In 2013, I opened a brick-and-mortar vintage store in Toronto, Ontario with a girlfriend of mine who is a brilliant artist, skilled in many mediums, including encaustic beeswax.
I’ve always wanted to learn how to work with encaustics and, therefore, thought that it would be perfect for our first D.I.Y. tutorial!
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with encaustic painting, I have found some examples that are available for sale on Etsy.
As you can see, the possibilities with encaustics are truly endless. All you need is a little bit of inspiration and the right materials and then you are well on your way to creating something brilliant of your very own.
So what exactly is encaustic beeswax painting?
Well, Encaustic painting is basically the process of adding pigment to heated beeswax. The liquid or paste is then applied to a surface, usually prepared wood, although canvas is also frequently used.
There are actually many recipes for creating the encaustic mixture (remember: the internet is your friend) some of which contain other types of wax, damar resin, linseed oil, or other ingredients. The simplest recipe is made using the classic beeswax mixture.
Pure, powdered pigments can be used, though some mixtures use oil paints or other forms of pigment.
You can follow this link to find an informative video which illustrates the encaustic process using the damar resin. The host isn’t the most animated, but the video is extremely interesting.
Alternatively, here are some instructions that will guide you through the process of your first encaustic creation.
First, here is a list of what you will need to get started:
• Encaustic Medium (this is the wax)
• Electric hot plate
• Collage materials (if desired)
• Scratching/scraping tools
• Colored waxes if desired
• Small heat gun or propane torch
• Natural bristle brushes (hog or goat hair)
• Coloured encaustic paint
Now, follow these step-by-step instructions:
- Melt your Wax – This tutorial uses a damar resin/beeswax mixture to create your medium. Melt your encaustic medium at 170 – 200°F in your electric hot plate until it has completely liquified. You will want to get an inexpensive hot plate because there is no coming back after you melt beeswax in it. You can use a clear or opaque resin, depending on your vision. If you are planning on collage, consider the effect that you want to achieve. An opaque wax will give you a hazy effect, while clear wax will be transparent.
- Brush on your Wax – Once your wax has completely melted, you can proceed to brush it onto your surface, in this case, your plain wood panel. This is your opportunity to be creative and play with the wax. Experiment with it’s texture as it goes on soft and buttery, keeping in mind that encaustic artwork is built up of many layers. Make sure to keep the wax and brush nice and hot so you can effectively brush on one thin layer at a time.
- Begin your Collage – Gently lay down your collage elements between the layers of wax. The sky is the limit! You could use dried flowers, vintage postcards, an old family photo, interesting newsprint.. pretty much ephemera of any kind will do. Keep in mind that you are still building your layers and so the first images that you lay down will appear less clear than images that you lay down closer to the top of your artwork.
- Fuse Each Layer of Wax – Fusing each layer of wax is an integral part of encaustic painting. After each layer of you wax you put down, you must fuse it using a heat gun. Applying the heat with your heat gun can be kind of tricky getting used to, but essentially, you brush the flame back and forth over your work, gently fusing the layers and smoothening any uneven texture. You will want a flame retardant surface below your encaustic board while applying the flame so you don’t start any fires during the fusing process. You may also want to have a fire extinguisher nearby.. just in case.
- TEXTURIZE! – This is, yet again, another opportunity to play with your creativity and explore the wax. Once you have a few layers of wax on top of your last layer of collage, begin to scrape and texturize with any sort of sharp object to create whatever sort of patterns or abstract lines you desire! There are even various readymade tools available for this very process (find some pictured above).
Here is another example of an encaustic painting that utilizes collage:
Personally, I have a ton of ideas that I would like to apply to an encaustic project one day in the future and I look forward to eventually trying my hand at it.
Until then, here are some examples of the work that my friend Heather does, which utilizes pigmented wax and oils. She is still running that shop in Toronto, Maggie’s Farm, on Roncesvalles Avenues. Check it out the next time you’re in the city!
Are there any encaustic artists out there?? I would love to see examples of your work!! Please, send pics!!