Encaustic paintings are made with beeswax, damar resin (a natural tree sap that acts as a hardening agent), and powdered pigments. Encaustic painting has a long history, dating back to the 5th Century B.C. The word encaustic means to burn in, which refers to the process of fusing the paint. Beeswax is impervious to moisture, it will not deteriorate, it will not yellow or darken. Encaustic paintings do not have to be varnished or protected by glass, but you will need to shine them occasionally during the curing period.
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Choose your substrate. Most people work with cradled wood panels, but any porous hard surface would adhere to the wax. Encaustic paints are a mixture of powdered pigments and encaustic medium which is damar tree resin and beeswax. Brushes must be natural hair without plastic handles as they will need to be heat resistant. Incising tools, oil paints, pastels, charcoal, and a myriad of art materials that can hold up to heat will also help to add depth and creativity to your work.
Melting and painting with Wax
You will need to heat your encaustic paints on a griddle at a temperature between 189º
and no hotter than 200º. It is wise to purchase a thermometer to keep on your griddle. Once the medium has heated you can paint it on your substrate. It will harden immediately as it cools. Depending on the look your are trying to achieve, you can either work with a cold surface or preheat the substrate before painting.
In between each layer of encaustic painting medium it is necessary to fuse the layers together. This is achieved by heating the surface with either a torch or heat gun until the paint melts and fuses to the layer below. It is with this process that you begin to layer the surface. Most enaustic painting contain many layers of paint and material which is what gives encaustic the translucent fluid texture that is so beautiful. You can make the surface smooth or textural depending on how long and how hot you fuse.
Once you have mastered the basics, the sky is the limit for creative experimentation. You can incise the surface and rub paint into it. You can carve into the layers revealing the color beneath. You can collage found materials and layer on top of them. There are entire classes, books, videos and more devoted to all the interesting ways to create interesting surface design.