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What is Encaustic

Encaustic paint is a mixture of beeswax, damar crystals and pigment which is kept molten on a heated palette. It is applied to a prepared wooden surface or “substraight” then reheated to fuse each layer of paint after every application. It is impervious to moisture, doesn’t deteriorate, yellow or darken and has a flash point of 200 degrees fahrenheit. It can be polished to a high gloss, molded, sculpted, textured and can be combined with collage materials. It cools immediately, so there is no drying time, yet it can always be reworked. I work with a variety of tools and materials such as razor blades, sand paper, etching and carving tools, oil sticks and oil paints, heat guns, torches and anything I can find that will create a mark on the wax.

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A Little History

Encaustic painting was practiced by Greek artists as far back as the 5th century B.C.. Because of its ability to preserve, it was originally used to weatherproof ships. Once pigment was introduced to the wax it became a means for decorating warships and later refined for painting on panels. The most famous encaustic works are the funeral portraits painted on linen in the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. by Greek painters in Egypt. A portrait of the deceased was placed over the person’s mummy as a memorial. Many of these pieces still exists today with colors as clear and vivid as when they were first painted.

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