Literally, the word ‘encaustic’ means ‘burnt in’ and so encaustic art involves successively applying and manipulating layers of molten wax to a substrate to create images.
Historically, the Greeks used a ‘cold wax method’ where purified wax and Damar Resin was saponified (made soap like) with bicarb of soda and finally air-dried. When needed, it was ‘made up’ with oil and egg yolk (to add adhesion) and coloured with pigments and then applied as paint.
An alternative ‘hot wax method’ of Ancient Roman Egypt used heated beeswax and resin, coloured with pigments and applied with a variety of tools, named in Latin as the cautarium (a sort of palette knife used to blend the different colour waxes), the cestrum (a needle-like instrument for finer wax manipulation) and the pencillium (a brush to apply the wax).
Contemporary ‘hot wax’ techniques (as used by me) use modern especially-formulated waxes available in a large variety of bright colours which are applied onto prepared absorbent surfaces with a specialised thermostatically-controlled, low-temperature electric iron to create some amazing effects.
Finer work is achieved by using an electric stylus – sort of like a soldering iron, but again it is temperature-controlled to maintain a low temperatures of around 90 degrees Celsius. Different tips produce different effects!
Wax surfaces can be re-melted to create different effects, layered in opaque or translucent layers, modelled, textured, scraped, sculpted, polished, or combined with a variety of materials. The finished results are dry in seconds but can be changed or added to at any time.
The result is artwork of an amazing brilliancy and vibrancy!