Avril Scott commented on Jackson’s Smooth Wooden Panels on jacksonart.com, saying they are a perfect base for encaustic painting as they stand up to the heat incredibly well without separating. We asked her to take us through her encaustic process and why Jackson’s panels work so well for her.
The Right Surface for Encaustic Painting
by Avril Scott
I am an encaustic artist mainly producing abstract landscapes and seascapes.
Encaustic medium is made up of refined beeswax and a tree resin tapped from the Damar tree which is native to Asia. This mixture is melted together and mixed with natural pigments for colour before being used as “paint”. Because the medium must be molten for it to be usable, my “paintbrush” is a blowtorch!
Being an encaustic artist in the UK can be quite frustrating! The materials required can be quite hard to come by and in particular, finding suitable boards and panels to work on can be a problem. Canvas is not suitable for encaustic medium as it expands and contracts and could cause the wax to crack and flake off. Even securing canvas to a rigid board is not ideal as the glue can melt with the heat and lift from the board, again causing the wax to separate.
The molten wax must be painted onto a rigid but porous surface which allows it to penetrate into the wood to ensure a good, solid base on which to build up a painting. This is why Jackson’s wooden panels are so perfect for my work The surface of the Jackson’s panels is even and smooth with no knots or cracks, and most importantly, untreated, which is essential for encaustic as the wax will not penetrate through any type of varnish or acrylic gesso and the painting will simply slide off the board.
The Encaustic Process
My first step in an encaustic painting is to gently heat the board with a heat gun or blowtorch. This allows the grain to open up slightly which gives better adhesion for the very first layer of hot wax.
Because each painting is made of many, many layers of wax, each of which must be melted to the previous by using the blowtorch, the board must be able to stand up to constantly heating up and cooling down. The quality of Jackson’s wooden panels allows this without warping or separating from the cradle and are a more affordable–but equally good–option compared to specialist encaustic boards (which are great to work with but very expensive in comparison).
I particularly like the 50mm chunky boards which can be used freestanding or hanging and look great in a group, and the pricing of the Jackson’s boards allow me to indulge! The 20mm deep boards are also versatile as they can be wall hung as they are, but are also suitable for framing in a box frame and it is a luxury to have so many different shapes and sizes to choose from.
I tend not to frame my work but use a Japanese Shou Sugi Ban technique on the edges of the boards (instead of paint or varnish) for a beautiful rich, natural finish. This involves charring the wooden edges of the cradle with a blowtorch before cleaning and waxing to bring out the grain of the wood.
Having tried this technique on other types of board/panel, I found that sometimes the panel would separate from the cradle or the grain of the wood would be inferior and split with the heat. I haven’t had this problem with the Jackson’s panels generally (only once…and it was my fault for going too hot!).
These cradled panels are reassuringly solid but not too heavy and even the large sizes are easy to hang despite having numerous layers of wax on the surface.
Although encaustic is a very old art form, it is not particularly well known or used as a medium in the UK as a whole and especially in Scotland, and I have found it quite difficult or sometimes impossible to buy supplies locally. Thankfully Jackson’s have come to the rescue with their amazing selection of encaustic paint (I want at least 10 of each…), ready made encaustic medium (ideal for encaustic beginners), boards and panels of all types, and dry pigments–all of which are high quality and great value.
About Avril Scott
I am a self-taught artist who has worked in watercolour for a long time but I have been exploring and working with encaustic for approximately 2 years – and I am still discovering things to do with it! At present, I am experimenting with encaustic bowls and vessels and the 3D possibilities of the medium.
I work from my shed in a small seaside town near Edinburgh. Lucky enough to have the sea within a five minute walk, a lot of my inspiration comes from my daily dog walks on the shores of the East Coast of Scotland and my views of small islands, horizons and hills – both at my local beach (Portobello, Edinburgh) or further into the Scottish Highlands. And let’s not forget the Scottish weather – usually four seasons in one day! Scudding clouds feature heavily in my work!
If you would like to find out more about the ancient art of encaustic please visit my website here.
You can view our whole encaustic department here.
Calling all artists to share their views!
We would like to encourage you to write a review on our website of any products that you have used. Simply navigate to the product you wish to review and click on the ‘Reviews’ button beneath the product image. Be thoughtful and detailed – think about what information will be useful to others.
Each month we will be selecting several well-written examples which will be published on our blog. The writer of the best review will receive a £25 Jackson’s gift voucher plus a photograph of them in their studio (if they wish) and a link to their website will appear alongside their review.