What was once old is now new again. Encaustic
has its roots in 5th century B.C. and was originally practiced by
Greek artists to paint portraits and decorate marble and terra cotta
architectural elements. Made popular in modern times by Jasper
Johns, encaustic is a significant medium with staying power.
Artists are drawn to encaustic because of its versatility and spontaneity. It
is composed of molten beeswax and resin which are fused to a surface to
create a lustrous enamel effect. Encaustic paint cools immediately,
requiring no drying time, but can be reheated, reshaped and reworked at
anytime. The optical effects of encaustic layering are unlike any
other art form.
Collectors are drawn to the art form’s optical effects and incredible
durability. Since beeswax is impervious to moisture, an encaustic
painting will not deteriorate, yellow or darken with age. Encaustic
paintings do not have to be varnished or protected by glass. And
eager viewers, drawn to physically touch the paintings to further comprehend
the depth of its multiple layers, can do so without damaging them.
The paint is applied with a brush or spatula or poured or
dripped onto a sturdy support — usually a board. It is easier
to work horizontally, but working vertically can create a dripping
effect. When the painting has cooled, it has reached its permanent
state. No further work (other than a mild buffing) needs to be done.
However, glazing, scumbling, repainting, texturing, or layering may
be applied directly to the final surface, immediately or many years
later, to enhance the painting. Work can be erased by simply scraping
off the paint.
Creating Optical Effects
Variation in transparency can be achieved using encaustic
medium and layering. Layers of extended color can be laid one on
top of another or separated by layers of straight medium to create
unusual translucent effects. Opaque colors used straight have total
hiding power and bright top tones.
Glazing can greatly extend a color. Unlike adding large amounts of oil
to oil paint, there is no technical danger in adding large amounts of medium
to a color. The encaustic can also be made more fluid by adding medium
or by raising its temperature slightly.
For variation in dimension and texture, different degrees of fusing
can be employed. Well-fused paint will take a higher polish than paint that
is not as thoroughly fused. The painting and fusing of encaustic is done
with great precision.
Three Day Encaustic Class Info
Constance Williams Gallery
Class Supply List (PDF)