Encaustic Painting: What and Why

Encaustic painting involves painting with hot wax, damar resin and pigment mixture on prepared wood. This method of painting was most famously used to create the Fayum mummy portraits in Egypt around 100-300 AD.  These portraits can be viewed in museums today in their fresh rich colors due to the excellent preservative properties of wax.  Before the Fayum mummy portraits, encaustics were used to paint ships as a method of weatherproofing and decoration.  This technique was refined for the art of painting on panels in the Classical Period (500-323 BC).  The technique went into a decline after the 7th century and became a lost art as tempera painting was cheaper, faster and less demanding to work with.

The revival of encaustics started in the18th century after the archaeological discoveries in Pompeii and Herculaneum.  Artists strove to rediscover the techniques of those early painters.  In the 20th century numerous artists explored the method which was made easier with the invention of portable electric heating implements.  In 1988 R&F Handmade Paints was founded and began to offer expertly prepared encaustic mediums, paints, surfaces and tools.  http://www.rfpaints.com/resources/encaustic/346-history-of-encaustic

I find the flow of liquid wax, the layering of translucent colors, the depth and sculpturing possibilities of encaustics to be an excellent fit in my pursuit of painting the Oregon Coast.  I am fascinated by the colors of the varying coastal light as it reflects off the ocean, sand and rocks, or filters through the lush forests.  The excellent archival qualities of encaustics are a definite advantage. 

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