About the Encaustic Medium
Jasper Johns (in a 1986 interview): “ It’s an archaic medium, and few people use it”.
While it is true that during the 1950’s and 60’s Johns was almost the only artist who used encaustic, today the encaustic medium prevails and becomes more and more popular. There are more and more artists who fall in love with the medium for various reasons and there are a variety of encaustic processes. Still, many art lovers, observing my art, will have no idea what my work is made of and what the encaustic process involves.
Encaustic Painting involves using heated beeswax to which pigments are added. Applied to a surface (in my case wood panel) while hot, the encaustic medium is a liquid but only for a short time. As it is held on a brush away from the heat source, it is hardens with in seconds, which is the time I have to apply the paint to its final position on my panel.
The beeswax I am using is a mixture of beeswax and damar resin (produced from a sup of a tree native to the east Indies). The damar resin is a hardening agent causing the final product to be more resilient. In addition the damar resin increases the final mixture’s melting temperature to about 150 degrees.
Encaustic paints are applied to the surface in layers, allowing the deeper layers to show through due to the transparency of the medium. Layers are fused to each other using a heat source (Butane torch in my practice)- hence the name ‘encaustic’; Latin for ‘to fuse’ or ‘to burn in’.
In my collages, pieces of paper (and other objects) are laid between layers of medium.
“Will it melt?”
Art collectors are concerned about heat when they acquired an encaustic piece. The answer is that it takes extreme heat to harm a painting. Normal home’s temperatures is safe even in hot climates.
However I recommend avoiding a direct light (as I would with any painting) and extremely hot places such as attic for storage.
Extreme cold temperature can in fact damage an encaustic work as well. The upper most layers of wax are sensitive to cracking in very cold temperatures.
When I ship my art to cold climates areas, I check the temperature to make sure it is not bellow freezing or I wait with the shipping.