Encaustic Basics

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Jenn Mason
Cloth Paper Scissors
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Day 2 of Encaustic Week

Thanks to everyone on Facebook, Twitter, and the Blog for your questions, ideas, and input! It seems some of you are fans, some of you are wanna-bes, and some of you had to look up the word ‘Encaustic’!

Today I’m going to provide you with some more information about encaustic art, including a simple tutorial from a Newsletter I wrote in late 2010.

But first, take a look at these encaustic pieces from our community gallery! Just click on the picture to go to the page with more information about each piece. All of these pieces are encaustic and yet they are all so different!

Hope Lives Here Village
by Jan Avellana
Above and Beyond
by Stein
Whimsical Pink with
White Balloons
by Jamie Bonilla

Stars in My Eyes Indeed
by Anne Kneller
exhibit no. 1
by Jamie Bonilla
eat-drink-b-merry
by NMartensen

Encaustic painting has ancient origins but for the purposes of a mixed-media or collage artist, it’s important to know that encaustic painting is the art of using beeswax to add dimension, texture, and/or color to a work of art. The most basic of encaustic techniques is painting melted encaustic medium over a paper collage. Encaustic medium is a ready-to-melt mixture of beeswax and damar resin (which hardens and stabilizes the wax). You can make your own encaustic medium, but I recommend beginners use the pre-mixed medium which comes in a pellet form.

When pigments are mixed into the beeswax, you get a palette of different colored wax paints. You can also purchase pre-mixed bricks or tins of colored wax. The encaustic medium and paint must be melted to be used. You can use an encaustic palette to melt your wax or use an electric fry pan, griddle, or even a hot plate. I use both an old griddle and an old hot plate with a piece of aluminum foil over it—which makes clean up a breeze, and didn’t require me to buy any new equipment.

Other basic equipment that you need include:

  • tins for melting your different colors—you can use old clean tins (like tuna fish).
  • Natural bristle brushes—synthetic ones will melt!
  • Protective covering for your work surface.
  • A surface for your art—this can be wood, canvas, etc.

Ready to try a little project? This tutorial below is from a newsletter I wrote in November 2010. It uses the very basic encaustic technique of covering a collage with encaustic medium, and it’s a good place for a beginner to start.

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1. Gather your supplies. 2. Use matte medium to adhere your collage to your surface.

I used a Melting Pot here to melt my wax but you could easily use a clean tuna can on an electric griddle. Other supplies include: a surface to work on (I used a cardboard tag.), encaustic medium, matte medium, foam brush, collage papers, scissors, natural bristle brush, heat gun, ribbon, and a fabric scrap.

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3. After the matte medium has dried, cut off any overhanging paper with the scissors. 4. Dip your brush into the melted wax and quickly cover your surface with the brush.

When adding the wax, work quickly and try not to overlap your brushstrokes.

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5. Fuse your wax to the collage base by heating it with the heat gun just until it becomes melted. 6. Press the ribbon in the warm wax, which will hold it in place like glue.

Fusing is an important step in Encaustic collage. It helps all the thin layers of wax to become one.

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7. Add a fabric scrap to the bottom of the tag and cut off any overhanging material or ribbon. 8. Paint a layer of melted wax over the fabric and ribbon.

When adding this second layer of wax, try to keep the wax on the fabric and ribbon only so that you don’t build up too much wax over the remaining collage.

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9. Fuse the wax layer over the fabric and ribbon to the rest of the collage. 10. Let your tag cool and then add a ribbon.

Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing some information with you from the pros. Make sure you stop by to hear their favorite tips, products, and to see their art!

Happy Melting!

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