The original word for encaustic, Enkaustikos, means “to burn in.” Three thousand years ago, a few enterprising Greek shipbuilders discovered a new use for the beeswax they used to caulk hulls. By adding pigments for color and resin for hardness, they created a painting medium with an unmatched depth and luminosity. A thousand years after the Greeks discovered it, painters in Egypt resurrected the medium, crafting exquisite portraits to decorate the mummies of their patrons. The modern resurgence of encaustic began in the early 20th century. Mexican muralist Diego Rivera began painting with the medium in the 1920’s, and in the 1950’s, artist Jasper Johns further popularized its use.
Encaustic painting also known as hot wax painting, involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. The liquid/paste is then applied to a surface—usually prepared wood, though canvas and other materials are often used. Metal tools and special brushes can be used to shape the paint before it cools, or heated metal tools can be used to manipulate the wax once it has cooled onto the surface. Today, tools such as heat lamps, heat guns, and other methods of applying heat allow artists to extend the amount of time they have to work with the material. Because wax is used as the pigment binder, encaustics can be sculpted as well as painted. Other materials can be encased or collaged into the surface, or layered, using the encaustic medium to adhere it to the surface.
In my work, encaustic is a medium that allows me to explore the integration of painting, sculpture, and mixed media practices on a single surface.