Understanding Encaustic Painting

encaustic paintingEncaustic painting is an art technique that involves the use of heated beeswax mixed with colored pigments that are then applied to a surface. The common surfaced used usually are wood although canvas as well as other materials may also be utilized. This method is also called hot wax painting since it involves applying wax in its liquid or paste form into a surface before it hardens.


Encaustic or hot wax painting is actually an ancient method of art. Early records of this painting technique dates back to records made by Pliny the Elder written sometime during the 1st Century AD. It discussed the different encaustic methods used by the Romans and the Greeks in the 4th and 5th Century BC.

The ancient art technique somehow became a lost art form sometime during the Middle Ages up to the 18th Century. Other methods allowed artists to create paintings without having to deal with the difficult task of handling fire and hot wax needed in encaustic painting.

The art technique went through a revival sometime during the late 19th Century when encaustic artifacts found in ancient Herculaneum and Pompeii sometime mid 18th Century gave people a glimpse once more of the lost art form.

Ancient Encaustic Techniques

The ancient traditional method involves melting wax down in order to achieve a thin consistency after which a pigment is added to give it color. The wax should remain hot or in liquid form in order to apply into a preferred surface. The Greeks and the Romans then pass a heat source close to the surface of a finished art work in order to fuse together and bond the different colors.

Other ancient techniques describe the use of punic wax melted in fire and mixed with a little oil. It is then applied to a surface using a strong brush. Hot charcoal is then placed in an iron vessel in order to heat the wax applied. Once the wax melts, it is smoothed over using a waxed cord or a clean linen cloth. This ancient technique was once employed in order to preserve frescoes.

Image Source: Wikipedia

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