Crescent Hill Gallery’s ‘Encountering Art’: Encaustic Painting

Welcome to our second edition of "Encountering Art"! We'll be bringing you news and information about the various techniques our artists use to create their work, as well other fun and interesting facts about the art world. This week, we'll take a look at Encaustic painting - a technique that a number of Crescent Hill Gallery artists use in their work: The term "Encaustic" is derived from the Greek word enkaien, which means "to burn into". Also known as "hot wax painting",  encaustic painting involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. The liquid/paste is then applied to a surface such as prepared wood, canvas,  or other materials. 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 waxesdamar resinlinseed oil, or other ingredients. Pure, powdered pigments can be used, though some mixtures use oil paints or other forms of pigment. This procedure of applying molten, coloured wax to various surfaces was already used by the old Egyptians more than 3000 years ago. The technique was actually lost for hundreds of years following, only to be rediscovered in the 18th century. Nowadays the specially developed encaustic wax is applied to surfaces like paper, wood, glass etc. with a painting iron (not unlike your travel iron!) or the Encaustic Pen. You can use hotplates, heat-resistant sponges, palette knives etc. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination! These metal tools and special brushes can be used to shape the paint before it cools, or heated metal tools can be used to manipulate the wax once it has cooled onto the surface, allowing artists to extend the amount of time they have to work with the material. Because wax is used as the pigment binder, encaustics can be sculpted as well as painted. Other materials can be encased or collaged into the surface, or layered, using the encaustic medium to adhere it to the surface. Encaustic paintings seem to light up from within – the colours are exceptionally bright because the light does not get reflected from the surface of the painting, but penetrates the different wax layers.  Such artwork is best viewed in person, to appreciate the full effect. Take a look at these great examples of modern Encaustic artwork by our artists at Crescent Hill!
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