feeling of respite and the obvious influence of water oftentime directs how the artwork will evolve. . Art is a common soul connector for all of us, even though we all respond differently to it.

Kooness: Your work is calming. It makes me feel so relaxed. How do you achieve this?

Shima Shanti: It’s early morning, pre-dawn in my studio before the outside world as fully awakened. I feel as if I have the world to myself. I paint in silence without distraction; without intellectualizing. That comes later. By 1mid-morning when the day has begun for most, I begin the mundane tasks that require thinking, organizing, planning and manual labor all important aspects that are required of a career artist.

Shima Shanti, On the Threshold, 2023. Courtesy of Peace Waters.

Kooness: What are you working on now that excites you and why?

Shima Shanti: We exhibit at five of the most prestigious fine art fairs in the US, The Palm Beach Show, Hamptons Fine Art Fair, Los Angeles Art Modern and Contemporary, San Francisco Art Fair, and Seattle Art Fair. Preparing a curated collection for every show excites me. Seeing the response to my work, which sometimes brings people to tears, moves me. My spiritual evolution revealed in my artwork amazes me. There is an indescribable passion to creating and being an artist.

Kooness: How does art change a space in your view? Why have art on walls in a home or public space?

Shima Shanti: I believe your home and workspace are your sanctuary and everything you bring into your surroundings should evoke the feelings you aspire; whether it be peace, assurance, gratitude, love, joy, vivacity, or even the expression of angst or motivation to make change. I have seen the connection between an artwork and the viewer that cannot be influenced. It is a resonance and energy unique to the individual. When that magic occurs, it is my gift to remove the obstacles in the way of bringing art and beholder together. I cannot influence or persuade a person to love my artwork; or, create space in their home for the piece, but I can always remove the obstacle of affordability.

Kooness: Do you work with architects and interior designers on projects? Or is it mostly private collectors who buy your work?

Shima Shanti: I love working with interior designers, architects and trade professionals. Excitedly, in the trade profession, I will be creating six artworks for Sherwin Williams 2025 Color of the Year Launch in San Diego County. I accept commissions from individuals and designers, where I bring the client into a co-creative process with me. Together we work out the details, composition, size, and color palette.

Cover image: Shima Shanti. Storm-Flushed, 2023. Courtesy of Peace Waters.

Written by Asia Artom

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