About Encaustic Art

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Encaustic Fayum burial portrait

History

Encaustic painting has been practiced as far back as the 5th century B.C. and is an archival fine art. Each piece holds a unique character that cannot be reproduced as it reveals itself in the artistic process. 

The word encaustic derives from the Greek word (enkaustikos) meaning “to heat or burn in." Heat is used throughout the process, from melting damar resin, adding beeswax, mixing the medium with oil paint or pigments for desired colors, then fusing the layers of wax onto boards.

Encaustic painting dates back to the Greeks, who used wax to caulk ship hulls. Pigmenting the wax gave rise to the decorating of warships. Encaustic on ship panels gave pigment strong color and relief and held up in the water and moisture.  

One of the best known encaustic works are the Fayum funeral portraits painted in the 1st through 3rd centuries A.D. by Greek painters in Egypt. A portrait of the deceased painted either in the prime of life or after death, was placed over the person’s mummy as a memorial. These are the only surviving encaustic works from ancient times. The color pigment and crispness still remains due to the wax's protection.

 

Lauren's Encaustic Process

Lauren begins by melting pure beeswax with damar resin (tree sap harvested from trees in Malaysia) to create encaustic medium. She then tints the medium with oil paints or dry pigments. Using tools and natural brushes she paints the wax onto birchwood frames and then fuses each layer with heat from a blowtorch to sculpt. She may carve and scrape to reveal layers underneath. Finally, she polishes the wax to an ethereal sheen. Each piece is unique. There are variations in the wax translucency, density, brush, and heat strokes.

How to Care for Encaustic Art

Encaustic paintings are archival and should be handled with care. Paintings should be left out of direct sunlight and kept between 50 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Don't leave paintings in a warm vehicle more than a few minutes.  

Some encaustic colors tend to “bloom” or become cloudy over time. To bring more light into your painting, rub the surface gently with a cotton cloth or microfiber. Over time the surface retains its gloss as the wax continues to cure.