Pisker became interested in the technique after her father’s death and she says she simply fell in love with this form of art. “I think I have always been creative but I had never painted before. Then I heard about encaustic painting and I began to browse the internet,” said Pisker in an interview with Southeast Europe: People and Culture. “That’s how I began painting with an iron. Encaustic painting is an old, forgotten technique. I use my iron to paint with a mixture of hot wax and pigment.”
Early in her artistic career, the greatest obstacle was the shortage of paper and paints. She used normal wax crayons and her friends and relatives provided her with small travel-size irons.
The paper Pisker uses to paint on is special and does not absorb the paints but it was not available in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Then an artist from Belgium heard about Pisker’s situation and offered to send the paints and the right paper to her.
Zdena Pisker has become a recognised artist and is helping to promote this form of art in her country. In her hands, the iron simply glides along the surface of the paper and in the space of only a few minutes the melted wax crayons turn into beautiful paintings.
“In order to work in this technique you can use your iron or some other household appliance with a heat regulator. But the iron is the perfect choice as it has a smooth underside, which helps spread the paint over paper, stone, wood, glass or another material that does not absorb wax. I melt the wax crayons and then use the iron to apply them to paper. I literally use the iron instead of a paintbrush,” said Pisker.
Until recently she only created paintings for herself as a way to relax and enjoy the creative process, but over the last few months she decided to promote encaustic painting more widely, especially because her friends and family loved her paintings.
Pisker set up an art studio under the name of Pegla Umjesto Kista (Iron Instead of Brush) and she has regular exhibitions in the Zenica Town Museum as well as at art bazaars and exhibitions around Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Her first independent exhibition entitled Sjećanja (Memories) took place in mid-2011 at the Zenica Town Museum. The artist said, “The exhibition is called Sjećanja because it is an attempt to revive the memories of encaustic painting, the forgotten technique.”
During her exhibitions, Zdena Pisker often provides a practical demonstration of this technique for visitors and allows a few audience members to attempt to make a few strokes using an iron instead of a paintbrush.
In addition, the artist regularly organises free workshops in Zenica, where she teaches young people how to paint in this fashion. Twice a month, as a part of a creative school programme, primary school students get a chance to discover this unusual painting technique and produce their first paintings. “Young people seem to be the ones most keen on painting in this way,” said Pisker.
Over the last few years, encaustic painting has made a comeback around the world and Pisker has been very successful in bringing this interesting technique closer to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as people from the surrounding countries.
Zdena Pisker needs but a few minutes to produce a small work of art. She paints landscapes and she says she simply lets her hand guide the iron across the paper.