Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, involves using heated beeswax to which resins and colored pigments are added. This results in a paste like meduim which is applied to a surface such as prepared wood or canvas.
Encaustic painting methods were invented by the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. The word is Greek for “burnt in”. A reason for its popularity was the durability of the finish when dry. It resists atmospheric conditions and was used to protect sculptures.
However it was almost a lost art form until recently.
To make the encaustic medium, you combine beeswax with resins, such as copal, dammar and linseed oil. Dry pigments are then added to the mixture. Each artist develops his own special mixture to best suit his technique or style.
Once the mixture is right, heat must be applied to make the encaustic medium fluid enough to apply. The proper application
of heat is what makes encaustic so difficult to master.
Electric hot plates, irons, heat lamps and even flame torches are used to fuse the encaustic mixture to the canvas and to
allow the surface to be manipulated. Many artists maintain it takes up to two years of determined experimentation to get the
process perfected. It’s not surprising that there are not many artists using encaustic techniques today.
Encaustic is a demanding organic medium which engages the artist in a process of controlled accidents with unpredictable results that can be selectively enhanced.
It is a medium that provides a seductive skin that is unusually malleable and changeable. It can evoke sensations and emotions of transformation, religious ritual, history and the passage of time in the hands of an accomplished artist.
Encaustic is a truly introspective art form.