Encaustic is beeswax and damar resin, which is a natural tree sap that acts as a hardening agent. I cover my cracked plaster and watercolor with clear encaustic, fusing each layer with a heat gun or torch. Other materials like gold leaf, shellac and pigmented encaustic wax are sometimes added on top within layers of encaustic.
Encaustic painting has a long history, dating back to the 5th Century B.C. when the Egyptians used it to seal and decorate their boats. A collection of portraits known as the Fayum Portraits were done on the coffins of mummies in Egypt. Many of these can be seen today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Unlike many mediums that can fade, Encaustic color and the colors of materials imbedded in the encaustic stand the test of time.
The word encaustic means to burn in, which refers to the process of fusing the wax. Beeswax is impervious to moisture so it will not deteriorate, yellow or darken. Encaustic paintings do not have to be varnished or protected by glass.
How to Care for Your Encaustic Artwork
Treat an encaustic painting as you would any fine art. Use care hanging, transporting or storing a painting.
Hang and store at normal room temperatures. Avoid freezing and extremely hot temperatures; wax will melt at 150°F / 65°C.
As with all artwork, keep my paintings out of direct sunlight.
Encaustic does not need to be protected by glass.
During the first 6-12 months, as the wax cures, an encaustic painting will develop bloom. Bloom is a naturally occurring hazy white residue. It may also occur if a painting is exposed to cold. Bloom can easily be removed by buffing the surface of the painting with the heel of your hand or a very soft t-shirt/cloth.
My encaustic work should shine! If the original shine has become dull over time, it can be brought back by repeating the buffing process.
Be aware that the surface is susceptible to scratching and/or chipping if not handled with care.
Encaustic paintings should always be shipped and stored in a temperature controlled environment and always protected from extreme heat or freezing.