|Fayum Mummy Portrait|
Encaustic is a beeswax/resin medium mixed with pigment. Used in its molten form during the painting process, the paint is applied using brushes and is kept on a heated palette at 200 degrees. Each layer of wax medium is allowed to cool and then fused using a heat gun or torch to create a lustrous enamel effect. Fusing serves to bond each layer to the previous layer, creating a durable, moisture resistant surface. Its exquisite visual properties make it perhaps the most opulent paint ever known. It is also the most durable of all artists’ paints since wax is impervious to moisture. The wax surface of an encaustic painting is a protective finish, nothing needs to be added to preserve the paintings; they will not deteriorate over time.
The encaustic medium remains one of the most difficult mediums to work with. It takes a great deal of patience and skill since the medium is so unpredictable and hardens immediately upon contact. This is also the undeniable beauty of the encaustic process. Its spontaneity and versatile sculptural quality adds intrigue and dimension that cannot be achieved with conventional artists’ mediums.
The historical roots of the medium are intriguing. The best known ancient encaustic works are the Fayum Portraits from the Greco-Roman Egyptian civilization that were set into mummy casings over 2000 years ago. Encaustic painting was resurrected as a medium in the 1950 and 1960’s by the famous New York artist, Jasper Johns. Since then, it has been gaining popularity as a modern medium with artists.