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Q: What is Encaustic Painting?

A: Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, is an ancient art form that goes back to Egypt and Greece around 100 to 300 A.D.  The greek term “enkaustikos” means “to burn in”.  Greek artists were using wax paint to adorn sculptures, mural, figureheads on ships and architecture.  The Egyptians used encaustic painting to create the Fayum mummy portraits that were inserted into Egyptian tombs.

The process of encaustic painting involves using heated beeswax to which different colors of pigment can be added.  The process requires using a solid and stable surface, capable of withstanding heat.  Most of my work is on cradled Baltic birch plywood and wood panels.  The wax and pigment are fused with heat to adhere layer upon layer.  As each layer is applied a quality of luminosity develops.  To this is added “damar” tree resin to strengthen the wax and seal in the underlying layers.  For me, this is an art form that lets my imagination run wild, making it ethereal, mystical and eternally captivating.

Q: How durable is Encaustic art?

A:  Encaustic art is one of the most durable of all artistic mediums and will maintain its composition for many years.  Although it has a very high archival rating, encaustic artwork does require special care.

Q:  Will it melt?

A:  Yes, but know that the melting point for beeswax, which is what I use, is 155° Fahrenheit, similar to many other forms of art.  Ideally artwork should be displayed at average room temperature and in indirect sunlight.

Q:  What maintenance is required?

A:  Encaustic paintings that have been created recently (within the last year) will go through a curing process the first several months when they experience a maturity called “bloom”.  This is a hazy, cloudy look that appears on the surface new encaustic paintings.  It is an oxidation process.  To regain the luminosity and sheen, gently rub the surface first with the palm of your hand; there is enough oil in your system.  You can also use a clean, unsnagged nylon stocking and rub gently in a circular motion being careful not to scratch the surface.