As an encaustic artist, I get lots of e-mails about my process and I hope that this page will help you figure out how I work...
What is encaustic?
According to Wikipedia: Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. The liquid/paste is then applied to a surface — usually prepared wood, though canvas and other materials are often used.
The simplest encaustic mixture can be made from adding pigments to beeswax, but there are several other recipes that can be used — some containing other types of waxes, damar resin, linseed oil, or other ingredients. Pure, powdered pigments can be purchased and used, though some mixtures use oil paints or other forms of pigment.
Metal tools and special brushes can be used to shape the paint before it cools, or heated metal tools can be used to manipulate the wax once it has cooled onto the surface. Today, tools such as heat lamps, heat guns, and other methods of applying heat allow artists to extend the amount of time they have to work with the material. Because wax is used as the pigment binder, encaustics can be sculpted as well as painted. Other materials can be encased or collaged into the surface, or layered, using the encaustic medium to adhere it to the surface.
Encaustic art has seen resurgence in popularity since the 1990s with people using electric irons, hotplates and heated stylus on a variety of different surfaces including card, paper and even pottery. The iron makes producing a variety of artistic patterns elementary. However, the medium is not limited to just abstract designs, it can be used to create complex paintings, just as in other media such as oil and acrylic.
How do you create so much detail with wax?
I don’t. I paint big! By painting big, you have more room to elaborate a detail and your eye adapts differently to large scale canvasses... it is not as picky. While painting, I am constantly stepping back from my piece to see the level of detail I want to achieve. I am near-sided so by stepping back, I don’t see every brush stroke but the light and the colours of the piece.
Do you work on wood?
No. I work on canvas and I stretch my own canvasses when I want a non-standard size surface.
How do you transfer your images to the canvas?
I use the good old grid technique. As simple as this! I use conté and charcoal for the grid and my initial drawing.
Where do you get your photos?
The photos I use for my paintings are 99% from me. The other 1% I use, can be a photo that my husband took while with me. Basically, I have to be part of the initial experience to decide to paint the image. This is why I don’t work from submitted photos and I don’t do commissions.
Does an encaustic painting needs special care?
Encaustic paintings are extremely durable. As with all fine art forms, they should not be exposed to direct sunlight or extreme temperatures. Indirect sunlight or bright, white lighting is desirable and will bring out the luminescent quality imparted by the wax medium. An encaustic painting may develop a film on the surface for the first six to twelve months as the wax cures. This is a natural process called "bloom" and is easily removed, along with shallow scratches, by wiping the surface with a soft cotton cloth. You should dust the painting surface with a soft brush or a soft cloth only if needed.
Avoid contact with sharp objects including fingernails as the surface of the painting is susceptible to scratching. Scratches cannot totally be removed without the artist’s intervention and minor scratches are best left alone.
When transporting your encaustic painting, the piece must be wrapped well. For a major move, wrap the work well in a clean plastic wrap first and then add another layer of bubble wrap. Place the painting in a box. Do not leave it in your car for extended periods as heat build-up on a hot day could begin to melt the painting. Extreme cold can be almost as bad, as wax may separate from the braced panel.