encaustic painting n+1


if you’ll remember from last time, i melted the shit out of the left side and only added some clear wax medium to the right side, over the laid stripes.

this time, i used up all the rest of the old paint off the palette, drawing straightish lines with my palette knife. the wax was much harder this morning and i didn’t bother thinning it out with wax medium (like budda), i just used it hard and smooshed it on as best i could.

then i melted the left side and left the right side to dry on its own, which is the SOP in this painting.

i’m both trying not to change the appearance at all as i seal the one layer down on top of the one beneath, and i’m trying to fry it to cinders.

but in this layer, i’m mostly trying to seal the wax down without much loss of definition. which is easy when i’m doing white. but hard as hell when i’m doing blue or umber. the darker the color, the fster it absorbs the heat, and the longer it retains it. white just sits there like it’s painted on.

to the touch, after a night of drying, both sides are set. the burned-in side is harder, but the evaporated side is only a few points softer, and still ripening, or curing, or whatever.

so, the encaustic question is – do the layers of wax fuse as well with solvent based pastes, or do you actually have to melt it to get the layers to stick together?

i’ll only know after i’ve done a couple and let them sit around for a couple of months, and then i don’t know, whack them with a hammer and look at the pieces under a microscope.

the problem is that the section on encaustic in the doerner, and in the mayer, is only a couple of pages, much of it taken up with quibbling. joanne mattera’s book is inspirational but doesn’t answer all those newbie questions it would be great if i didn’t have to humiliate myself by asking.

not that i’m afraid to ask stupid questions. it’s the path of wisdom.

but i can’t seem to find an encaustic forum. or an encaustic webring. there iis however, a conference, and an association.

well. i’m wrong about no forums. there are still no webrings devoted to encaustic. but i found this.


i didled around for awhile. i took a razor blade and scraped all the old crusty paint off my palette. i stirred my beeswax and now citrus thinner,  concoctions, i melted a jam jar of wax and damar on the pancake skillet.

i was going to save the wax shavings, put them in a jar somewhere, melt them down eventually and use them as dark paint. but i got a better idea.

i stuck the shavings on the painting, just dribbled them on. the previous coat of wax medium was too dry to stick, so i had to run the light over both sides. i used all my laughable skill with a heat lamp to melt the shavings on the rifht as little as possible, but i went ahead nad melted the ones on the left to blobs and runny blobs.


isn’t that cool? don’t you see a girl looking to the left with her left arm raised, her right arm crossing over into unmelted territory, and a red braid flying out as she spins around? maybe it’s a book in her left hand. she’s even got a skirt on. it must be my kid, i make pictures of her all the damn time.


ooh ooh ah eee. i’m going to try to do a panorama of jupiter’s surface with this technique.


blah blah encaustic painting blah

i’m tired ofkeeping track. it’s too stressful trying to blog four paintings at once. especially when they’re all student paintings.

here’s where they are.

the dragon painting is sitting under several layers of my wax and turpentine paste, trying to dry.

the fish painting is getting layer(s) of the same wax medium on it every day. it’s getting translucent, but not as much as the dragon .

the third painting, an abstract you haven’t seen until now, is coming along nicely. it’s my experimental, anything goes encaustic painting.

the first painting is suppposed to be an extension of my work with silk dyes, where i cause the colors to run in wonderfully accidental ways. the second painting, the fish, is an attempt to take my old standby, the koi painting, and try to get the same or better effects with wax. the third painting, the abstract, is just a surface on which to experiment. the fourth painting, the little portrait of my palette, is to see if i can render something realistically, or must i stick to abstract and go for the seduction of the wax. i love that term.

the little palette painting has the basic details in place and has taken its first coating of wax to build up the layers.

i’ll detail these last two paintings with pictures. first the experimental piece.


first i put down a coat of wax medium. then i sprinkled green oxide pigment over the middle part. that’s when i took the picture.

then i put another coat of wax medium on.

then i hit it with the heat lamp to set the pigment into the wax. one one side only.


while the side was still hot, i messed around with it with my finger, which felt wonderful, let me confess it here. that’s why the green oxide is so spread out on the melted side, and still somewhat grainy on the other side.

then i took knivesful of old paint left over from the fish painting, and put it on in rows. then i melted that on the left side. but i’m getting better at melting. there’s a critical few seconds between softening and melting and flowing, and that takes some effort to learn, and loads to master.


but that’s not why i do art, learning to just almost barely melt the wax every time. nossir. so i ran the left side under the lamp close enough to turn everything in its path to racing-away molten wax, and not slumpy wax, but rushing water wax, fleeing wax, just about to make candle flame wax.

but hey, like i say, perfection’s not why i’m doing art. maybe someday i’ll write about priests versus prophets.


i finally etched a line down the middle so i’d be able to keep track of the melted side. because before i burned the wax liquid it was hard to tell between heated wax and wax paste put down with a palette knife and left to dry.

you can see this closeup of how the wax behaves wehn it’s molten. the pigment floats on top, or in its own layer, and gradually floats rather than mixes. the addition of white, as i had feared, screws things up considerably.

white doesn’t want to melt. if i don’t hit it carefully, the things around it will melt and run and flow and turn black and bubble up before white hits its melting point.

that’s why i hate white. it’s so solid. it grays out any color it’s mixed with, it takes forever to dry as oil paint, you don’t use it at all in watercolor, and in encaustic it looks like whipped-wax candles you made in summer camp.

here, i’ll publish this and go make dinner. i’ve got more to show and tell, so i’ll do it when i’m up at 3 in the morning.

i need to talk about the wax medium recipes i’m using. different solvents, different problems. chemistry. arggh.