what is encaustic painting?
The word Encaustic is of Greek origin and means ‘to burn in’, which refers to the process of fusing paint. Encaustics are a beeswax-based paint that is used when molten on a heated palette. It is applied to a surface and reheated by fusing layers together with a heat gun, iron or torch.
What began as an Ancient Art practice in 5th Century B.C. by Greek Artists has had a strong resurgence among artists today. Encaustic painting is known for its versatility and durability. You can build up luminous layers of beautiful transparent colour. It can be polished, scraped, gouged or manipulated and you can add elements of collage or even an image-transfer to your paintings. With a good imagination the possibilities are truly endless. Anyone can enjoy the playful and forgiving nature of encaustic painting.
The Ancient Art practice of encaustics began in the 5th Century B.C. by Greek Artists. It was primarily used to paint portraits and scenes of mythology. It was later used to weatherproof their ships and was applied as a coating of wax and resin acting as a preservative. They then began pigmenting the wax and used it to decorate warships
Probably the most well-known use in the history of encaustic today is the Fay um funeral portraits that were painted in the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. by Greek painters in Egypt. As a memorial, a portrait of the deceased was painted over the person's mummy. Many of these pieces have stood the test of time and still maintain their strong colour to this day.
Since the 20th Century, materials and modern day equipment have become more readily available. Artists such as Jasper John, Karl Zerbe and Julian Schnabel helped to bring back the once forgotten medium. Many artists found the sheer durability, versatility and fast drying capabilities of the medium appealing.
Todays encaustic painter is discovering new and dynamic techniques including; monotypes, 3D collage, image transfers and sculptures. They are creating abstract paintings with beautiful luminous layers of transparent wax and stunning portraits with as much complex detail as a Renaissance painting. With a variety of surfaces to paint on such as wooden canvas, paper, unglazed ceramic or repurposed material, the once ancient medium is now becoming popular with today's modern painters.