Currently I have an exhibition at the Arts Café at the Gold Coast City Gallery. The works being exhibited are 10 Encaustic paintings. I also have one Encaustic painting hanging in the Border Art Prize at the GCCG.
When asked about my art practice, I tell people that the latest passion in my artwork is that I have begun exploring the art of Encaustic. Many people have not heard of beeswax being used in artwork, and I am frequently asked, “What is Encaustic”. Following is a brief background:
Encaustic is a Greek word meaning “to heat or burn in” (enkaustikos). Heat is used throughout the entire process of encaustic painting, beginning with the melting of beeswax and damar resin to fusing in layers of wax. Encaustic consists of natural bees wax and damar resin (crystallized tree sap) and is used in a molten state (please note - not damar varnish). The clear encaustic medium used alone has a beautiful transparency, as well as adhesive qualities – and many encaustic artists frequently use collage in their artwork. Colour can be obtained by adding pigments to the medium. Encaustic medium is melted and applied with a brush or any tool that the artist can find to create beautiful texture and markings. Each layer is then reheated with a heat gun or torch to fuse it to the previous layer.
Encaustic painting is one of the world’s oldest art forms. Despite being over 2000 years old, encaustic works are still on display in museums today, withstanding the test of time with minimal cracking and without having faded or darkened in colour.
Three thousand years ago, beeswax and pigments were used by Greek shipbuilders to caulk and adorn their sailing ships. As well, it was used by Greek artists to adorn sculptures, murals, and even architecture. They also used wax paint to highlight the marble statues around the Acropolis. About 1000 years later, during the Fayum period, Egyptian artists began to use encaustics to paint their incredibly beautiful and durable mummy portraits.
The most well known of all encaustic works are the Fayum funeral portraits painted during the 1st through to 3rd centuries A.D. by Greek painters in Egypt. A portrait of the deceased, generally one that was painted during their prime of life, but sometimes after death, was placed over the person’s mummy as a memorial. Many of these ancient encaustic works are still survive today, and the colour has remained fresh due to the protection of the wax.
Because the ancient techniques of using encaustic was very laborious and time consuming, during the Middle Ages, artists began to turn to using tempera, fresco and oil painting techniques that did not require the use of charcoal fires which was required to liquefy the wax paints. Encaustic faded into obscurity for centuries, but in recent times has experienced a renaissance.
In the 1920’s Mexican artists such as Diego Rivera sometimes used encaustic painting, and Belgian artist James Ensor also experimented with it. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Jasper John became one of the few artists who began using encaustic as his mainstream artwork, and gained acclaim for his flag series of encaustic paintings. During the 20th century, there has been a rebirth of encaustic on a major scale. Today the easy availability of portable electric heating devices and the variety of tools has made the use of encaustic more accessible, and it is gaining in popularity with artists around the world.
Encaustic is a very popular medium with many artists today as it is an extremely versatile medium. Artists can paint, print, collage, and sculpt. It can include mixed media applications such as photography, paper arts, and digital art.
Care of Encaustic Art:
Encaustic artworks are extremely archival, but as with any fine art, care must be taken. There is no fear of the work melting in normal conditions, as the wax and resin will not melt unless exposed to temperatures over 65 degrees Celsius (or 150 deg Fahrenheit). It would not be advisable to leave a painting in a car on a hot day, nor hanging it in front of a window with direct hot sunlight. They are also sensitive to freezing cold temperatures.
Sometimes, over time, the colours can “bloom” or become cloudy. If your painting appears indistinct, simply rub the surface with soft material like an old tee shirt, or a nylon stocking. The work will then regain its gloss.
If you Google Encaustic, there is a mountain of information available on the web about Encaustic painting, how to apply it, how to make the medium. There are also many excellent books available - my two favourites are "The Art of Encaustic Painting" by Joanne Mattera, and "Encaustic Art" by Lissa Rankin. But there are many more. Also there are many Encaustic Art Groups on Facebook, and I have learnt so much from the wonderful artists that share their work and information on Facebook.
References: http://www.eainm.com/what-is-encaustic/, http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/antiquity/fayum-mummy-portraits.htm, http://encausticpaints.com/Resources/HistoryofEncaustic/tabid/407/Default.aspx
If you like my work, my website, or one of my blogs, please share with your friends on Facebook, Twitter or add a comment.
I publish a newsletter from time to time, advising when and where I am exhibiting, and other interesting art news.
If you would like to have your name added to my mailing list at the top of the page. If you with to enquire about an artwork, or a workshop or any other query, please use the Contact Gayle Reichelt form.
(c)Gayle Reichelt: ALL images contained in this site are under automatic copyright to the artist. Apart from fair dealing for the purposes of private study, research or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part of any image may be reproduced by any process without write permission of the artist. Enquiries should be addressed to the artist.