Thursday, 15 January 2015

Encaustica! Experiments with wax paint.

Well I didnt do a whole lot of art over the Christmas period but I did have a bit of a play with some new materials.  I aquired some encaustic paints and got myself kitted up on the cheap to see what they were all about. 

There is a certain amount of technical knowledge to aquire before you start, its not complicated but certain basics need to be understood. There are loads of books, youtube videos and blogs/websites out there with detailed information about temperatures, safety information, tools etc.

So with what I have gleaned so far an absolute basic kit comprises either absorbent paper or card, or some kind of wooden support.  The wood needs to be primed with encaustic medium, which is just the paint without pigment i.e. beeswax and resin. Then you need something to warm and melt the wax blocks, I got myself a Teppanyaki hot plate in the sale (£16.00) and some cake tins to hold the melted colours and use as a palette - I dont melt directly on the hot plate.  I dug out some no longer used bristle paintbrushes, you need natural fibres because of the temperatures, and then a hair dryer to fuse and manipulate the wax once its painted on the support.  

There is plenty of purpose designed equipment available but so far I think my budget set up is absolutely fine.  I have also bought a really cheapo set of potters tools to scrape and manipulate the wax (£3.00 ish on Amazon).

So thats it, I dug out an old life drawing that I happened to have done on watercolour paper and added wax, used a bit of pigment stick, a bit more wax, fused, used my pan pastels scraped bits off, melted and re-manipulated it multiple times and generally played with it on and off for about a week until I decided it was finished.  

Encaustic is great fun, and I really like the idea of using my life drawings as a base.  I have dabbled with cold wax medium and like the effect of both types when depicting flesh.  I have some graphite powder, charcoal powder and even some schminke metallic dry pigment to experiment with next time.

Here are some closeups, the texture is really interesting in real life and the colours are brilliant and glowing.  I mounted the paper on a piece of hardboard using PVA glue and even had a frame that suited.

Not all the experiments were successful though, I scraped off this  8 x 8" prepared board and then recycled the wax to decorate my wooden triceratops - his friend the pterotactyl is waiting for my next failure.


  1. I've only ever done beeswax collage and the set up was even smaller, but I love the effects of encaustic paints and would love to try it. Your post is very inspiring, I am going to give this a go!

  2. Thanks Rolina, the paints were sent to me in error that's the only reason I tried them but I reckon they are right up your street. For me they work the opposite of oils in so far as the more you fiddle the better it gets.