Everything you always wanted to know about encaustic, but were afraid to ask ;-)

Barb Toland Art Bites

I wanted to give you some options here. So if you want to watch me talk about the encaustic wax medium, take a look at this Youtube video. Or you can skip ahead to below the video, and read about it in my blog post. The choice is all yours!

So here's the thing, to many of you the art medium of encaustic is totally unfamiliar territory -- or at best you have a vague understanding of what it is.

And for those who do know what it is, well you may see it as unusual, or maybe even a bit exotic or quirky. At the very least, you probably see it as different than what you're normally exposed to in the world of art.


Most likely you don't yet have it collecting on your walls at home -- not because it's not a fine art form or lovely to look at, but simply because it's less understood & available in the world of art.

For the most part the 2D art world consists of oil, acrylic & watercolor -- and more recently, alcohol ink has increased in popularity. Throw in a smattering of mixed media, perhaps a sprinkling of pastels & a touch of pencil drawings, and that's what makes up the majority of 2D art.

And since encaustic is one of the mediums I've chosen to work in, I do "get" that introducing it into your world of possibilities was a big leap of faith on my part. Especially since a number of you know me for my watercolor paintings.

Unless you've met & talked to me in person during a workshop or demo, or you're someone who has been involved in the art world for awhile -- then encaustic art is probably either a complete unknown to you, or if you've heard of it, you're still not quite sure WHAT it is or WHY you should be interested in it at all.

I'm a firm believer in seeking information when I don't understand something & want to know more ... and I'm hoping that you're that way too! If you are, then keep reading because I'm about to explain everything you always wanted to know about encaustic art but were afraid to ask ;-)

So first to clarify WHAT it is, let's talk about the medium itself...

Encaustic wax mainly consists of 2 things: purified beeswax + a small amount of damar resin (crystallized tree sap).

But mostly it's beeswax, the tree resin is simply used to raise the melting temperature of the wax, and to add stability. Some artists make their own encaustic medium, and others like me, buy it online or in an art supply store.

To begin, the beeswax is melted in pots &/or tins resting on skillets, griddles & hot plates until liquid, and then typically applied with a brush to whatever is being created &/or enhanced. In addition to using wax transparently, color can also be added to it and then used to paint & embellish.

The only other thing you really need to know about how it's applied, is that once the hot, melted wax is brushed on, then a heat gun or blow torch is used to "fuse" the wax to what's under it, which creates a strong, permanent bond between them.

And last but not least, rest assured that it is a known & accepted medium in the world of art. It's been around for centuries, and has been enjoying a bit of a renaissance for the last several decades.

That's it in a nutshell. If you weren't sure to begin with, you now know WHAT the encaustic medium is.

Woohoo!!!! Doesn't that feel grand??? Now you can breathe a sigh of relief in knowing what the heck it is when somebody brings it up ;-)

The next question you might ask is -- WHY in the heck should I be interested in it?

Well of course my short, snarky answer is ... because I use it in my art lol.

But since I do passionately care as much about your knowledge & love of art as I do about having you collecting mine, I'll try the less snarky approach...

So let's get back to the question -- WHY should you care about the art of encaustic?

The best I have to share with you is what my experience with it has been, and why I love it as much as I do. Then perhaps thru sharing my own thoughts you'll get a better sense of it, and connect with it a bit more while strolling thru galleries & art festivals.

First of all, it's very easy to take care of, and you DO NOT have to worry about your art work melting, since the melting temperature of encaustic hovers around 150 degrees.

Of course you don't want to leave it in your car on a hot day. And like any other piece of fine art, you don't want it hanging in direct sunlight, or over a fireplace that doesn't have a mantle.

But it will do quite nicely on the walls of your climate controlled home -- and a nice, bright area is always a great place to show it off.

Secondly, since the beeswax is not only used to create & enhance art, but to protect it as well, I'm happy to say that it does much better if it's NOT behind glass.

You can easily let it live & breathe without something covering it. But just as you would for any work of art, you certainly don't want to scrape it with your fingernail or something sharp.

Simply leaving it exposed, and allowing it to breathe freely is how encaustic art is intended to live.

Which leads me to one of the MOST beautiful & delightful things that I absolutely LOVE about encaustic ... you can touch it. (Just don't do this in a gallery or museum or you'll most likely get booted out, and perhaps even hauled off to jail ... I'll bring bail $$ lol.)

But if it's part of your personal collection, or if the artist has given you permission, then by all means touch it. You will not harm it in any way. The beeswax is so inviting to run your hands over. It's so luxurious to feel the organic nature of the wax, and get to experience its texture & sculptural lines.

I like to think of it as the braille of art mediums :)

Which in turn leads me to the final, and probably the BIGGEST reason that I love the encaustic medium...

It's beautifully & delightfully organic -- made from the lives of many happy, busy bees. It comes from our natural world, and this my friends is the most magical thing about encaustic to me.

Yes, it looks wonderful as an art form. But to also be able to touch it and know that it was made by & from the natural world is why I cherish it the most. From the very first time I laid eyes on it & then learned what it was -- I was hooked.

And now you know a bit more about encaustic.

At the very least, it makes me happy knowing that YOU know more about the world of art. And at most, I'm hoping that you're now & forever enchanted with it!

So now you know what the encaustic medium is, and why it is loved by so many as an art medium for a very long time.

Here is my current collection of encaustic, mixed media art on cradled wood panels, which are larger works that can be prominently displayed on bigger areas of wall space.

I hope you've enjoyed diving deeper into the world of encaustic art, and now feel more confident in understanding & discussing it.

Now it's your turn...

Were you familiar with encaustic before you read today's blog? Do you like it? What do you like about it? Or what don't you like about it? Now that you've had a chance to learn more, do you have any questions about the medium, or anything else art-related that you'd like to ask?

I would love to hear from you! You can do so by going to my contact page and sending me a message — your artistic voice & heart matter to me!

Have a beautiful day, and don't forget to go run & jump & play as often as you can ;-) It really matters.

With love & affection 💕

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