The Buzz About Encaustic


What is all the buzz about?
Encaustic or hot wax painting is really hot these days in contemporary art!

But the encaustic process began in ancient Greece when shipbuilders applied coatings of beeswax and resin to the hulls of their ships to waterproof them. With the addition of pigments to the wax, the Greeks created the painted warships that Homer wrote about in his epic saga. It is believed that that usage was refined for painting on panels, the earliest known portable easel paintings.

Around the turn of the 2oth century the now famous funeral portraits were discovered in the Fayum region of Egypt. These revealing portraits were placed on the mummified remains of the deceased. Historians cite the influx of Greek and Roman immigrants into Egypt around the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D., and they surmise the style of these portraits to be the blending of those cultures.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a large number of these portraits.

Encaustic Painting

Encaustic paint is rather simple in its composition. Dry pigments are stirred into molten beeswax that has a bit of resin (usually damar) added for hardness. The paint is applied while hot to an absorbent surface. When the work is completed, a final heat treatment is applied to the surface (usually by passing a heat source over the face of the painting.) This last process both fuses and bonds the painting into a permanent form. When cool, the picture is finished and may be buffed with a soft cloth to a light sheen .The word encaustic literally means "burning in."

Encaustic Materials & Tools

Pans of different waxes

A heated griddle for keeping the paint hot

Colored ready-made encaustic

Heating Appliances

Various Tools for scraping & incising

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