Ancient Medium Meets Modern Methods

According to Roman historian Pliny the Elder, encaustic was used as early as the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E. 

It is made by melting beeswax with a small amount of resin and then adding pigment while the mixture is still molten. 

The artist works quickly out of the pot, for the wax begins to harden as soon as it leaves the heat source. 

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Jasper Johns (shown above with early work) was virtually the sole practitioner of encaustic. 

Today, thousands of artists have caught on to this ancient, luminous medium, yet most art lovers are still unaware of it.

Joanne Mattera wrote THE book on Encaustic Painting (above). She also writes a darn good blog on the subject.

People ask me about encaustics, what it is and how I paint with it. 

Frankly, this is a new medium for me and I am still exploring (and struggling with) it. But it continues to fascinate me and I'm hoping to do more work more with encaustics in the coming years.

I'm still a novice (encaustics-wise) and feel like I really don't know what-in-the-heck I'm doing. I'm still on "square one" and there is sooooooo much to learn here.

In the beginning, the little videos in this post helped me get the hang of it.

Songbird, 8" x 10" Oil and Encaustic on board by Karin Wells

The hard part is that I am basically a realist painter - and this medium is hard for me to control.

The Traveling Pear, 5" x 9" Oil and Encaustic on board by Karin Wells

Currently I am alternating layers of oil and encaustic paint (several of my paintings are in this post).

Cambric Tea, 10" x 10" Oil and Encaustic on board by Karin Wells

I found this demo below that gives a basic introduction by Kathryn Bevier for *

Note that "Enkaustikos Wax Art Supplies" are sold by FineArtSupplies.

I find encaustics difficult to control but the video below shows how encaustic portrait artist David Hoffend uses a electric heated pen point (C5) - available from

Portrait of a Woman, 15" x 15" Oil and Encaustic on board by Karin Wells

 Sometimes I incorporate a pen technique (as in my portrait above) but am ultimately more comfy with a brush in my hand.

The last video is soundless, but shows the artist is "playing" with the paint and you can get the sense of what pure fun it is to work in encaustics.

And finally this video of how R&F Paints makes their pigment sticks. (You'll thank me if you turn your sound down or off on this one - somebody had a good "eye" for music).

It will take place Friday-Sunday, June 5-7, 2009, with three days of workshops.

1 comment:

jp said...

I really wish I could see these in person.I know the texture can't really be captured online. It's exciting work...

Obama has an over 80 percent rating here in Canada, and we're thrilled he's visiting.

CBC radio's comedy factory did a pretty funny interview with Obama (sound bites from his first book you may recognize. I was very impressed by both books.) It's followed by a tribute song to Obama. (-: