Experimental Encaustic

detail 2 sm panelsSome of my artist friends are using encaustic in their work. Encaustic is a rich mixture of beeswax and resin and (often) pigment.  To create an image, the artist builds up a series of thin but luxurious layers of wax, resulting in a completed piece with a lovely translucent quality, a gentle gleam, and potentially myriad other intriguing effects. This method has been used to create art for centuries.

As much as I admire and appreciate the real thing, the photo above (please click on it TWICE to see maximum detail) shows detail from two small panels I recently created in the “encaustic style” but using my own “faux-caustic” methods.  This came about because when I recently attended a hands-on workshop to learn about working with this magical medium, I came away at the end of the day with several attractive pieces, searing lungs and a pounding headache. Based on that toxic experience, I decided to put down the heat gun. I think encaustic should only be done under perfect ventilation conditions — meaning outdoors in the summertime!

But as an intrepid member of the International Society of Experimental Artists, I want to create my own recipe/technique for make “faux-caustic” pieces. Instead of wax and resin, I am using a “secret” combination of professional quality acrylic mediums.

Although good ventilation is required for these as it is with most any art materials, I am not getting headaches or burning sensations in my lungs working on these pieces.  And I am getting some interesting results. The process is not perfected (yet) but it’s fascinating to see what is developing in the studio.

Here is a sneak-peek photo.  (Click on it to make it bigger.) The surface is glossier than true encaustic would be — even with a good buffing encaustic is not really high gloss like this — but you can see some of the amazing encaustic-like surface texture and encapsulation effect I am already achieving.

If you would like to see a completed piece using the same palette as shown in the photo, I am currently showing the abstract “Barcelona” (12″x12″ acrylic on cradled wood panel) at Sequoia Gallery and Studios in Hillsboro, Oregon.  Early public feedback has been positive and one viewer remarked how it is reminiscent of a ceramic tile, which I find fascinating.  What do you think, do you like the “look” of that surface?

This is the “E” post, #5 in the April A-to-Z-Challenge. Subscribe to email updates and never miss a letter! 🙂


Author: Barbara Martin

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6 thoughts on “Experimental Encaustic”

    1. Thanks Micah. It is a great way to play with texture. Real encaustic involves heating and melting the wax and smushing it around…. very fun and the color changes as it dries. Sort of like magic. My method also changes color and becomes transparent as it dries, so the results are always a “reveal’ of sorts. Fun!

    1. TaMara, thank you! Me too. I am extra sensitive to odors, so the encaustic is just not a good fit for me. Would love to do some outdoors and see if that works out better for me — have to wait for the weather to really change. 🙂

    1. Hi Charlotte — Thanks! Did you by chance click on the image — it brings it up way bigger. If you tilt your screen, you can then see some of the hills and valleys, etc. (Imperfect, I know, but photographing these is really tough. Working on a better way to show the actuality of it.) ps I edited to add click twice! Thanks for the note about being able to see it better. 🙂

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