Encaustic Painting

Encaustic painting was developed by the ancient Greek shipbuilders, who used hot wax to fill the cracks in their ships. Soon pigment (color) was added and this led to painting on the surface of the waxed hull: an art form was born.



This technique has been dated to as early as the fourth century B.C. Although wax may appear to be a fragile material, some encaustic paintings from A.D 100-125 survive today in the form of head and shoulder wax portraits set into mummy casings in Greco-Roman Egypt.

Since 2008, my work has shifted from using primarily encaustic medium to a mixture of mediums that include oil painting, encaustic wax, and printmaking. 

To prepare an encaustic medium, I melt beeswax, adding damar, a hardening and stabilizing agent. Then I filter and cool the mixture for later use. It usually takes a day to make up a large batch.

When ready to paint, I melt the wax mixture and add pigment from the tins which sit on a heated aluminum plate on a layout table in my studio. With a brush, I paint the encaustic medium onto a panel, which lies horizontally so that the melted wax doesn't run. The wax cools very quickly, and I paint swiftly, often only a few strokes at a time. After applying a layer to the panel, I use a propane torch to reheat the wax, smoothing the surface and bonding the new layer to the one below. I build up the layers of pigmented wax, heating after each layer. 

For information on the durability of encaustic paintings and other details, please see encaustic painting FAQ.

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