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Encaustic is one of the oldest artistic mediums in the world. Mixed-media artist Cathy Nichols enjoys creating bright, lively encaustic paintings, and has provided ten helpful tips for all artists interested in painting with hot wax.
Enjoy this mini lesson from Cathy’s Encaustic Painting Techniques video download on Mark Making and Color. It will get you inspired right from the start!
Getting started with your encaustic art
1. Rejoice in the gorgeous, rich color of your encaustic paints!
Encaustic art can have amazing, luminous colors. Start with just melting them onto the surface without mixing so you get to see the colors in melted form. For me, I get a surge of pure joy from doing just that.
2. Carve the wax.
Encaustic paint is sculptural. Visit the sculpture or ceramics section of your favorite art store to find fun mark-making tools to use on your surface.
3. Visit your kitchen to find interesting carving tools.
You definitely don’t need to spend a single penny to work on your encaustic surface. Mini cake-decorating metal molds and an apple-corer are some of my favorite non-traditional tools. Speaking of pennies — you could use that too.
4. Let it drip.
Colored wax dripping inside and over the edges of your encaustic art piece can add impact and make a statement. You can even create a Pollack-esque all-drip painting with encaustics!
5. Show your unique brushstrokes.
While a super-smooth surface is considered the Holy Grail for many encaustic painters, beeswax is also a wonderful way to showcase your brushwork. The wax dries instantly as it cools, and this means the shape and look of your signature strokes can be highly visible.
6. Mix signature, reusable palettes.
I store my chosen palette colors in mini muffin tins. These are great for when you want to work on a painting over time. That way you can always come back to your chosen colors.
7. Invest in a professional hot palette.
You can use an electric griddle for practice, but the aluminum surface of a professional palette allows you to actually see your paint colors and mix them right on the palette. This is a huge advantage in the painting process and worth the extra cost if you find yourself enjoy painting with encaustics that you want to upgrade your tools.
8. Use stencils.
Create crisp, clear lines and forms with them. Overlay them between layers of wax. Use them early if you want their appearance to be subtle under all the layers you will put down.
9. Work at a safe temperature.
Be sure your heated palette is set between 190-210 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures increase the toxicity of molten pigments in your beeswax mediums and encaustic paints.
10. Maintain proper ventilation.
Work outdoors, use a reverse fan and/or wear a respirator mask. You can buy respirators online for under $30, and they protect your sensitive airways from contaminants so you can keep creating your encaustic art for years to come!
More Encaustic Art
We hope you are as inspired by Cathy’s teachings as we are and want to download the Encaustic Painting Techniques video workshop right away. You will learn how to fuse colorful layers together and how to transfer a drawing onto your surface for even more self-expression. Enjoy!