Meet Sally Hootnick

By: Audrey Levinson

When you look outside the large window of Sally Hootnick’s studio there is a beautiful waterfall that is 90 ft. high off the ground. The water flows vigorously over the gray slate rock creating one of the most beautiful backyards in the area. Sally expressed how lucky she feels daily to be surrounded by such natural beauty. In the winter she said deer come right up to the studio window, she can touch them; they’re so close. It was a perfect day when I visited her. After we talked about the magnificent property where her studio is situated I began to look around. I saw so many paintings that I didn’t know which ones to ask her about first. So, I let her decide. At the moment, she is working on encaustic paintings that are headed for a show at the Schweinfurth Museum in Auburn, NY. For those who have never heard of encaustic painting; they are paintings that are done with colored melted wax. Sally is very masterful at this. This was obvious to me. She has experimented her entire art career with many different art mediums and learned so much about how to treat them on her own. Sally is a self-taught artist, sometimes a mad scientist as she stated because she occasionally mixes mediums and gels and other bottles from her supplies that may or may not give her the texture or covering that she wants. It’s all worth it though. The end outcome is colorful and playful and joyful to look into. Yes, I said into. Encaustic painting consists of many layers of wax and anything else she decides to add to a layer. It’s a process that requires use of not only her know how but her vast artistic intuition. She said at times she has 40 layers invested in one painting, sometimes she looses track but who’s counting.

As the process continues she may cover some things up from another layer or open it up to be a part of the finished piece. She can also collage pieces of paper or carve/stamp a design or element into it. Sally said, “ It’s building up a history. I keep covering the layers but I know they’re there. And you know bits of it peek out and there are some things I don’t want to lose like the rust paper. Sometimes you have to lose things you like. I had to get over that, painting around something for so long that it’s just not doing any good in the Painting. You know finally it’s like I can’t salvage that. I can’t lose the whole painting because I don’t want to lose that spot.” In This series of paintings she has paper with slash marks on it and paper that she has made called rust paper. The effect is a translucent depth that will continue to become more translucent as it ages. Some of the areas that had rust paper in them actually looked like there was stone deep into the painting.


We talked about pastels and watercolors. I found that Sally began in watercolors, like many artists. Each is a unique experience, and she feels she received a lot of encouragement from her family to be the “artistic”.

As a child, her grandmother was also a painter and would allow Sally to paint while she was working on a project. To me that was an impactful moment for Sally. Sally also loves color, shapes and texture the most, which is quite evident in her work as she creates many abstract pieces. Sally also uses a style of laying down color planes. For example, she will use a number of different reds from a maroon red to a Chinese (orangish) red to paint a rose. She does not blend the colors but uses each one as a way to show light and shadow separately but within the context of her subject. This creates a very choppy effect but is very beautiful. The eye still sees that it’s a rose, but at the same time one can appreciate each color for what it is. When I asked her who her favorite inspirational artists are she said that she loves the work of Wayne Theibaud who is famous for his paintings of bakery goods. In addition, Richard Diebenkorn an artist who was of the Bay Area Figurative Movement uses perspective, geometric pattern, and color in very creative ways, Sally said. We both agreed on how much we love the colors and textures of the famous Vincent Van Gogh.

Sally is very excited about learning. She sees new art supplies as opportunities and enjoys the freedom and endless possibilities that stimulate her creative thought process. She currently has work at the Broad St. Gallery in Hamilton, NY, The Art Loft in Chautauqua, NY and an exhibit of her encaustic paintings at the Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn, NY, which opens on June 29, 2018. In Dec., she will have a show of paintings at Edgewood Gallery in Syracuse. NY. Sally Hootnick is one of the most enthusiastic women I’ve met. It is crystal clear that she truly loves what she does. Sally’s passion for art is like her waterfall, 90 ft. above the ground and vivaciously beautiful.