Thursday, October 28, 2010

What the heck is encaustic?

I've had several people ask me this. A simple answer is the artwork contains wax as a material, typically mixed with pigment. Jasper Johns made encaustic famous with his target paintings, flags, the number 5, and his maps, but it's been around since the Egyptians were using it in mummy portraits in 100-300 A.D. I use wax to make collages and don't mix pigment with my beeswax/damar resin concoction but basically use it as an adhesive (resin makes the beeswax a little harder, a little more durable).

Here's one of my encautic collages here.

There are all kinds of techniques in working with wax that I won't go into here, but in a nutshell it involves a heat gun or an iron to fuse the layer of wax to the layer below. Some encaustic artists use 100% beeswax, some have come up with their own special formula of wax to resin. I use 10:1, beeswax:resin. I heat the wax resin mixture in my special wax melting equipment--crockpot from the Goodwill--on low. I move my operation onto the back porch where it's well ventilated.

When the mixture is is all melted, I don my respirator an pour it into small tin loaf pans.  (The resin takes awhile to melt, so I do myself a favor and crush it into bits instead of leaving it in chunks, taking hours off the melting time.)
After the wax has hardened, I pop it out of the tin and scrape off the bits of debris carried in the resin. I don't go through the bother of straining my wax/resin mixture like some do, but scrape it off instead--easy enough since the particles of debris sink to the bottom of the tin. You can see the tree bits. The scape off easily with a pocket knife or an old credit card.
Encaustic medium is for sale for those that don't want to bother melting and combining wax with resin. What's the fun in that? I personally am process kinda girl!


Anonymous said...

I received your inquiry via Lucy Frost and wanted to let you know that Hyde Park Bar & Grill is currently booked through 2011. I will put you on file and when I begin the next round of booking, I will let you know if/when your work is selected for a show.

Very interesting...keep up the good and complicated work.

Anne Ducote

Cathy Savage said...

Great news Anne, thank you!