To view the Jackson's Art Supplies Encaustic Painting Playlist on our YouTube Channel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhH7wxXrGSY&list=PLi86B3jOHkDZSr7_HF0yzsmHyt3WPUvDL
Encaustic is a beeswax-based painting medium that is worked with heat. It can be used as a luminous traditional painting medium, but it also has the potential to obscure the boundaries between mediums like no other art material, resulting in works that are just as much about painting or sculpture as they are about photography, drawing, printmaking, installation or a variety of craft techniques. Artists of all kinds are discovering its unifying potential, unique properties and versatility.
The word encaustic is ancient Greek for “burning in” which refers to the process used after painting on each layer, where you heat the whole painting to fuse the top layer to the layer underneath. I thought that encaustic might be fragile, either melting like a Christmas candle in the loft or chipping and flaking like a candle dropped on the floor. But it turns out that it is quite durable, perhaps more so than an oil painting, and the hardener in the medium means it won’t melt until a very high temperature, or as I heard someone say once: “ If your encaustic painting is melting, your house is on fire”.
The surface needs to be rigid to avoid cracking and porous so the wax adheres well. Acrylic primers and gessos will not work. A real gesso on a wood panel, watercolour paper glued with acrylic gel (under the paper it will be fine) onto a panel, or canvas stretched over a panel are all good choices. You can also paint the wax directly onto the wood or canvas without gesso, the first layer of wax will just soak in more.
There are a few simple steps to the process: prime your surface with a layer of wax to paint on, then heat the whole painting to fuse each layer to the layer before. So it is: paint then fuse, paint then fuse. With a final “burning in” to heat the whole artwork so the layers become one thick piece of wax. You can buff up the final painting for a shine; it doesn’t need to be varnished. Then either paint the edges of the panel to make it presentable for hanging or frame it in a floater or tray frame to prevent chipping the wax overhang off the edges.
As with all artwork care must be taken to insure it is treated properly. It will not be affected my moisture. Heat over 150 degrees Fahrenheit will cause melting and cold below 40 degrees Fahrenheit will cause the wax to separate from the support.
The ability to use additional materials is quite interesting. You can use encaustic with a bit of oil colour (too much will keep the encaustic layers from sticking to each other), oil pastel, oil paint sticks, and dry pastels and charcoal, painting or drawing directly on the wax. You can paint the waxes over a watercolour painting, ink drawing or photograph. You can transfer photo copies to the wax, wetting the paper and rubbing it away. You can embed objects like leaves and paper collage in the layers of wax. You can incise lines and fill them with oil colour, wiping away the excess.
When fusing, very high heat can burn the wax or make is so liquid that the image blurs. Clay tools are used to scrape away ridges of overlapped wax to make it smoother before heating, or to gouge areas to make it rougher for added texture. Brushes are not cleaned, but left filled with the hardened cold wax and are then forever used with wax of similar colours, they melt when they are heated again.
Encaustic is perhaps the most beautiful of all artists' paints, and it is as versatile as any 21st century medium. It can be polished to a high gloss, carved, scraped, layered, collaged, dipped, cast, modeled, sculpted, textured, and combined with oil. It cools immediately, so that there is no drying time, yet it can always be reworked.
Wax is its own varnish. Encaustic paintings do not have to be varnished or protected by glass because encaustic, which is the most durable of all artists' paints, is its own protector. This is because beeswax is impervious to moisture, which is one of the major causes of deterioration in a paint film. Wax resists moisture far more than resin varnish or oil. Buffing encaustic will give luster and saturation to color in just the same way resin varnish does.
Encaustic paint will not yellow or darken. However, wax itself is photoreactive, so unpigmented encaustic medium that has been kept in dark storage will darken slightly. When re-exposed to light that darkening will bleach out.
Encaustic paint does not require the use of solvents. As a result, a number of health hazards are reduced or eliminated.
Layers of extended color can be laid one on top of another or separated by layers of straight medium to create unusual translucent effects (with no wait for drying time between layers). Glazing can be done by greatly extending a color with the medium. There is no technical danger in adding large amounts of medium to a color as there is in adding large amounts of oil to oil paint. The encaustic can also be made more fluid by adding medium or raising its temperature a little.
For variations of surface effects, different degrees of fusing can be employed. Well fused paint will take a higher polish than paint that is not as thoroughly fused.
Palette Cups can be used to melt large amounts of paint at one time. They are excellent for keeping colors pure, or for saving mixes. Our palette cups are made of a heavy aluminum and steel alloy. Large Rectangular cups can hold one 104 ml cake while Small Rectangular Cups are perfect for the 40 ml cakes. Each size is offered in a handy 3-pack.
This is an essential component of painting safely with encaustics. Perfect for reading the temperature of your encaustic palette or other heated surfaces. The surface thermometer has a temperature range of 50°-600° F.
Wax Crayons were once the drawing material of choice for children. However today they are very popular among artists who like to work with a material that is brightly coloured and easy to transport, as well as one that can be diluted in water and blended with ease. Here is a guide to our favoute wax crayons for artists.
Very thick and highly pigmented, which makes them very well suited to large scale work that demands broad strokes of waxy colour. Colours are bright and semi opaque, and watersoluble too, so that you can dilute them to create less intense colour, stains and washes which can be worked over the top of once dry.
The Neocolour range is non toxic and safe for use by children. The consistency is softer than NeoArt, and there is a greater range of colours – 123 individual colours and 7 different sets, in contrast to the 2 limited sets available from the Neoart range. The Neoart crayons are much wider and some say that the Neocolour crayons are easier to hold. The Neocolour I range is not watersoluble but the Neocolour II is fully watersoluble.
Cretacolor Aquastics are effectively watersoluble oil pastels. They are more transparent that Neocolor II pastels and have more subtle shades in their range. They are the ideal material to take abroad for painting as they can be used like watercolour or oil as soon as water is added to them. I recommend these pastels to those who are learning about drawing and painting and are looking for a material that bridges the gap between the 2 picture making processes.
Derwent Artbars are very similar to the Aquastics. Their differences lie in the shape (they are triangular for easy grip) and the colour range (Artbars only have 72 colours in comparison to Aquastic’s 123). I have also found the Artbars to be a little harder in their consistency than Aquastics, making them achieve sharper, less smudgy marks.
Oil sticks or Oil Bars are essentially oil paint in stick form - pure pigments suspended in a linseed or safflower oil binder. The difference with conventional oil colour is that it is then mixed with a specially selected wax. This thickens the consistency of the colour. Oil sticks are sold with a dried layer of the colour encasing the non-dry colour underneath, so to begin work many artists like to use a knife to chop off the end of the stick. You can use oil sticks to draw directly on to your support to make crayon-like marks which can then be blended or worked into with oil, turpentine, or oil paint. Some artists like the effect of drawing with an oil stick into wet oil paint on a support as it creates expressive textures. You could also use it to apply watercolour-thin layers of colour by using a brush immersed in turpentine to lift colour from the stick, ready to paint with.
Oil pastels are made of pigments bound in a non drying oil and wax binder. They are thought to have been originally developed by Sennelier who acted on the requests of Pablo Picasso, who wanted to find a painting and drawing medium that could be applied to ‘wood, paper, canvas or metal, without having to prepare or prime the surface". Oil Pastels are often favoured by artists who find conventional soft pastels too dusty or chalk for their liking. Oil pastels are creamier in their consistency, and the texture is noticeably more moist (a result of the presence of wax in their make-up). They are incredibly versatile and can be used to draw into oil or acrylic colour. Many artists enjoy working with them in mixed media projects.
Artist’s oil pastels differ from children’s wax crayons as they have a far superior lightfastness classification (although this varies between brands). They tend to be softer than wax crayons and less pressure is required to apply colour to the surface you are drawing or painting on to.
The consistency of oil pastels can be manipulated with heat; a cold oil pastel will feel harder and marks will appear sharper; more pressure is needed to deposit the colour on to your support. When an oil pastel is cold it is a better drawing material as fine and broad lines can easily be drawn; some artists keep their oil pastels out of doors or in a fridge in order to keep them hard in this way. An oil pastel that has been warmed up, either on a radiator or in your hands, will become more malleable, and the colour will glide on to your surface with less pressure. When oil pastels are warm their properties start to resemble those of oil paint, and as a result more painterly effects can be achieved. Oil pastel colour can be thinned with solvents, and extended with linseed oil, in exactly the same way as can be done with oil paint. Oil pastels are used by some oil painters to draw into wet oil paint, perhaps to re-establish a composition in a painting or to add texture or detail.
Oil pastels can be used with media of any kind, the only thing to bear in mind is that it never properly sets or dries and so is a relatively unstable material on which to overlay other drawing and painting media – one would have to protect the work well by framing it under glass or by fixing it with a special oil pastel fixative so that the work did not deteriorate over time. Oil pastels are popular among mixed media artists as vibrant colour is easily applied, and blended into other material including soft pastel, watercolour, coloured pencils and graphite, without any adverse effects. Sgraffito is often used in oil pastel technique as its surface can very easily be scratched into at any point during the picture making surface – when the oil pastel is applied thickly, very little effort is required to scratch into the colour, which means that paper and other supports are not at any risk of being ripped or damaged inadvertently.
Oil Pastels are a useful art supply to keep in stock as they are so versatile. Oil pastels are wonderful for creating finished oil pastel paintings, but not only that; they can also be very useful in creating quick preparatory sketches and colour studies. The best oil pastels will be those with the highest pigment concentration. Because the pigment to binder ratio is greater, the properties of the pigment within the pastel will influence the behaviour and characteristic of each individual pastel, i.e. a French ultramarine oil pastel will appear more transparent than a Cerulean Blue oil pastel in the same way that a French Ultramarine oil paint would appear more transparent than a Cerulean Blue oil paint, and this is why the characteristics of each pastel in the range of Sennelier oil pastels more greatly vary than the characteristics to be found among the range of Inscribe oil pastels, for example. As well as pigment saturation, a professional grade oil pastel will have an even consistency that does not show any lumps or particles of wax binder when the colour is thinned over an area.
Sennelier Oil Pastels are very soft in their consistency and the colour glides on with the least amount of pressure out of all the ranges available at Jackson’s Art Supplies. However, because the colour is so saturated, the sticks last a long time as very little of the pastel is required to achieve bold marks, and even less required when applying the pastel colour thinly. They layer over each other and other media very well, and the opaque colours have unbeatable coverage. When heated up siginificantly, the Sennelier oil pastels can be used in an almost sculptural way; one can use a palette knife to apply and sculpt the colour on to one’s support. Sennelier oil pastels are available individually as open stock, as well as in sets of assorted and themed sets such as landscape, still life and portrait sets.
Cretacolor’s Aqua Stics are often compared to Caran d’Aches’s Neocolor II watersoluble wax pastel range, however the Aqua Stics do have oil content (unlike the Neocolor II’s). Another important difference is that when the Aqua Stics are thinned or spread with water, they retain much of the vibrancy of the dry colour in a way that the Neocolor II’s do not (these colours significantly lose their colour strength when diluted in water). Cretacolor market the Aqua Stic by stating that they can be used with watercolour and encaustic in mixed media projects, and will adhere to a variety of supports including cardboard, canvas, wood, leather, glass and mirrors. As with other oil pastels, sgraffito techniques (the scratching into colour) is very effective. Aqua Stics have been known to be a little crumbly and hard when cold; in my opinion they perform best when heated up in one’s hand prior to use. Aqua Stics are available in sets of 10, 20, 40 and 80. Cretacolor Aqua Stic watersoluble oil pastels possess excellent levels of light fastness.
The other ranges of oil pastels available at Jackson’s Art Supplies have lower pigment saturation levels, and are less lightfast. Their qualities vary between the ranges; here is a guide to the oil pastels available.
Academy oil pastels are suited to children ages 9 and up as well as those looking for a cheap but well made oil pastel range for experimenting in; for learning oil pastel painting techniques. There are 36 colour in the range and the colours blend with one another perfectly well. The pastels are individually wrapped in paper so that you do not have to get dirty hands when working and are available in sets of 12, 24 and 36 (all under a tenner!).
Daler Rowney oil pastels are a good value range for quick oil pastel sketches and experimental mixed media work. In comparison to Sennelier oil pastels they are of a lesser quality in my opinion; this is because they sometimes have an uneven consistency within the stick. When the pastel is thinned there are sometimes noticeable lumps in the pastel colour – which are formed by the binder which has not been properly blended with the pigment. There are 37 colours in the range which perfectly match colour in the soft pastel range. This is convenient if you intend to try a mixed media work which incorporates both materials.
Pentel oil pastels have a large diameter and good 48 colour range, and many schools favour them for art lessons. They have good blendability and have good resistance to breaking even when used with larger amount of pressure. Pentel oil pastels are a cheap option for professional artists who need a basic set of pastels in the studio, but are equally well suited to children from ages 9 and upwards through to GCSE art students looking to explore colour and form in their art projects. They have relatively good lightfastness levels which enable finished work to be put on display on a classroom wall with most of the colours retaining their luminosity (some of the reds and pinks are known to suffer the effects of strong sunlight over longer periods of time).
Inscribe are my favourite low cost range of oil pastel as they are reliable and have a lovely colour range. They have a slightly harder consistency than some of the other oil pastels and as a result are particularly effective in drawing lines. I like to use mine to draw into wet oil paint on canvas (the solvents I used to thin my paints break down the colour of the oil pastel and allow interesting textures to emerge in the quality of the lines drawn). They are only available in sets of 12, 24, 36 and 48, and all under £12! Highly recommended for a good combination of quality and price.