Materials You’ll Need for Encaustic Painting

This weekend, for the first time ever, I gave encaustic painting a try. And, something cool happened. I got creative mixing mediums other than just encaustic mediums. I incorporated oil paints and pastel along with the Beeswax and Damar Resin. The process certainly inspired me to push the envelope and take some risks. As much as I love acrylics, there was something intriguing and aesthecially pleasing about working with the encaustic mediums.

Before I delve into the process, let’s talk materials. It’s critial to use the appropriate materials for this process and to be mindful while you’re working with these products. You’re working over a hot surface and are constantly melting the wax and resin. You must always be aware while you’re creating and be careful not to burn yourself. To be extra careful, buy silicone hand protectors. (I’ll be buying those today after this experience)! In my image below, take note of these materials and write them down. You’ll need:

  1. A board/wood (Not canvas)
  2. Beeswax
  3. Damar Resin mixed with Beeswax
  4. Natural bristle brushes (Do not use synthetic)
  5. Tins for mixing your pigment and the melted wax and resin
  6. I added: Oil Paints and Oil Pastels to the mix.

Other Materials

Other materials you’ll want to consider are:

  1. Sand paper to sand and smooth your surface
  2. A heatgun
  3. An old pancake heater/pan to melt your Beeswax and Damar Resin mixture. Note: once you use a kitchen utensil for encaustic painting, you cannot use it for cooking after. Either buy something new or use something old for your wax melting source.

FIRST STEP IN ENCAUSTIC PAINTING

The first thing you’ll want to do is prepare your surface. I found old scraps of wood in my basement and simply sanded the boards. However, I didn’t want the surface to be too smooth as I wanted texture. From one of my photographs, I selected an image of a landscape shot I took while on my travels through Whistler, Canada in 2018 with the International 22Q Foundation. It’s 22Q awareness month, and am also using this opportunity to raise awareness of this condition. If you haven’t heard of 22Q, Google it, anybody could have it. You can find everything about 22Q on the organization’s website if you’re curious.

Ok, on to the encaustic painting process. While preparing my surface, I allowed the Beeswax and Damar Resin to melt. It was so exciting to watch. I’ve wanted to do encaustic painting forever, since I learned about it in my art history class at the art institute I attended for four years in downtown Milwaukee, where I earned my Bachelor’s in Fine Arts.

Next Steps in Encaustic Painting

Next, once the Beeswax and Damar Resin had melted, I applied several layers on to the entire board, maybe close to about ten. I knew I’d be using the heattgun a lot to achieve certain effects, so plenty of layers of the Beeswax/Resin is essential. After every application of Beeswax/Damar Resin and Oil Paint, I used the heatgun to fuse everything. That’s the point of the heatgun: to fuse the wax and the paint to your surface. Once my first layers of the Beeswax/Resin were added, I then mixed the melted hot wax and resin with oil paint. And yes, I used old tins of emptied cat food (thoroughly cleaning them, first!). Hey, if I don’t have to spend money, I will use what’s around and repurpose it!

From the Top of the Painting Down

Using a viewfinder, I held it to the photograph (which you’ll see at the end of this post!), and with white oil paint and Beeswax/Damar Resin mixture, I painted the mountains across the middle of my board from left to right, separating the background and foreground. Then, I mixed my blue pigment with white in another tin, stirring in the Beeswax and Damar Resin. I started with the sky, blending an extremely light sky-blue hue. After I applied each layer of pigment and the wax mixture, I used the heatgun to fuse. Every time you add the paint and wax mixture, after each application, you MUST be mindful to always use the heatgun. The tool’s purpose isn’t simply for interesting effects, that’s just a perk of it; you want to fuse and lock everything in place. This is a very involved process and not one you want to get lazy doing. Rely on that heatgun and be very careful.

More of the Process

When I was satisfied with the sky and clouds, I focused my attention on the mountains. This is where I wanted that texture to show through and it sure did! In layers, I built up a dark gray color, fused it, let it dry, and then added white, fused that, let it dry and scraped and repeated until I was satisfied. I wanted it to have a feeling of abstraction, too. The only area of the painting where I scraped was mostly the mountains as I wanted the sky and other areas to appear smooth and silky. I didn’t get to photograph myself scraping, was too difficult doing it with one hand. I used a painting tool I had lying around in my basement and went to town with it.

The Mountains to the Foreground of the Painting

I spent several hours on those mountains, experimenting with numerous techniques. With a natural bristle brush, I dabbed color and the melted Beeswax. The Beeswax mixture aided in the spreading and distribution of the color, which I liked. The foreground of the painting, I needed to balance texture and smoothness to emphasize rock and snow. Rocks are textured and snow is smooth. Thankfully, I was able to balance it out and the heatgun really assisted in that. Areas of the foreground, as you can see, have a lot of texture and a three-dimensional feel to it. The sloping snow on the mountains, I wanted to be sure to capture.

Finishing Touches and Details

Each segment of this painting, I gave equal time and attention to: the sky, the mountains and the slopes in the foreground. The painting took me two days to do. I added oil pastel to certain areas for more texture as well, mindful to use the heatgun after each application. Encaustic painting wasn’t as difficult and intimidating as I thought it was; it’s simply another kind of medium. I even got creative and mixed mediums for some cool effects.

I’m not sure if other artists also used oil paints as the pigments in the Beeswax/Damar mixture. But it worked beautifully, and I was able to achieve the look and feel I wanted. There is a boarder around the painting, as you can see, so I repeated the same process: applying several layers of the Beeswax/Damar Resin mixture first, heatgunning it, and then I painted the edges a smoky gray color to complement the image. If and when you try this method of encaustic painting, tag me on Instagram, I’d love to see your photos.

Here is my finished painting below in comparison to the photograph from my collection of photos.

Whistler, Canada: Photograph By Tessa Koller

Disclaimer:

Please note that the purpose of this blog is only to showcase my creative process and artwork as well as clothing designs. Materials I used to produce this encaustic painting should be done so with extra caution and guidance from a professional if you’re new to the medium. You must be in a well-ventilated studio space and don’t wear clothes you care about. Other materials you should consider are non-latex gloves and a mask so you don’t inhale or breathe the medium in. Thank you for stopping by and reading the post!

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