What is Encaustic?
Encaustic is both a painting medium and a technique; the medium is a wax-based paint consisting of beeswax, damar resin, and pigment. The technique involves heating the wax to a melted state and applying it to a support, ensuring the layers are fused with heat. The paint is manipulated with metal or heated tools, such as irons, hot air guns, and metal spatulas and brushes.
Encaustic is one of the oldest painting techniques, dating back to the 4th c. B.C. The technique was used in the Fayum mummy portraits from Egypt, in early icons, and in many works of 20th-century American artists, including Jasper Johns.
Caring for Your Encaustic Painting
Encaustic paintings are extremely durable due to the fact that beeswax seals out air and moisture, and filters out a large portion of UV light. The paintings have a gorgeous translucency and brilliance of color, and will not deteriorate, yellow or darken.
Will It Melt?
Over time, due to the resin added to the wax, encaustic cures and the surface hardens. Under normal temperatures, the painting will remain stable. Like all fine art, it is best not to expose it to direct sunlight or excessive heat — avoid temperatures below 35 degrees Fahrenheit or above 120 degrees. It is safe to drive it home from the gallery, but probably not wise to leave it in your car for any length of time, especially on either a hot or a cold day.
Can I Touch It?
The surface of encaustic is somewhat like a candle so it can be scratched but don’t be afraid to touch it. Although the surface is completely dry, encaustic paintings can be scratched, gouged, or chipped if handled roughly and should be treated carefully as you would all pieces of fine art. When moving the painting, do protect the surface and edges.
Cleaning and Buffing
As the wax cures, an encaustic painting may develop a film on the surface. This is a natural process called “bloom” and is easily removed, along with shallow scratches, by wiping the surface with a soft cloth. Once a year, give it a gentle dusting or buffing with a lint-free soft cotton cloth to maintain the unique patina of the wax.