What is Encaustic?

I’ve gotten several questions from friends and family about what exactly is encaustic painting.

The word encaustic originates from the Greek word enkaustikos  which means to burn in. It’s been around a long time. It was used in the Fayum mummy portraits from Egypt around 100-300 AD. You might also be familiar with Jasper Johns’ flag paintings.

The process involves using heated beeswax usually combined with damar resin (but not always) to which pigments are added.  The melted wax mixture is then applied to a surface.  A heat gun, blow torch, or metal tools can be used to shape the paint before it cools and to manipulate the wax once it has cooled onto the surface. Applying heat allows you to extend the amount of time you have to work with the material. You can build up many, many layers. It can be smooth or heavily textured. It can be carved into or sculpted and you can embed stuff in it. It’s an incredibly versatile medium which is why I love it!

 Jasper Johns, Flag above White with Collage, 1955. Encaustic and collage on canvas.

Jasper Johns, Flag above White with Collage, 1955. Encaustic and collage on canvas.

 Fayum Mummy Portrait

Fayum Mummy Portrait