MAKING ENCAUSTIC MEDIUM
Encaustic is a medium which consists of molten beeswax, damar resin, and pigments that are fused after application into a continuous layer and fixed to a support (wood) with heat. This achieves a lustrous enamel appearance.
Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, involves using heated beeswax to which damar resin and pigments are added to produce the colours.
My husband John is a Scientist, and he cleans the raw wax that we buy direct from local bee keepers. The photos below show John cleaning the raw beeswax by melting it at a safe temperature, then adding citric acid in boiling water with citric acid added. After it is cleaned, it is then strained through muslin and then put into tins to set. I then make the medium by re-melting the beeswax and adding crushed damar crystals, then strain again and pour into muffin tins ready to be used in my work either as a clear medium, or with pigment added to make beautiful colours.
Encaustic painting is one of the oldest art forms. The earliest applications of encaustic wax paint was done by the artists of Ancient Greece. The word encaustic originates from the Greek work enkaustikos, which means to burn in, and this process is necessary for a painting to be called encaustic. The Egyptians began to adapt to the use of wax paint. This technique was used in the Fayum mummy portraits in Egypt around 100-300 AD. The oldest surviving encaustic panel paintings are the Romano-Egyptian Fayum mummy portraits from the 1st Century BC. Despite being over 2000 years old, they are still on display in museums today withstanding the test of time with minimal cracking and without having faded or darkened in colour.
Encaustic paintings can be polished to a high gloss, molded, sculpted, textured and combined with collage materials. It is also the most durable of artist's paint and an excellent investment. This is due to the fact that beeswax is impervious to moisture. Because of this it will not deteriorate, it will not yellow, and it will not darken.
Encaustic paintings do not have to be varnished or protected by glass. If your painting looks dull, or gets dirty it can be wiped clean with a soft cloth dampened with water and buffed to a high shine.
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For as long as I can remember, I have been able to effortlessly and accurately sketch or draw an object or persons likeness. I had an innate ability to look at a person or object, and accurately gauge the size, shape and colour, and distance, memorise that information and put it down on paper. As a child and teenager, I particularly loved to draw faces to obtain a realistic likeness to that person. This love also extended to drawing animals, and a lot of my teen years was spent drawing both from magazine photographs and from life. This expanded both to drawing from life and using my own photographs as reference.
Later, when I wanted to paint a landscape, building, or portrait of a person, I would complete a charcoal or pencil work as a preliminary study to work out composition, light and shade, and get a feeling for the subject. This enabled me to see things as they really are. Most of the time, my drawings were complete artworks in themselves.
Drawing dates back to pre-history and was the earliest form of non-verbal communication between humans. Drawing is a way to communicate thoughts and feelings, and enables us to see the world as it really is.
As Leonardo da Vinci once said,
“Painting embraces all the ten functions of the eyes, that is to say, darkness, light, body and colour, shape and location, distance and closeness, motion and rest.”
Some artists live in one part of the Universe of Art and explore a theme or themes. I have been strongly attracted to the exploration of different mediums, across the whole Universe of Art.
My early years involved mostly oil and charcoal, with forays into watercolour, pastel and acrylic. With these mediums, I explored landscapes, portraits, abstracts and surreal.
Recently, my life changed to allow more time for art, leading me into vigorous exploration of new areas of art. My two major new areas are encaustic art using hot beeswax and resin art using epoxy resin. At the same time, my life also changed with my marriage to a scientist with an interest in astrophotography and, with him, I have explored combining star images with charcoal drawings to convey the meaning of the Universe of Stars.
Painting with hot beeswax:
The ancient Greek art of encaustic painting with hot beeswax is another major realm in the Universe of Art. Moving into a new house with a new husband gave me the opportunity to explore this exciting new art realm, since this form of art needs considerable work in establishing a dedicated studio and developing new and unusual art techniques.
From 2014 to 2016, I developed abstract, image transfer and realist works, the latter focussing on a shipwreck series, which culminated in a solo exhibition called “The Last Fleet” at the Gold Coast City gallery in 2016.
I have also used the image transfer variation of encaustic painting to produce a series based on Australian native birds.
Painting with resin:
Over the last year, I entered yet another new realm of the Universe of Art: painting with epoxy resin. Like encaustic painting, this art form needs a dedicated studio, specific equipment, new techniques and a new approach to art. I am still exploring new variations of this exciting new realm of the Universe of Art but this exciting new area has already led to another solo exhibition called “New Beginnings”, at the One Arts Gallery, Isle of Capri, Gold Coast Queensland in the month of May 2017.
What is resin?:
Epoxy Resin used in art is an adhesive, plastic material made from synthetic polymers and mixed with a hardener in a specific ratio which varies for different brands. Coloured pigments are added, and the mixture is generally poured onto a surface, mostly MDF, but sometimes other surfaces. When cured, it becomes a very tough and hard surface.
When resin, hardener and coloured pigments are mixed, it is in a fluid form and extremely sticky – a bit like honey. An artist has to work very quickly to achieve their art with resin as it starts to cure after about 40 minutes – although it is possible to work a little longer before it becomes more like toffee. Then it must be left undisturbed until at least the next day before progressing further with it.
Frequently I work with multiple layers to achieve incredible depth, so depending upon how many layers I use, a good artwork can take several days to develop. The affects achieved with resin depend upon various ways that it is applied to the surface, and each artist develops their own techniques for manipulating the fluid medium to get the effects they want. There is much more involved than just “throwing coloured resin onto a surface”. An artist needs to develop a lot of skill to develop a unique and beautiful work.
Applying heat either with a torch or heat gun is an important step for proper curing of the resin and hardener mix. Proper mixing and exact volumes of resin and hardener are required for adequate curing. Whilst it becomes quite solid to touch within 5 to 7 hours, it requires up to 48 hours for a complete cure.
Epoxy Resin requires a moderate level of safety precautions to avoid contact with the skin and eyes as well as avoiding the accumulation of vapours in the room. I wear protective clothing, nitrate gloves, and work in a room with cross-flow ventilation and when using solvents, a carbon mask.
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