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Encaustic or Wax

<- Visual Arts

EncausticaThe word encaustic comes from the Greek "enkaustikos", which means "to burn fire." The encaustic is a pictorial technique of applying color mixed with molten wax which is hot when applied. Encaustic art is characterized by the use of hot wax, which is used because it has a protective effect that is resistant to light and water.

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 purchased and used, though some mixtures use oil paints or other forms of pigment.

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. Today, tools such as heat lamps, heat guns, and other methods of applying heat allow 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.

The technique of encaustic involves the application of paint with a brush or hot spatula. The finish is a polished with linen cloths on a layer of hot wax previously extended to act as protection for the painting or sculpture.

History of Encaustic

The encaustic is a technique used since antiquity by the Romans and considered to be very old. The encaustic to the Romans was not only just a pictorial technique, but also could have been used for strengthening boats, since the wax coating is very hard to resist salt and the rigors of time.

This technique was notably used in the Fayum mummy portraits from Egypt around 100-300 CE, in the Blachernitissa and other early icons, as well as in many works of 20th-century American artists, including Jasper Johns. Portraits have been discovered which were made in encaustic and murals made in Pompeii with the same technique.

Kut-kut, a lost art of the Philippines implements graffito and encaustic techniques. It was practiced by the indigenous tribe of Samar Island around 1600 to 1800.

The encaustic technique fell into disuse only to reappear in the eighteenth and nineteen centuries, especially in England and France. Encaustic also bore fruit in the United States, Mexico and Caribbean, with artists of great talent, taking steps to modernize the technique.

Encaustic art has seen resurgence in popularity since the 1990s with people using electric irons (clothes irons) and paper.

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