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What is Encaustic Art?

Encaustic art is made with multiple layers of beeswax, which gives it its characteristic unique 3-D texture. Today encaustic artists make one of a kind, highly acclaimed art forms, from painting to sculpture. The history of encaustic is interesting and begins in 5th century BC with the Greeks. They used beeswax to seal their sailing ships and this sealing agent soon morphed into adding pigment as a decorative addition to the ships. The original use of encaustic in painting was in Greco-Roman Egypt from 100-300 AD, when a deceased person’s portrait was painted onto mummy casings. Many of these paintings are on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. They are called the Fayum Portraits....Scroll to the bottom of page to continue reading:


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This highly technical field is often a prized treasure of collectors and is a perfect media to display three dimensions of texture and stands out from other collected artworks. Encaustic medium is a mixture of bleached beeswax and damar resin, a sticky tree resin. Raw beeswax can be used in encaustic art, but it is a brownish color and needs to be filtered to remove bee parts, pollen, and other natural elements. Damar resin is added to bleached and filtered beeswax to stabilize and harden it. To use encaustic medium, an artist must heat it to close to 200 degrees F. Once it is liquid, it can be painted or pored onto an absorbent and stable surface, one thin layer at a time. After each layer heat must be applied, using a heat gun, iron, or torch to fuse each new layer to the previous one. As layers are applied, the artist can use many other art media to create artistic designs. Examples of usable media are paper, oil paints or sticks, alcohol or water paints, charcoal, pastels, collage, objects, and transfers. Although encaustic art is a process that requires equipment and skill, the many benefits and versatility of encaustic out way the drawbacks.

Encaustic medium required either fire or electricity to use it, so it fell out of use for many centuries. But in the 1930’s, Diego Rivera and Dr. Atl, 2 Mexican artists, used it in their art. Jasper Johns used it in the 1950’s. After another time lapse, encaustic had renewed popularity in the 1990’s and, since then, it has taken off. Santa Fe has an Encaustic Art Institute. California has an encaustic retreat every year and Massachusetts has an International Encaustic Art Conference each year in June. There are a multitude of encaustic artists, workshops, and classes in the USA, as well as around the world.

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