Process

Practiced by Greek artists dating back to the 5th century B.C., encaustic is an ancient medium created by melting raw beeswax with a tree resin known as Damar resin. This medium is used in its clear state or with pigments added. When dry powder pigments are melted into the medium it becomes a color-based wax paint. Varying degrees of transparency to opacity is achieved with medium to pigment ratios.

Painting with beeswax is a delight for the senses. The scent of melted beeswax is intoxicating. It is tactile, unlike typical paints that are wet to dry, encaustic is molten to hard. Using heated skillets or hot plates, the medium is liquefied and kept at a consistent temperature of 200°F.

When creating encaustic works the substrate is critical. Encaustic cannot be applied to fabric canvas because the weight will cause it to sag and the wax will crack. The molten wax is painted onto a solid wood substrate. As the wax cools to room temperature and hardens, it must then be fused with heating tools such as blowtorches, heat guns, or irons. The melting of every brushstroke is critical in the wax adhering to base layers.

Once layers have been fused, wax can be carved or scraped away revealing textures. Tools used for scraping include clay sculpting tools, razors, and pencil carvers. The tools used are limitless. Following scraping, additional layers of the encaustic medium are added and fused. This process creates transparency and depth in the painting.

With encaustic painting, there is no finish applied. The wax is buffed to a high gloss finish using a microfiber cloth.