Painting With Wax
There are as many methods for painting with wax as there are creative minds to come up with them. Youtube is filled with tutorials on various encaustic methods.
The ancients painted with hot wax on super heated boards. My experiments with encaustic have been geared toward resurrecting the ancient process of encaustic painting.
Paper needs no priming. I have done quite a few experiments with wax on wood. The best results I have had were on boards that had vegan gesso applied and then tonal under painting with water color. (See the paint recipe page for vegan gesso.) Oil and acrylic gessos are not recommendable because they seal the surface and the wax cannot penetrate. Hot wax does not bond very well with either oil or acrylic.
I prime the wood surface for painting but with canvas, I do not use a primer. I paint on unprimed, untsretched canvas. The wax naturally penetrates deeply into the fabric. I stretch the canvas after the picture is completed.
How to Beat Bloom
Ancient Art Materials - Wax Paint
Abstract - from the Cafe series.
Hot wax on hot canvas.
To begin painting add wax to the pans to melt in electric fry pan. You can use crayons created earlier and remelt them or start with new wax and add pigments directly. Remember 200º Fahrenheit is the cutoff. Do Not Exceed 200º Fahrenheit. Get a grill thermometer to ensure the temp does not go any higher. While the wax is melting, put a board onto the griddle and allow it to heat. When the board is heated and the wax melted use a brush to to apply wax to the heated board in the same fashion as if it were paint.
If you vary the temperature, from cooler to hotter (do not go over 200 degrees Fahrenheit) you can achieve effects ranging from, at very hot: watercolor like response; very cold: crayon/pastel like effects; medium hot: something like oil impasto. Try working on hot and cold surfaces with melted wax and with crayons.
I have the option of using many tools while working; melted wax from the palette and brushes for application, cold crayons burnished into the hot wood just like pastels, and stumps from pastel tools that can work with the wax as blenders. Working on a heated surface keeps the wax fluid and pliable.
Oil and wax do not bond. I tried mixing oil and hot wax. When I tried painting, the oil separated from the wax and impregnated the wood which created a barrier to a wax bond. After numerous experiments, I have banned oil paint from the studio and now use only pure beeswax and artist pigments. In one of my experiments I was able to add actual oil paint to the top of a wax painting. However, when I tried to add more wax to that area, the whole surface disintegrated into a pile of mush.
You can put oil on top of wax, but you cannot put wax on top of oil.
Why 200 degrees Fahrenheit?
Because wax starts to discolor at higher temperatures, and, at higher temperatures wax starts to smoke (which is extremely toxic) and then, if way too high, near 400 degrees it will flash into a fire. Wax melts at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It does not need to be hotter than that. 200 degrees Fahrenheit is the cut-off point to prevent discoloration, smoke and flash fires.
The Pancake griddle heats the board so that the melted wax stays hot and fluid.
I add pigments to the hot wax and mix them in the little pans then dip a brush into the pans of hot wax and paint on the board with the hot wax just like any other kind of paint. The heat keeps the wax in a liquid state.
The board will get quite warm and remains on the griddle throughout the painting process. I do not use a heat gun to fuse the wax because the wax permeates the heated board’s surface and fuses itself.
Quite often encaustic works can develop bloom. Bloom is caused by impurities in the wax rising to the surface. If a painting develops bloom simply moisten a soft cotton cloth with a bit of sesame oil and rub the painted surface with the oiled cloth. The bloom will disappear and, after two years as seen on the right, no bloom has reappeared (the bloom at the very top of the sesame block is left over from the “before” take to show bloom compared to the sesame oil cleaned area).
Sesame oil is the best cure for bloom that I have been able to find. You can use olive oil or even simple household oil, but sesame seems to dissolve bloom the best.