Encaustic, beeswax, mixed media collage on deep edged hardboard canvas. Serenity
Encaustic, beeswax, mixed media collage. The House We Live In
Encaustic, beeswax, mixed media collage.
Encaustic, beeswax. Bee
My new love, encaustics.  I have been studying and working for about two years now, maybe 2 and a half to learn absolutely everything that I could about this mesmerizing, all encompassing art form-using beeswax and resin.  Called encaustics.  The thing that I love so much about it is that you can grab from any art medium (pretty much, although no acrylics) and incorporate them into your work with the yummy smelling, forgiving wax.  Forgiving because whatever you do; you can change your mind, heat it up, and remove the elements and start again.

You can start quite simple.  Purchased encaustic medium, some papers, maybe a few found objects, a heat source, a rigid support, and an absorbent material to do your artwork on.  Wood is perfect.  It provides the rigidity and it is also absorbent. 

To get started, get your feet wet and see if you love this ancient but newly rediscovered art form, you can get by with:

Some encaustic medium (beeswax plus damar resin) I get mine from
DickBlick
A heat source (heat gun, or a craft iron)
Some papers, thin works best
A rigid support, such as wood, or a cradled hardwood canvas
A small sardine can or other tin can to melt your medium OR better yet, you won't need a griddle or anything to set that tin can on if you use a small, tiny, electric skillet or a small crock pot
A natural bristle brush
Gesso made especially for encaustics (not your regular acrylic gesso)

Above is the way that I use encaustics in my mixed media artwork.  There are many other ways such as straight encaustic painting, but for this tutorial, my goal was to just to provide the basics and if you love working with the wax, then you can take an online course or just read, read, read and study.  So, I call it "mixed media encaustics".

Start by putting down two coats of the special encaustic gesso.  Then warm your board slightly with a heat gun and put down at least one coat of encaustic medium onto your support.  For this step, you can use straight beeswax, but after that, encuastic medium please.

Can you make a collage, glue it to a wooden support and put encaustics over the top?  Yes, but none, absolutely none of the glue or gel medium that you use must come in contact with the wax.  Why not?
Well, acrylics are plastic.  Plastic makes a "skin".  If you don't believe that, paint some acrylics on a piece of parchment paper rather thickly and come back the next day.  You can peel it off.  It has become a skin.  Skins of acrylic are not absorbent.  Huge do not-- please….. Eventually, the wax will crack and peel off.  We don't want to sell any work that will not last over time.  If you use a support that is not rigid, same thing.  Unless you support it somehow, eventually, that wax is going to crack off. 

Wax is its own glue and its own sealant.  Instead of building your collage on say, a piece of watercolor paper, or Rives printmaking paper, you can build it all directly onto your support.  Just dip your pieces of collage papers into the hot wax (here you would have needed more than a tin can, maybe a small skillet or small crock pot) and apply to the support.  Every every layer that you put on the collage must be "burned in" or heated and fused in to the layer underneath.  Again, if you skip this step or steps, I hope you don't love that piece, cause it's not gonna last over the long haul.

Just what temperature does it take to melt the encaustic.  Wow, there are so many "opinions" on this.  I set my little skillet at about 200 degrees.  That just will vary with the equipment that you use.  So experiment.  If it starts burning, stop.  It's too hot. 

You can use the encaustic medium to embed your found objects.  Just be sure to heat the wax under and over top of each element.  I also find that it helps to press them in a bit as the wax cools.  I use an old credit card and push them into the wax.
Also, your papers will adhere better if you wait until the wax cools a little, then press them down if they are being obstinate. And sometimes they are.

The encaustic on each layer will start to cool and no longer be shiney. Then you can move on, add more layers and burn in each one.  Each layer doesn't have to be heated until it is runny and completely liquid, but fused gently into the layer underneath.

I hope you love using beeswax.  Oh yes, why encaustic medium and not straight beeswax?  Stronger, much stronger, doesn't damage with your fingers or when it is bumped.  Your pieces will "cure" and harden over a couple of weeks and be so much more sturdy. 

I hope you enjoyed this beginning journey into encaustics.  There is so so much more.  Please visit my
Etsy store and see my work for sale.  Some that is shown here.  http://www.glendabaileydesigns.etsy.com
And my blog at
www.redhead7.blogspot.com for information about upcoming online classes.  Questions, well I will do the best I can to get back to you quickly.  Redheadis@yahoo.com
Glenda Bailey Jan 2010


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