Encaustic Painting

Encaustic (wax) paintings have been done by Greek artists as far back as the 5th Century, B.C. Wax is an excellent preservative and one of the first and most interesting uses of encaustic painting was the pigmentation of wax used to seal ships. This pigmentation was used to decorate war ships. Encaustic painting, by definition, is the art of using bees wax to create images.

What are the steps involved in using encaustic painting? Provided that encaustic painting involves layers of wax to create pictures, the art is delicate. Beginners willing to learn encaustic painting should be patient – it is a complex art, but can also be enjoyed by beginners and even children. Below are some of the basic steps to encaustic painting;

  • Step 1: Melting wax

To work efficiently with wax, it has to be in liquid form. Heating the wax is the first step in this artistic process. The liquid wax is then mixed with color pigments to acquire your desired color. Different wax produces different results. For a clearer effect, use transparent wax. Using wax and dammar resin is the quickest way to start off your encaustic painting. Melting the wax can be done on a burner and applied as liquid wax. Another, more simple method that can be fun is to place a piece of paper on a griddle and melt the crayon-like wax bars directly onto the paper.

  • Step 2: Painting

At this stage, your wax is warm, liquefied and ready to use. Hot wax gives out a nice aromatic smell. The fresh aromatic smell is refreshing, enjoyable and relaxing to work with. The painting occurs in several thin layers. Painting is done on a hard surface such as wood. Brush gently and quickly before the wax solidifies, it saves you the trouble of re-heating.

You can use many tools when painting with wax – here are a few commonly used tools.

  • Paint brushes
  • Sponges
  • Encaustic Painting Iron
  • Low Heat Stylus Tool
  • Wire brushes
  • Hot plates
  • Rubber and metal wax sculpting tools
  • Heat gun
  • Texturing scrapers and spatulas

  • Step 3: Fusing the layers.

After brushing, the painting is nearly done. To create the desired effects, fuse the layers over heat. This is the tricky part. Too much heat may take you back to stage one and blend the colors more completely rather than subtly. After fusing, the painting is allowed to cool. Once cool, you need to polish up the painting. The best thing about encaustic painting is that, the steps can be repeated and redone until you are happy with your results – some paintings may take people years.

Encaustic paintings can last for years and can be extremely detailed. The wax may keep going back to solid state or melt during fusing the layers. Bees are small insects but they largely affect us. Through beeswax, one can have a career in painting.

Here are some samples of encaustic painting that I find inspiring:

Tranquil Grove by LOUISE DUCHARME

Painting by Francisco Benetiz

Painting by Ruth Hamill

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