What are Encaustics?
Encaustic is an artistic medium composed of beeswax, damar resin and pigments. The term “Encaustic” is often used to describe both the paint itself, and the method for using it. Encaustic paint is applied molten to an absorbent surface, and then fused, (or re-melted), to create a variety of effects. Unlike other paints, encaustic is never wet or dry – it goes from a liquid to solid state and back again in seconds, which means additional layers can be added immediately, without disrupting your composition. Once the surface has cooled, the paint has reached a permanent finish, but the painting can be revised and reworked with heat at any time – minutes or years later.
Caring for Encaustic Paintings
Encaustics can be wiped clean with a soft cloth or paper towel. If the piece is especially dirty, it can be wiped with a water-dampened cloth.
Soft cotton, such as an old tshirt works best for buffing. Carefully rub the surface of your painting until the glossy sheen appears. Make sure to be mindful of any textures when buffing.
History of Encaustics
Encaustic painting was practiced by Greek artists as far back as the 5th century B.C. Most of our knowledge of this early use comes from the Roman historian, Pliny, who wrote in the 1st century A.D. Pliny seems to have had little direct knowledge about studio methods, so his account of techniques and materials is not thorough, but his discussion gives us an idea of its general usage.
According to Pliny, encaustic had a variety of applications: for the painting of portraits and scenes of mythology on panels, for the coloring of marble and terracotta, and for work on ivory.
Wax is an excellent preservative of materials. It was from this use that the art of encaustic painting developed.