What is Encaustic and Cold Wax?
I had painted with acrylic for almost twenty years when I felt it just reached to an end. All creativity and joy was gone. It was then that I started to experiment with many new techniques. Some of these odd paintings can be seen under the tab Gallery and Experimental Art. But two mediums, that I see as yin and yang in my art, came under this period especially close to my heart. It is about these I will tell you more here.
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What is Cold wax?
Cold wax is made of beeswax and some additives as solvents (to keep the wax soft at room temperature). I choose cold wax that consists of "kind" solvents for both my health and the environment. I am always concerned that my art causes as little impact on the environment that is reasonably possible and that thera are good ethical conditions in the manufacturing.
Cold wax has a very long but somewhat undocumented history. What we know is that variations on cold wax have been used already during the ancient Greeks' time over 3000 years ago. Today, cold wax i mostly considered as a medium for oil paint, but it has increasingly begun to gain a status as an independent medium.
I use oil paint that I mix with the cold wax but I can mix in much more eg. pure pigments, marble dust, sand, paper and graphite. The cold wax gives a structure and expands the possibilities compared to pure oil paint. It is also common to work on a rigid surface, for example wood panels, instead of canvas. This makes it possible to lay on thick layers and to be able to scrape and manipulate the surface in a completely unique way.
Beeswax is also a fantastic conservator so paintings with oil and cold wax do not need to be varnished but retain the beautiful silk matte surface created by the wax. But does not paint with beeswax melt in warm rooms? As with all fine art, they should never be hung on a wall exposed to sunlight. But if they start to melt, then I can surley guarantee you that the house is on fire! (The beeswax has a melting temperature of about 60°C when it starts to soften, but it does not liquidfy until about 90°C.)
What is Encaustic?
If possible, encaustic is even more unknown in Sweden (and the rest of the world) than cold wax. The mediums reminiscent of each other but encaustic is made of only beeswax and a little hardening agent (pure damar resin, which comes from trees in south east asia). For most parts, I manufacture my own encaustic medium of beeswax from local producers or I use organic beeswax.
Encousticos means "heat up" and, and as the name suggests, encaustic medium, unlike cold wax, needs to be warmed up and maintained warm during the entire painting process. I paint mainly in the so-called American method or the High-heat technique. This means that I have the encaustic medium in small containers on a hot plate and paint with brushes on mainly a wooden surface. I dye my medium with either oil paint or pure pigments and then paint on a wooden board with the color. After each layer, the wax film on the board must be heated so it can "melt" together with the substrate or with previous layer of paint. The method is relatively labor intensive and it takes a lot of beeswax which means that the encaustic paintings cost slightly more in relation to those in cold wax.
Like the cold wax, encaustic have a long history and they are probably interwoven. In fact, encaustic paintings dating to the time of the Pharaohs in Egypt are still preserved today. They painted portraits of their departed relatives with methods reminiscent of the ones we enaustic artists use today. An encaustic painting is seen as very durable in its color layer, better than pure oil paint. However, it is important to be careful with the fine art painting. Don't hang it in direct sunlight and beware of the edges of works that does not have frames. A milky white shimmer can be formed over the wax surface during some period after the painting is freshly made. This is easily remedied by carefully stroking the surface with your palm or a nylon stocking.
I use encaustic because it is a totally incredible medium. Even more versatile than cold wax. It offers a totally unique look and beautiful shiny wax surface. I can work in many layers. Excavate, cut and make patterns on the surface. Add organic materials, paper or even make sculptures. Working with encaustic is both demanding, technically challenging and very rewarding.