• Joel Klepac

What is Encaustic Painting?

Encaustic Painting has a long history going back to the Egyptian Faiyum portraits. Painted by combining colored pigments with beeswax encaustics have had a revival since Jasper Johns and the electric griddle came along. The primary problem in wax painting is maintaining a surface hot enough to melt wax but not too hot as to be dangerous. The advent of the electric pancake griddle was a great shot in the arm for this form of art. While encaustics are relatively safe, overheating can produce toxic fumes. I recommend a ventilation hood and a fire extinguisher nearby just in case. Also, a thermometer on your plate is essential to continually monitor the temperature.

Instead of dry pigments now you can start with highly concentrated colors already fixed in wax seen above. There are several companies like Enkaustikos and R&F.

Here you see beeswax melting into the batch of medium. To make an encaustic medium you need natural or bleached beeswax. You start with some beeswax and add the proportion of Damar Resin. Damar Resin raises the melting temperature of the beeswax making it more resilient. The melting temperature ends up being around 170 degrees. I have never had problems with melting unless I left a piece in direct sunlight.


Once you have medium and colors you can melt some of the concentrated colors in the bottom of a tin and then add clear wax medium to get the colors you want. A great bonus feature of encaustic painting is that you never have to clean brushes! You simply turn your griddle back on and your rush comes alive again.


One of my favorite features of encaustic painting is the variability of the texture. Here you can see very smooth against a built-up texture on the top of the image. You can build up layers fusing them together with a heat gun or torch as you go.


And as you see here, you can create images by carefully scraping back through the layers. Here the color gets lighter the deeper I dig into the painting. If a painting is just not working you can scape off the whole thing recycling the colors you can and use them again on the next version of your masterpiece.


These are just a couple of the reasons I have been infatuated with the cloudy waxy vibrant beauty of encaustics for almost 10 years!





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