Florence, encaustic on panel (in progress)
Well, I have a whole new respect for the use of encaustic. I made the portrait above on Tuesday as a sample piece to go with my classroom demonstration on Wednesday. It was quite a learning experience– actually quite frustrating until I stopped thinking of the process as “painting”. The brush was just a means of getting wax from the hot plate to the panel, after which the real work was accomplished with a warm carving knife. Plenty of scraping, blending, and reshaping was involved. I hope to finish the piece some time next week. In the mean time, I am preparing for a demonstration of traditional egg tempera.
Adding powdered Indian Red pigment to the molten wax medium
Finished collection of colors, with raw wax medium at the bottom of the photo
In preparation for a demonstration this week I made a new set of encaustic paints. The formula is a simple one– just bring natural bee’s wax into solution with about ten percent damar resin for the raw medium, and then mix in the pigment of your choice at the desired concentration. A modern “laser” thermometer makes it easy to ensure that your heat source stays within a safe range, so once those powdered pigments are coated with wax the only thing that you will inhale is the fragrance of honey.
Most of my familiarity with the medium comes from my friend and former professor Pat Schuchard, who literally brings the wax through the frame and beyond in his innovative works of sculpture and painting. The surfaces are soaked, incised, and inlaid with a rich lacework of colors. When they receive their final polish, the images collect light and exude a depth unique to the medium. If you want to see for yourself, check out Pat’s paintings here.