Beeswax versus Vegan Wax Alternatives…

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Someone recently asked me about beeswax, versus vegan alternative waxes, and what I use in my paintings… and are bees ‘harmed’…?  The question took me back a bit!  

Vegans naturally don’t use any animal products, in the same way they won’t drink milk from a cow, therefore, won’t eat honey from a bee, or use beeswax from a hive, hence the alternative vegan wax options.

Bees aren’t harmed per se, although there are practices that some don’t agree with, for example, replacing honey with sugar substitutes, and other management methods.

So what is beeswax?  Beeswax is a natural by-product of the honey-making process, and is the material bees use to make their honeycomb, the wax is harvested at the same time as the honey. 

I’ve worked with my local beekeeping society and I’ve run encaustic wax workshops at The National Honey Show… Beekeepers are fanatical about their bees, and from my observations, they wouldn’t support anything that damaged them!

I originally wanted to harvest my own wax for use in my paintings, but it turns out that beekeeping involves a lot more work than I had realised – it’s not as simple as just having a hive at the bottom of the garden…!  Not to mention the process the wax goes through before it’s ready to paint with.  It soon dawned on me that by creating my own wax, I would barely get the time to paint… so I leave wax production and medium making to the experts now…!


Why do I use beeswax?

Crikey… I cannot tell you enough how much I love it as a medium.

The amazing qualities of the wax… the texture, the smell, the way it layers, allowing the translucency of the colours underneath to peep through… for me, it is extra special… and gives me something that oils, watercolour and acrylic just don’t.

Also, each piece of beeswax is precious and something to be treated with respect. Nothing is ever wasted, no washing of brushes, just turn the heat off, then pick up where you left off – even the smallest shavings can be re-melted and turned into something new. 

For me, there is truly nothing else like it.  I love the medium, and like to treat it with the respect it deserves, it is truly precious.  

Anyhow, all this to say, that I am happy using beeswax in my paintings, although I appreciate not all people would agree with that, in which case, there are vegan wax alternatives that can be used, and I’m happy to talk to you about that if beeswax is not for you.

I’ll leave you with a short slow motion melting of some Ultramarine Pale Blue on my mini iron hotplate… enjoy…. !


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