Encaustic Painting: An Ancient Technique Making A Comeback

Encaustic painting, one of the world’s oldest artistic techniques, has been growing in popularity once again. Using melted wax mixed with pigments to create colourful images, this medium has been around for thousands of years and was commonly used in ancient Greece – the word “encaustic” first originated from the Greek word enkaustikos, meaning “to burn in”. Instead of using paintbrush and paint, encaustic painters use tools to create and manipulate designs out of the hot mixture of wax and pigments.

Despite the great beauty of encaustic paintings, the style has not been widely used since around A.D. 476 – when the Roman Empire finally collapsed. The medium, however, is resistant to degradation, and some of the earliest surviving examples (such as the Fayum Portraits, which are around 1900 years old) are in better condition than more recent work in other media. In ancient Greece it was common practice for boat makers to decorate their vessels using beeswax and resin.

Between A.D. 476 and the present day, there have not been any famous encaustic artists in the stereotypical sense, although several well-known painters have dabbled in the technique. Leonardo Da Vinci used an encaustic method in his lost work “The Battle of Anghiari”, while Van Gogh experimented with melted wax in his oil paintings.

What Do You Need To Do Encaustic Painting?

There is something ironic about the fact that some of the earliest art styles are now found more complex than today’s “hi-tech” methods. Thousands of years ago there were no cameras, image editing software or tablets, and yet in 2022 it can be harder to access the right materials (and instruction) for encaustic painting than for many modern media. If you persevere, however, you’ll find that everything you need for this ancient style is plentifully available – just not in the average arts and crafts store.

So, what do you need to try your hand at this technique?

  • Encaustic medium: a pre-mixed or plain substance made from beeswax and damar resin crystals. This comes in a wide variety of types, including ready-to-use paints (wax-based formula mixed with pigment), pre-made media (pigment must be added), and raw materials that must be mixed from scratch.
  • A specially-designed palette, griddle or hot plate to melt the medium, along with metal bowls or containers to hold the melted material.
  • Brushes: brushes made of synthetic materials can’t tolerate the heat, so natural hair brushes are a must-have.
  • Fusing tools: a heat gun or torch to bind each layer of wax.

In addition to that, encaustic painting needs to be done on the appropriate surface. Some canvases can be used, but most artists favour wood as their foundation, as it is rigid and unaffected by the heat of melted wax. Wood should be primed either with wax or a product like gesso.

Encaustic painting might be an ancient technique but it is without a doubt one of the most fascinating artistic media to work with. For artists who are used to working digitally and can enjoy playing at Indian casinos online 24/7, experimenting with encaustic painting can be a freeing and stimulating creative exercise