About Encaustic: History & Process
Encaustic is a Greek word meaning “to heat or burn in” (enkaustikos). Heat is used throughout the process, from melting the beeswax medium to fusing the layers of wax. Encaustic medium consists of natural beeswax and damar resin (crystallized tree sap). The medium can be used alone for its transparency or used pigmented.
I begin with a wood panel. I then create a background using milk paint, pastels, or if I collage with photos or an image, I glue a variety of vintage paper ephemera to the surface using archival book binder’s glue. I then begin applying layers of hot wax with a brush or with a gentle pour. Each layer is then reheated with a torch or heat gun to fuse it to the previous layer. Depending on the piece will determine the amount of was I layer. Typically, I apply anywhere from 3-10 layers of wax to the final piece. Any drawings are of my originals and drawn with archival ink. When working with texture, abstract landscapes, or waterscapes, I often use the technique of burning shellac and building sculptural surfaces with wax shavings and build-up.
I then like to use a mixed bag of materials, from 23k gold leaf, rust, glass, wire, and reflective dust – and I continue to experiment, so who knows what will be found in my encaustics next. The panel sides are typically stained, painted, or finished with the ancient Japanese architectural technique Shou Sugi Ban – which is the burning or charring of wood that helps naturally preserve wood for decades.
Encaustic paintings are incredibly archival and take six months – 3 years to cure. However, as with most fine art, care should be handled with care. The wax and resin will not melt unless exposed to temperatures over 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Leaving a painting in a car, hot room, or hanging a painting in front of a window with direct desert-like sun would not be advisable. Encaustic paintings are also sensitive to freezing cold temperatures.
Always protect the surface and edges of the encaustic painting when moving. Although the surface is completely dry, encaustic paintings can be scratched, gouged, or chipped if handled roughly. When being handled, special care is advised to the edges and corners. Fortunately, encaustic is very repairable and can usually be easily repaired if damaged.
Installation of an encaustic painting is no different than any other valued piece of art. It is not necessary to put your encaustic artwork under glass as glass may stick to the surface. If you would like to frame your artwork, I would suggest a floating frame.
Encaustic paintings are extremely durable because beeswax is impervious to moisture. Because of this, it will not deteriorate, it will not yellow, and it will not darken. Examples of encaustic paintings had survived from the Greek and Roman empires and are still as vibrant and colorful today as originally painted.
Encaustic paint will continue to cure and harden after completion; in this process, the surface may lose some of its original luster and sheen. The finish can be easily restored by gently buffing the surface with a soft, lint-free cotton cloth.
If you have any questions or need your painting repaired in any way, please feel free to contact me.
How to care for your encaustic artwork (Print & Save):
Treat an encaustic painting as you would any fine art. Use care hanging, transporting or storing a painting.
1. Consistent Temperature - Hang and store at normal room temperatures. Avoid freezing and extremely hot temperatures; wax will melt at 150°F / 65°C.
2. Avoid Direct Sunlight - Keep all artwork out of direct sunlight.
3. Transporting a painting - When packing encaustic art for transportation, cover the face of the painting with wax paper. Do not use bubble wrap directly on the front of the painting as it may leave an imprint on the surface. For shipping, build a box the right size for the painting.
4. Framing - Encaustic does not need to be protected by glass. A floater frame is an attractive option that also protects the edges of the painting from scratches, dents and chips. Works on paper may be framed under glass; ensure the glass is not in contact with the artwork.
Curing - During the first 6-12 months, as the wax cures, an encaustic painting may develop bloom. Bloom is a naturally occurring hazy white residue. It may also occur if a painting is exposed to cold. Bloom can easily be removed by buffing the surface of the painting. Encaustic paintings can be buffed to a high gloss using a soft, lint-free cloth or pantyhose. If the original sheen has become dull over time, it can be brought back by repeating the buffing process. Once an encaustic painting has fully cured and hardened, it will shed.