"Encaustic is a painting method, also known as hot wax painting, that involves using melted beeswax. It is usually applied to a rigid, porous, surface such as wood, stone, or plaster, and can be reheated into a smooth or textured finish. Powered pigment and oil paint are often used to colorize the wax. Many artists use encaustic medium which is made from adding damar resin. The resin is used as a hardening and stabilizing agent for the wax.
Heat guns, torches and irons are used to manipulate the wax, and hot guns and irons are used to apply heat to bond each layer together. The wax can be reheated and reworked, and because it is impervious to moisture it will not deteriorate. Encaustic lends itself to painting and sculpture, as well as for dipping into and painting on paper. Different opaque and translucent effects are possible, and the wax can be textured, scraped and polished to a high sheen." - International Encaustic Artists
The simplest encaustic mixture can be made from adding pigments to beeswax, but there are several other recipes that can be used—some containing other types of waxes, damar resin, linseed oil, or other ingredients. Pure, powdered pigments can be used, though some mixtures use oil paints or other forms of pigment.
Metal tools and special brushes can be used to shape the paint before it cools, or heated metal tools can be used to manipulate the wax once it has cooled onto the surface.
Today, tools such as heat lamps, heat guns, and other methods of applying heat allow artists to extend the amount of time they have to work with the material. Because wax is used as the pigment binder, encaustics can be sculpted as well as painted.
Other materials can be encased or collaged into the surface, or layered, using the encaustic medium to stick them to the surface.
The word encaustic originates from the Greek word enkaustikos which means to burn in, and this element of heat is necessary for a painting to be called encaustic.
This technique was notably used in the Fayum mummy portraits from Egypt around 100–300 AD, in the Blachernitissa and other early icons. The wax encaustic painting technique was described by the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder (1885, Book 35, ch 41) in his Natural History from the 1st Century AD. The oldest surviving encaustic panel paintings are the Romano-Egyptian Fayum mummy portraits from the 1st Century BC.
Encaustic art has seen a resurgence in popularity since the 1990s with people using electric irons, hotplates and heated styli on different surfaces including card, paper and even pottery. The iron makes producing a variety of artistic patterns easier. The medium is not limited to just simple designs; it can be used to create complex paintings, just as in other media such as oil and acrylic. Although technically difficult to master, attractions of this medium for contemporary artists are its dimensional quality and luminous color. (1)
Here are some links to other Contemporary Encaustic Artists. Check out their websites and discover some truly imaginative ways of using this medium.