Spencer Arts: About Encaustic Paint


     Encaustic is a technique comprised of painting with individual applications of hot resin-reinforced colored bees wax that

fuse together as they are applied. Ground pigment is first added to individual portions of the molten mixture to produce 

the needed color palette. In about 20 seconds,the resultant mixture cools and hardens to form a permanent surface that can be left in a non-glossy rough state or can be polished to a gloss that looks much like an enamel surface.

     If the painting surface is kept sufficiently warm, free flowing manipulations and blending may be accomplished while, if the surface is allowed to cool slightly, newly introduced colors have less tendency to flow and therefore will stand 

separately, resulting in individual passages that appear more brilliant than others. By fully exploiting these options very free and dramatic results can be obtained.

        Since encaustic paint is molten, it doesn't always go the way one plans. Spontaneity on the part of the artist becomes essential. This type of artwork becomes a catalyst for change. Accidental things happen as one goes along.  The artist has to give up control and surrender to the process, allowing images to present themselves as they wish. The artist becomes the channel. The final paintings are viewer interpretive.

        The first known use of encaustic (which is Greek for "Burning In")  was in ancient Greece followed soon in ancient Rome, Artists painted on statues, walls, and wood panels with colored wax. Ancient portraits attest to the fact that encaustic is the most durable artists' paint there is. It is impervious to moisture, will not deteriorate over time, nor will it yellow.


       The basic effects from the iron's use with wax colors have led many people to experience lasting effects in their own lives. The molten nature of the encaustic medium must find reflection in the experiences of it's users. We cannot breathe without the contents of that breath affecting our body. We can not eat without the molecules of that food entering into our 

system, our health and vitality. We can not walk without moving. And so, as we involve ourselves in melting wax colors and interacting with that process we too are made malleable. Our reactions, our thoughts and concepts must be influenced by the immersion into any practice.


     We are creators, each one, and as we live moment by moment. We reflect and reciprocate, or not. How ever we react can vary from one to another. Yet we have no choice but to react in some way or other. The more deeply we connect with our present moment experiences the more powerfully we live as creators. So to find such a wide range of effects within the arena of encaustic practice obviously offers a volatile opportunity for affecting our concepts and ideas.

     Preconception can become a great limitation. We conceive of and fix our destination, we determine how our future will be rather than live the ever presenting moments as we find them.  And each activity, each focus that holds our attention, each practice we engage with offers it's qualities to us for assessment, digestion and assimilation. And so the nature of the mediums we choose to work with amplify certain aspects of possibility and imbue certain characteristics that they embody into us.

      The encaustic effects affect those who enter into relationship with the wax medium. The solid becomes malleable, the malleable becomes liquid. Flow, form, edges, mixtures and textures occur as we proceed. And all the time this happens when our attention, our "heat" is focused on the medium. For as soon as we remove that presence of heat the wax reverts to a malleable form, then sets and becomes solid once more. The change has happened. And for many people that change has created reaction and been found reflected in new ways of living and fresh focus of life and interest. 

     Encaustic wax is not unique in the creative process we call life; it is one of the numerous possible interests and activities for our focus. But it is unique in that it has its own particular essence, it's own individuality, just as we each do. It is not a 

medium everyone will love, but it is a powerful catalyst if embraced in a certain creative manner. Its effects can and do affect those who engage.  And encaustic does change lives, directions and focus for many of its enthusiasts.

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