What is Encaustic…?
‘Encaustic’ is simply the process of heating wax, deriving from a Greek word meaning ‘To Burn’…
The word can confuse people, but in short, the wax itself is not encaustic, but the process of heating and applying hot molten wax, makes it encaustic…
The wax I use, is essentially beeswax, often with a damar resin, or carnuba, or other waxes, added to it to raise the melting point, with added pigments.
It comes in a variety of grades, from pre-coloured Arts Encaustic waxes, which start at £1.50 each, and are great for anybody to paint with, through to R&F Artists Quality waxes, which start at around £12 for a similar sized block of wax, and range up to £35, depending on pigments used. There are other wax brands, these are the two I tend to use, I also make my own.
I love painting with all these wax styles, they have their own unique qualities, and the versatility of each style is simply incredible.
Encaustic wax has a fascinating history, it has been around for over 2,000 years, the Egyptians notably used it as a painting medium on the Fayum Mummy panels, and it was used in early Iconography. Due to the beeswax working as a natural preservative and binder, the colours and pigments of these panels often remain as fresh today as the day they were painted.
Encaustic has seen a resurgence in popularity amongst artists since the 1990’s, it’s quite well known in America and Canada, and slowing becoming more widely recognised in Europe.
The question I’m always asked is… “Will it melt?” This wax has a melting point of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, 71 degrees Celsius, so no, unless stored or hung in extreme circumstances, your picture will be fine for many years to come.
As with any fine art however, you should always handle paintings with care, and never hang in direct sunlight, especially if framed under glass.
An added bonus with encaustic, is should damage occur, which can happen to any painting, it can often be repaired by gently re-fusing the damaged area.