What is Encaustic?
Encaustic is a wax based medium, composed of beeswax and resin, which is kept in a liquid form on a heat source. After applying on to a porous surface, the encaustic medium is then fused with heat to create a bond. It is a multi-step process.
The medium may be combined with a wax based pigment to add color. Beautiful effects can be achieved when combining oil paints or pan pastels with encaustic. One may create a painting in the traditional sense, or use this technique in various forms of mixed media.
In my own work, I use either a color or a black & white photograph that is adhered to a wood panel. Preferring the pouring technique, I apply layers of encaustic medium (each being fused), to create a beautiful translucent depth. Within these layers, if the image calls for it, I will apply a combination of pigments from wax pigment, oils, pan pastel, dry pigment powder and other various mediums including working with gold leaf, fabric, etc.
I am in love with the encaustic process. It is dream-like and invites you in to gaze further, it is soft, warm, can be textured, is archival, and has endless creative ways of using it. Having been drawn to encaustics for the past three years, I have been on a personal and professional journey to learn as much as I can about this wonderful and luscious medium, and have studied at R&F Encaustic in Kingston, New York with Wayne Montecalvo; with Leah Macdonald in Philadelphia; Joyce Wilson, Linda Widstrand, and most recently with Clare O’Neill.
The History of Encaustic
The word encaustic originates from the Greek word enkaustikos, which means to burn in. Earlier use of encaustics was found in ancient Greece, where ship hulls were waterproofed with beeswax and tinted with brightly colored pigments. In 800 B.C., Homer writes of painted warships sailing into Troy. It was used in the Fayum mummy portraits from Egypt around 100-300 AD. The oldest surviving encaustic panel paintings are the Romano-Egyptian Fayum mummy portraits.
To learn more about the history and how it progressed through to today, you can find out more through R&F, or I recommend the following books: Encaustic Art – The Complete Guide to Creating Fine Art with Wax, by Lissa Rankin. Or, The Art of Encaustic Painting – Contemporary Expression in the Ancient Medium of Pigmented Wax, by Joanne Mattera.