Adventure with Encaustic, Part Two: Materials

Now that you have an idea what tools you need, it’s time to examine materials.

Although I saw a handful of people using stretched canvas for their paintings, because encaustic paintings are brittle, it is important to use a rigid support. Nowadays there is a support made specifically for encaustic called EncausticBord, and naturally I bought some to get started. Itty bitty ones because I couldn’t afford anything bigger. EncausticBord is wonderful, but pricey, so I went hunting for something that would fit in my budget more easily.

It didn’t take long to find some products that worked well. My favorite are the Joe’s Prime Cradled Painting Panels and Joe’s Prime Extra Fine Art Boards (http://www.cheapjoes.com/papers-and-boards/wood-and-hardboard-panels/browse-by/brand/cheap-joe–qt-s.html)at Cheap Joe’s. Even less expensive are these thinner MDF panels (http://store.academyart.edu/paper-board-films/art-board/mdf-panels.html ). Like the Art Boards above, there are dovetail slots for hanging conveniently.

I don’t know about you, but I need my encaustic paintings to start white. That’s one big advantage of using EncausticBord—it’s already primed with encaustic gesso. The translucent wax over white creates bright vibrant colors that catch the light. The first thing I tried was use white encaustic paint to create the background. There were three problems: (1) I used a lot of expensive white encaustic paint. (2) The coverage was patchy, which became worse after fusing. (3) When I added subsequent layers, they wanted to mix with the white, ruining the color. This can be avoided by adding a separation layer of encaustic medium; however, now even more material is being consumed wastefully. I was reluctant to shell out for the previously mentioned encaustic gesso, so I investigated alternatives. On Youtube I found a video which showed how to mount paper to board for use in encaustic (I believe it was Jon Peters). He recommends using light colored wood and heavy paper because after the paper absorbs wax, it can become somewhat translucent and allow the color of the wood to show. Well, I simply wasn’t happy with the results here. I want my white to be a pure snow white, not off-white. In addition, it looked a bit patchy as the paper didn’t absorb the wax uniformly (My fault?). So for me, there was only one way to go: encaustic gesso. I’ve been content ever since I started using it. Make sure that you don’t try to get away with regular gesso. Regular gesso isn’t absorbent.

Naturally, in order to work in encaustic, you will need encaustic medium and paint. There are reasons why you can’t just use plain wax or crayons. Well, you could, but the art you created probably wouldn’t hold up too long. There are two big companies known for making excellent quality encaustic paint, so I picked one and ordered a relatively inexpensive beginners set. However, it just so happened that all my other materials arrived before the paints did, and I couldn’t wait to start. I had read online about how you can make your own paints with encaustic medium and oil paint. Since I had a set of oil paints and a small amount of encaustic medium from the local art store, I gave it a try, and was extremely delighted with the results. The paint I mixed was very translucent since there was relatively little pigment, but translucency is one of the effects I like best in encaustic. If you want opaque paints, you will probably get better results with the commercial brands, as they are very pigment dense. You have to be careful when making your own paint. Never use an oil paint that contains toxic pigments. Some pigments should not be heated, or they can become toxic.(Was it Prussian blue?) Zinc white is said to curdle, so don’t use that one. As usual, do your research first! It is also recommended that you put the oil paint on a paper towel overnight so that some of the oil will be absorbed. Naturally, you could also use pigment powder to make paints, but I didn’t have any of those lying around.

Check back soon for part three, in which I’ll describe fun multi-media techniques for encaustic.

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