Sunday, March 13, 2011

Encaustic painting overview

Encaustic painting, involves heated beeswax colored with pigments. Wood panels are the usual surface to paint on as the wax requires a rigid base or it can crack. Paper or canvas may be mounted with acrylic medium on a panel prepared with encaustic gesso. A simple encaustic mixture can be made from adding pigments to beeswax. For variety, recipes mix different types of waxes, damar resin, linseed oil, or other ingredients. Powdered pigments or pastels can be used. Some mixtures add small amounts of oil paints to the wax. Recently, soy wax has been explored as a substitute for beeswax. Paraffin is sometimes used, but is brittle compared to beeswax. Colored wax pencils and encaustic crayons offer other possibilities which can be applied cold and heated to fuse with the painting.

An electric griddle with a thermostat may be used to mix and keep encaustic fluid either on its surface or in metal tins. Wax should not exceed 225 degrees and a candy thermometer may be used to check this.

Brushes must be natural hog bristles as nylon or synthetic brushes will melt.

Wax may be left in the brushes to be heated on the griddle or in the heated tins or they may be cleaned with a special product like "Slick Wax tm" by Enkaustikos.

Many metal tools are available for manipulating the wax paint and besides the standard palette knives and putty knives, hardware and kitchen stores have lots of possibilities. Wood burning tools with a rheostat to regulate the heat have several points that are useful and a similar encaustic heating tool has pen points and a point that draws lines. Sculpture and clay tools work fine. Serrated metal applicators for floor tiles add to the toolbox. These offer limitless potential for creativity.

These tools can work the heated wax or also may scrape the cooled wax surface revealing lower layers.

Heat lamps, heat guns, small torches, irons and other methods of applying heat allow artists to extend the amount of time they have to work with the material. The wax can be sculpted as well as painted. Endless possibilities involve layering by encasing or collaging materials into the surface, using the encaustic medium to adhere it to the painting and using heat to fuse the layers.