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What is Encaustic?

When people walk up to my work at an art festival or show, they often ask what medium I work with. The main thing that I paint with is called Encaustic Medium. Encaustic comes from the root word, "encausticos", which means "to burn". Encaustic medium is made up of beeswax and Damar resin. It can be painted clear, or pigments can be added. Pigmented medium like those that you see on the left can also be purchased. To use these colors, I have to melt them on a hot plate.

When the medium becomes liquid, I use a paint brush to apply layers of wax to my substrate. As soon as the medium is taken from the heat, it starts to harden--think candle wax. After each application of a layer, I fuse it to the layer before it with heat using a blow torch or a heat gun.

Yes, I love playing with fire! Actually, there is nothing quite like this process. The heat, the smell of melted wax, and the warmth to the touch as it sets, just can't be beat.

I build up layers and then use sharp objects to carve and scrape back into the work of art. The subtractive process is like mining for gold as I discover layers that I have previously hidden. Often I carve images into the wax and then cover the entire piece with oil pigment stick. After I wipe the excess paint off, the inscribed lines hold paint and the carved image emerges--almost like magic!

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