Artist Resources: Encaustics

R+F Handmade Paints
Melting wax, image from R+F Handmade Paints
Encaustic painting is a unique medium all to itself, requiring specific tools, substrates, and brushes.  Encaustic is from the Greek word Enkaustikos meaning "burn in", where the layers of paint are burned in or fused together with heat.  Encaustic painting is one of the oldest painting traditions, founded by the Greeks as early as the second century and mostly known by the portrait work on Egyptian tombs, known as Fayum portraits for the region where they were discovered.  Since encaustic is not effected by humidity changes or yellowing and it is painted primarily on wood panels, encaustic is extremely durable.  Works can last centuries.

Encaustic paints are made by melting and mixing beeswax with a touch of linseed oil and pigments, finely ground.  The wax mixture is heated before and during use and fused onto a wooden panel so that the layers adhere to one another and the surface.  There are numerous ways to paint in encaustic as some artists work on a heated surface for blending and others paint with a heat tool in hand.  Sometimes mineral spirits are added as a thinner for the paints, and artists often use soy wax to clean brushes.  Thankfully, the list of resources on beginning in and working with encaustic is extensive, (see below).

Seggebruch from Ampersand Art Supply
Artist Patricia Seggebruch fusing work, 
image from Ampersand Art Supply
Most artists paint on a stiff substrate like wood with an absorbent gesso.  Natural bristle brushes are usually sought for working in wax as they tolerate the high heat without melting and stand up to the weight of the wax paint.  (Dynasty has a set dedicated to just Encaustic work.)  However, synthetic technology is becoming more suitable in high temperatures, and testing is in process for more brush and tool options for encaustic work.

There are significant resources online (and offline) for artists interested in encaustic through the following retailers, artists and instructors:

R+F Handmade Paints Encaustic Resources
Enkaustikos Encaustic Paints
Ampersand Art Supply Encausticbord
Evans Encaustics
Encaustic Art Institute
Exploring Encaustic with Bethany Handfield
Haley Nagy Encaustic Resources & Tips
Wax Works West
International Encaustic Conference

Well-known encaustic instructors listed below; (this is by no means a complete list).  Your local art supply store will know artists in your area.

Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch
Bonnie Leibowitz
Lisa Pressman
Elise Wagner
Franciso Benitez
Linda Robertson
Ellen Koment
Susan Ukkola

Keep Painting, 

For more brush information, check out the Dynasty Brush website.