Saturday, September 7, 2013

Encaustic Painting (aka Wax Painting)

An ancient art form of wax painting, traditionally wax painting was used as a sealant or varnish to protect the underpainting of Tempera paintings.

  • Hot plate or Frying Pan (with temp gauge)
  • Muffin Tins/Metal tins (e.g. Tuna or Salmon tins)
  • Hogs hair or bristle brushes -various sizes (one per colour is fine) 
  • Heat gun (not a hair dryer as it is not hot enough)
  • Iron (with no holes/no steam) -optional 
  • Wooden support (5 or 6 ply)
  • Wax cakes (premade with pigment)
  • Clay tools for incising
  • Objects for embellishment
1. Create a ground using 'encaustic gesso' -a special ready made product which acts as an absorbent surface or alternatively paint onto the raw canvas or wood using just the clear non pigment wax.
2. Melt wax in tins. Wax will need to be at 100-110degrees Celsius depending on the brand. Read the instructions.
3. Apply a clear layer using a wide brush. Use the heat gun to 'fix' the layer to the support. You will notice a sheen which means you have melted the wax enough. Too much heating and it will move the layer underneath. This might be the effect you want though. Repeat the process of painting a wax layer and fusing.
4. Use tools to scrap back, carve out, incise etc to create textures and effects. Use wire, or heat resistant objects such as rubber matting to create patterns. Remember to heat each layer so it fixes to the one underneath.
Allow the brushes to harden and they can be remelted upon next use. To clean the brush, purchase a special medium called slip, it is like a clear wax. Wax can cool down in tins and be re-melted.

*Remember to do this in a well ventilated area and be prepared for minor burns.

(c.) Chrissy Dwyer. Coral Sea
(c.) Chrissy Dwyer. Woolie Mammoth

This medium works really well for mixed media outcomes as objects and 2D materials can be embedded (including image transfers). This medium lends itself to abstract works with a focus on texture. Other options are to draw first using oil pastels or charcoal and layer transparent wax layers over the top.  You can use a dry brush technique where you wait a moment to paint on the wax and as the wax on the brush is cooling, drag it over the painting and it will create texture.

(c.) Chrissy Dwyer. Tuscan Waters
Alternative approaches for the Classroom:
Crayon Painting

Encaustic History by Encaustic Art Round Oz

Painterly Encaustic Techniques by Ed Zawadzki

Encaustic on Artlex