Encaustic paint is made from beeswax, pure pigment, and a tree resin hardener that gives the finished artwork a durable surface and an enamel-like shine. The earliest encaustic were the life-like portraits painted by Greek artisans to adorn the mummies of wealthy 5th century BC Egyptians.
With the invention of oil painting, encaustic disappeared until 20th century artists such as Jasper Johns and Diego Rivera experimented and revived interest in this unique art form. This ancient way of painting with molten beeswax is now the “hottest” new collectible in the contemporary visual arts world.
Encaustic paint is melted on a metal palette at 200 F, poured or brushed onto a porous support such as wood, then fused with a torch or heat gun to form a permanent bond. View my video of painting with encaustic here.
The challenge is that the wax begins to harden the moment the pigment-loaded brush leaves its heat source. Besides the additive aspect of working in encaustic, just as intriguing is the subtractive. During the painting process, I enjoy the spontaneity of re-discovering the deeper levels of wax as I first build up, then dig back into the many layers of wax.
WILL MY PAINTING MELT???
Please be assured that it will take extreme heat to harm an encaustic painting. Of course you would not put any fine art in direct sunlight, however wax doesn’t melt until it reaches 150 degrees, so if your painting is melting, you’ve got a bigger problem…….your house is on fire!
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Do keep your painting away from heat, direct sun (the inside of a car on a hot day is not a good idea) and extreme cold. Feel free to touch the surface, and for heightened luminosity, gently polish the painting with a soft cloth (panty hose and old cotton t shirts work great) every so often, or whenever the mood strikes you to commune with your painting :).
To transport your encaustic painting, wrap in wax paper or freezer paper, then protect with several layers of bubble wrap. I transported an encaustic painting this way in my suitcase on a flight from Alaska to Japan, and the painting traveled fine. A quick shine before presentation and the painting was ready to hang.