Painting and Prose by Janet Whittle Freedman



A friend of mine phoned to say that she had taken a brief “introduction to encaustic” class at a local park.  She was enthusiastically recommending that I explore this medium as it seemed a match for my interest in building texture in my paintings. I knew next to nothing about encaustic at the time, but upon investigation, decided that it would be an interesting and fun adventure to investigate the medium for myself.

“Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. The liquid or paste is then applied to a surface—usually prepared wood, though canvas and other materials are often used. The simplest encaustic mixture can be made from adding pigments to beeswax, but there are several other recipes that can be used—some containing other types of waxes, damar resin, linseed oil, or other ingredients. Pure, powdered pigments can be used, though some mixtures use oil paints or other forms of pigment.” [1]  – Wikipedia

Encaustic is a very old process, most notably seen in early icons and the Fayum mummy portraits of Egypt which date from 100-300 AD. The process was revived in the 20th century by artist Jasper Johns and others.

Working with hot wax is a very different experience than working with the malleable mediums of oil or acrylic, nor does it give the lush workability those mediums provide. Metal tools and special brushes can be used to apply and shape the wax, however the wax cools VERY quickly upon application to the painting surface thus it is usually further manipulated with heated metal tools as well as hairdryers, heat guns, and irons. I found this an interesting process, though not as good a match for my interests as the acrylic products I’ve been using.

Here is one of my experimental pieces:

Cacapon Hill - Encaustic on Linen and Hardboard - 8" x 10"