This week features Encaustic Medium.
Encaustic, meaning “to burn in” in Greek, dates back to the 5th century B.C. Used in present day, it is a versatile method of painting with a beeswax-based paint kept molten on a heated palette.
Encaustic medium is more than just beeswax, though. It is a combination of beeswax and damar resin. The damar resin keeps the beeswax translucent (prevents it from going white when cooled, also known as wax ‘bloom’) and gives the surface a sheen that can be polished with a cloth to truly let your work shine. We are NOT using Ranger’s beeswax. It is in no way the same stuff. R&F Handmade Paints makes encaustic medium. There is also a wonderfully named, Clairvoyant Encaustics, that makes encaustic medium. Google, talk to your art supply store. You can find it.
Using an absorbent and sturdy support, encaustic artists mix colors, apply wax, fuse, etch, layer, collage, transfer images and incorporate found objects.
You can melt encaustic medium in a Ranger melting pot (set to 210 degrees F.)
or use a flat griddle (Kohls has had these at times really inexpensive)
or use a specifically designed heated palette.
It goes without saying (but I’m still going to say it) that anything you use for art, stays for art. No pancakes will be made on this palette, ok? Whatever you use, you need to regulate the temperature. A safe working temperature between 180 and 210 degrees F. must be maintained.
Also, work in a well-ventilated area. A fan is your friend. Now that the weather is getting warmed up, open up that window and get to melting on the inside.
Speaking of melting – you will need a heat tool for fusing (remelting) layers. Ranger’s Embossing Heat Tool works well. You can also buy a tool with a variable heat range – which is desirable when working with encaustics.
High heat creates a smooth surface. Low heat, retains brushstrokes. No blow dryers. We aren’t looking to move things around as much as melt them. Well, not always intentionally… could be fun but you don’t really want hot stuff splattering everywhere. Art Safely, folks!
The last thing you will need to get started is a brush to apply the wax. This brush will never be used for anything else – there is no surefire way to get wax out of a brush. You can find relatively inexpensive hake brushes, which are made for this. Or grab a clean natural bristle paint brush and give it a go.
Sounds like a lot of fun, right? There is so much to cover this week. For our first two techniques, we are going to start with two ‘finishing techniques’: image transfer and texture transfer. For these, you can just use a piece of thick cardstock, chipboard or watercolor paper as your substrate. I don’t want you to go expensive to start – we are just experimenting. Even though my video shows an already developed encaustic painting as the starting point – just start from blank, with medium and get a feeling for it before you dive in. We have all the time in the world to do that.
So it”s like dessert-first day. On to our ‘frosting’!!
For image transfer, you have to use toner-based copies, or images printed on a laser printer. This image is a combination of a couple of digital overlays that I formatted for a 6×6 printout.
Apply a layer of encaustic medium to your substrate and let it cool. The wax has to be cooled, or you will be pushing it around and off your project during this step and it will stick to your image and not transfer.
When the wax is cool, you place the image, face-down, onto your project and place a piece of wax paper over the top. Then use the back of a spoon to burnish the image onto the wax, so that it makes contact with the wax on every part of the image. This is important – if you think you’ve burnished it enough, do it some more.
Once the image is adhered to the surface, remove the wax paper. Then use a spray bottle to spritz the paper evenly and moisten the paper thoroughly. Then lightly moving your finger in a circular motion, remove the paper. More spritzing and gently removing. You can stop and return to this step at any time. Doing so will actually show you how much you’ve accomplished as the paper will reappear when it gets dry. It is time consuming to remove the paper – but one of the best methods of image transfer I have ever experienced. That is why I chose such a detailed image.
Note, if you want to incorporate text, you need to flip the image before you print it out so that it is a mirror image. That way, the text will transfer correctly so you can read it on your project.
No melting during that step – if you remelt the medium before you’ve removed all the paper, the paper will be embedded in the wax.
Once that was done, I reheated the surface, just a tiny bit and let it cool to the touch. Then I placed a hard texture plate (this is from Fiskars), you could probably use an open embossing folder too for this… I placed it over the top of the image and pressed FIRMLY into the wax to create an impression. I’ve done this two ways in the past. If the impression is bold, I do it over a sheet of wax paper to prevent picking up the wax. But if the impression is detailed, I find the wax paper gets in the way. The nice thing about impression transfer is if you don’t like what you got — repeat! It’s got that miracle of oopsie factor that I love so much.
Here is a closer detail shot of the texture:
Isn’t the depth amazing?
Feel free to click on any of the images for a larger view of the picture.
So now that you’ve seen this technique, let’s get over it!