Encaustic Paintings

Encaustic medium itself has been dated back to the Ancient Greeks (and comes from the word “enkaustikos”, meaning “to burn in”). Encaustic painting involves fusing layers of beeswax, mixed with resin and pigments, with a heat source. Damar resin (which comes from family of trees that grow in the East Indies) is used to harden the beeswax and raise its melting temperature. Encaustic is the oldest known pigment binder; colours are resilient (without cracks and unfaded after centuries) due the imperviousness of wax to moisture.  The medium is heated to 90 degrees centigrade, applied to a rigid board, and each layer is fused with a blow torch or heat gun.  The result is works with a deep finish, and luminous, ethereal qualities.

Shellac burn is shellac flakes diluted with methylated spirits then poured across an area of the painting and set alight. Once burned out it leaves wonderful patterns in the wax surface, and then more wax layers are added.

Other materials such as dyed silk and found objects such as shells, stones and dry leaves can be incorporated into this medium.

This medium provides the viewer with a truly sensory experience. The multiple layers gives works a luminous, ethereal quality, which retain the beautiful aroma of beeswax.  These works can be safely touched, to feel the texture involved (from the smooth wax, to roughness of incorporated materials) and is waterproof.

Care

These paintings are extremely archival, but as with any fine art, care should be given to them. There should be no fear of the work melting in normal household conditions. The wax and resin will not melt unless exposed to temperatures over 93 degrees centigrade. Leaving a painting in a car on a hot day would not be advisable or hanging a painting in front of a window with direct desert-like sun. They are also sensitive to freezing cold temperatures.

Some encaustic colours tend to “bloom” or become cloudy over time. If your painting appears indistinct, simply rub the surface with a soft cloth or nylon stocking. Over time the surface retains its gloss as the wax medium continues to cure and harden for up to 1-3 years.

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