About Encaustic Painting
Copy of a Fayume Portrait done in encaustic
Summer, 2002

To improve and develop my skills as a painter, I am taking an encaustic class at the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA).  Encaustic painting involves using beeswax and pigments to create images. The wax is built up in thin layers, fusing each layer to the previous one with heat (in our case, by using a hand held propane torch.)  It is the oldest known type of painting, and the first technique we learned was that used in Roman times by the people in a Greek colony in Egypt (approximately 80 AD.)   They created the Fayume Portraits that were discovered attached to mummies.  Our first exercise was to copy one of those portraits.  Here's my first encaustic painting:
As the class progresses, we are learning different techniques, some of which combine different media with the beeswax and pigments. Here are some examples of my experiments with those different methods:
Scratch and Fill 2
Scratch and Fill 1
Scratch and fill technique - A beeswax surface is built up, with or without pigment, and then a line is incised into the surface. The incised line is filled with colored beeswax and the surface is scraped down smooth, leaving a crisp line drawing.
Watercolor technique - Dry pigments are mixed with water and applied to a built-up beeswax surface. The watercolor surface is fused to the underlying wax using a handheld propane torch.  Different watercolor consistencies and degrees of dryness give different results after fusing. In this painting, I used a very heavy paste-like consistency of watercolor, and only let it partially dry. When I fused it, the watercolor layer fractured and broke apart, giving a beautiful dynamic feeling to the piece.
Watercolor technique, overlayed with beeswax and oil bar
Collage technique - Different collage elements are applied and burnished into a beeswax surface. Paper, pressed leaves and flowers, fabrics, almost anything that is flat and permeable can be used with success.  It's possible to fuse the collage materials to the wax surface without covering with another layer of wax first.  This makes for some very interesting experimentation.
Flower Collage
Paper Collage
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All images and content copyright Patricia M. Heimerl. All rights reserved.