Encaustic art can create some very intricate and visually complex pieces, not only using color composition and blending via varying opacities, but also texture and tactile complexity. This is because encaustic art involves using melted wax, usually mixed with a pigment, as a painting medium. With so many compositional factors to keep in mind, it might be hard for beginners to know where to even begin when attempting to try encaustic painting. Here are ten tips for starting out.
Determine Your Medium and Canvas
Since wax is a heavier medium, you’re going to want either encaustic board or wood as a canvas. These can be bought at almost any craft store, or even the hardware store if you plan on using wood.
Picking Your Wax
For just starting out, I recommend “encaustic medium”, as it is prepared specifically for encaustic art, and all you have to do is melt it and you’re ready to start. As for color and opacity, the sky’s the limit.
Now that you have your medium and canvas, it’s time to pick up all the other materials you’ll need. These would be:
-Small Heat Gun or Propane Torch
-Natural Bristle Brushes (hog or goat hair is preferred)
-Encaustic Pigments (if you plan on making your own colors)
-Collage Materials (if desired)
Composing Your Image
While you’re free to just go to town on a blank canvas when learning how the medium reacts and responds to the wood, eventually you’ll want to have a plan when making more intentional pieces. Make a rough sketch of the composition on the wood block using a very light pencil (5H or 6H artist pencil) so you have a guide for where to apply the wax.
Heat up your hot plate to about 170-200 degrees and wait for your wax to be completely liquid before painting, otherwise, you might end up with some uneven chunks mixed in. If you want, set up two hot plates, one for opaque and one for transparent wax, that way you can experiment with both.
Applying The Wax
The key to using a wax medium is to ensure both the wax and the brush remain hot and applying the wax in layers. You also may want to apply a base layer of clear wax as a base coat and work your way up from there. Patience is key, don’t rush it.
Fusing The Wax
In order to get the layers to adhere evenly, you’ll want to fuse them with heat. After applying each layer of wax, brush the torch back and forth over the entire canvas to fuse the layers together.
If desired, try laying down collage elements like photos or other paper or thin objects between layers.
Here’s where those scraping tools come in. Play around with scraping or marking the wax.
This is the most important part! Don’t try to make it perfect, just experiment and find what works for you!