The Process

The word encaustic comes from the Greek word Enkaustikos, which means to ‘burn in’. It is an ancient medium that goes back to the 2nd and 3rd century AD. The Fayum portraits from Roman Egypt are good examples of the use of encaustic paint.

Encaustic paint is composed of beeswax, damar resin and pigment. The damar resin helps to harden the wax and makes the surface of the painting more durable. To work with encaustic, the paint must be heated, but not to more than 220 ºF. The melted paint is then applied to a rigid and absorbent surface such as a wood panel. The wax will cool quickly, so the paint must be applied just as quickly. After the paint has been brushed on the wooden support, it needs to be fused with a heat gun or other heat source to bond the paint to the support or to a previous layer of paint. The fusing process is done after every application of paint.

An encaustic painting can be very seductive with its translucent and luminous layers, the smell of beeswax and its overall look. The creative possibilities of this medium are almost limitless.


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