Encaustic painting

Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. The liquid or paste is then applied to a surface—usually prepared wood, though canvas and other materials are often used. The simplest encaustic mixture can be made from adding pigments to beeswax, but there are several other recipes that can be used—some containing other types of waxes, damar resin, linseed oil, or other ingredients. Pure, powdered pigments can be used, though some mixtures use oil paints or other forms of pigment.

Metal tools and special brushes can be used to shape the paint before it cools, or heated metal tools can be used to manipulate the wax once it has cooled onto the surface. Today, tools such as heat lamps, heat guns, and other methods of applying heat allow artists to extend the amount of time they have to work with the material. Because wax is used as the pigment binder, encaustics can be sculpted as well as painted. Other materials can be encased or collaged into the surface, or layered, using the encaustic medium to stick them to the surface.

The word encaustic originates from the Greek word enkaustikos which means to burn in, and this element of heat is necessary for a painting to be called encaustic.

This technique was notably used in the Fayum mummy portraits from Egypt around 100–300 AD, in the Blachernitissa and other early icons, as well as in many works of 20th-century North American artists, including Jasper Johns, Tony Scherman, Mark Perlman, and Fernando Leal Audirac. Kut-kut, a lost art of the Philippines, employs sgraffito and encaustic techniques. It was practiced by the indigenous tribe of Samar island around 1600 to 1800. Artists in the Mexican muralism movement, such as Diego Rivera and Jean Charlot sometimes used encaustic painting. The Belgian artist James Ensor also experimented with encaustic.

The use of wax painting goes back to what we know, to the Fayoum portraits, dated 1st to 5th century in Egypt). These works and paintings, intact, on sarcophagus prove, by their persistence, the resistance of this type of work to time.

In the book XXXV, devoted to painting, of its Natural History, Pliny speaks of it under the names of wax (cera) or encaustic (encaustica): in chapter XLIX, says he is incapable of attributing the origin of the technique to anyone, but certifies it older than Lysippus or Apelle. Chapter XLI explains that wax was first used on ivory repulsed with the needle, and that the means of using it with a brush, after liquefying it by heating it, was discovered; this process allows, again according to Pliny, to paint the ships so that the color resists the sun, the salt and the wind. In book XXXIII, explains that in order to protect a cinnabar painting from fading with light, it is coated with a brush of a layer of melted wax previously mixed with oil, which is then warmed up to a minimum. ‘to make it sweat, and that finally smooth with candle and rag.

In one of the chapters of book XXI, details the manufacture of the wax considered the best of all, the wax of Carthage (cera punica), used by both artists and apothecaries: the beeswax – yellow – is put to boil with the water drawn from the high seas with added saltpetre, after which the cooled and recovering any surface the most part white. This “flower” of wax is again boiled in sea water, the same process similar to a saponification is repeated three times or more, until the wax can not be more white. It then incorporates variouspigments for coloring, ash of papyrus (charta) for black, orcanete of dyers (anchusa) for red, etc.

The encaustic painting is a process that appears to have been developed by a Greek painter of the 4th century BC. AD named Lysippus; he puts on his paintings the word egkaen, that is to say “burnt”.

Pliny also attributes it to the oldest known painter, namely Polygnotus (490-426), and to his contemporaries Nicanor and Arcesilaus, both artists of Paros.

Pliny specifies that:

“We do not know exactly who invented wax and encaustic painting” (XXXV, 41).
“Some attribute its discovery to Aristide ” (XXXV, 36, 35), “and upgrading to Praxiteles”.
It also cited Aristides of Thebes (4th century) or Pausias (400-320); one speaks of many paintings in encaustic made by Pamphile Amphipolis under the reign of Philip II of Macedon (360-336).

Some historians have considered the hypothesis that encaustic painting could have existed in the Mycenaean world; but it is considered unlikely. Currently, we think it appropriate to place his invention between the 5th century and the 6th century and its application in paint 4th century.

During the Byzantine period, the encaustic process was mainly used to make religious icons. To obtain color contrasts, the pigments were mixed with the wax. It is found to viii th century, when it was replaced by the process of the tempera.

18th century
The 18th century saw a renewed interest in painting with wax. Many publications tend to find ancient recipes and techniques and provoke considerable controversy.

The wax encaustic painting technique was described by the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder (1885, Book 35, ch 41) in his Natural History from the 1st Century AD. The oldest surviving encaustic panel paintings are the Romano-Egyptian Fayum mummy portraits from the 1st Century BC.(Doxiadis 1995, p. 193)

Current use
Currently, encaustic painting uses a more modern process of wax saponification, for example with turpentine. A medium is thus created in the form of a very stable alkaline emulsion, which makes it possible to work glazes and sails as well as to use its covering power. The possibilities of technical variations, its compatibility with modern mediums, make wax painting one of the most versatile and durable in art history.

Today, a painter such as Philippe Cognée uses this technique in the following way: he uses a brush with an encaustic painting, made of beeswax (or just wax) and colored pigments, on the canvas then covers it with a plastic film on which an iron heats the wax to liquefy it, spreading and deforming the shapes. This has the effect of creating a cloudy burial of the subject in the material. The plastic film when it is peeled produces in some places gaps due to tearing of the pictorial layer. The image then seems trapped under an icy surface.

Bruno Gripari also uses the encaustic painting, but in the original way. Paul Rinaldi uses encaustic with acrylic, as well as the French artist Amélie Caussade.

In the 20th century, painter Fritz Faiss (1905–1981), a student of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky at the Bauhaus, together with Dr. Hans Schmid, rediscovered the so-called “Punic wax” technique of encaustic painting. Faiss held two German patents related to the preparation of waxes for encaustic painting. One covered a method for treating beeswax so that its melting point was raised from 60 to 100 °C (140 to 212 °F). This occurred after boiling the wax in a solution of sea water and soda three successive times. The resulting harder wax is the same as the Punic wax referred to in ancient Greek writings on encaustic painting.

Encaustic art has seen a resurgence in popularity since the 1990s with people using electric irons, hotplates and heated styli on different surfaces including card, paper and even pottery. The iron makes producing a variety of artistic patterns easier. The medium is not limited to just simple designs; it can be used to create complex paintings, just as in other media such as oil and acrylic. Although technically difficult to master, attractions of this medium for contemporary artists are its dimensional quality and luminous color.

The technique has a much longer tradition than that of oil painting. She experienced her heyday in the art of Greco-Roman antiquity. In the imagination of the artists, their own materialized thoughts were burnt incessantly on the painting surface with fire. The word encaustic is used for more than two and a half millennia and is derived from the Greek word enkauston, burned, from this turn of enkaio, burn.

While today electrically heated painting tools are used in ancient Greece either cold paints with hot spatulas, heated over hot brazier cauteria, applied and then burned by heat (by glowing iron) or hot applied to stone, wood or ivory. The wax used was molten beeswax with or without the addition of drying oil (nut oil). The color pigments were mostly imported from Egypt and Sudan.

The encaustic was in their handling for the artists at that time a very elaborate technique, but it made possible just the flower of ancient Greek painting. In late antiquity, it was replaced by other painting techniques and fell into oblivion in the 6th century AD. The famous Egyptian mummy portraits have been preserved, which still today show a unique luminosity and freshness. Even a few very old Christian icons in Encaustic technique have been preserved, for example in St. Catherine’s Monastery on the Sinai or Maria Advocata in Rome; however, most of the icons painted in Encaustic fell victim to the picture dispute. In later times, egg tempera was used for icons instead of encaustic. Outstanding examples of encausticism are the famous Egyptian mummy portraits in the British Museum in London and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, wall paintings in Pompeii and in the Neue Pinakothek in Munich. Even at Trajan’s Column in Rome, traces of encausticism were discovered.

It was not until the renewed interest of early modern art in ancient art and cultures that the artists and researchers aroused the attention of this long-forgotten painting technique. Since the oil paintings of the old masters inevitably threaten to be lost by darkening and shrinkage cracks, one was almost fascinated by the longevity of the Encaustic paintings. Numerous researchers tried to reveal the secret of wax technology from the few extant literary sources. Violent disagreements arose around the legendary PunicWax, which, however, does not necessarily have to be the binding substance of ancient encaustic. According to an old recipe, the wax should be boiled in seawater and then exposed to the action of the sun and the moon. By boil the beeswax in salt water, the wax is freed from almost all impurities contained in natural beeswax, which makes it harder, but also more brittle. This withdrawal of non-waxy ingredients causes bleaching of the wax. In 1845 a handbook on encaustic by Franz Xaver Fernbach was published in Munich.

A mixture of wax with colored pigments was made and a solution was added that was obtained with the wood ashes and water. Alkaline solution of carbonate and bicarbonate of potassium or sodium, a lye of the time. To this combination was added glue or resin. The surface to be painted was heated and also the spatulas with braziers, called cauterium. Sometimes, the drawing was done first by engraving it with the hot spatula and then filling the incision with the paint preparation.

Modern Representatives
In the twentieth century, artists such as Jasper Johns, Fernando Leal Audirac, Christine Hahn, Robert Geveke, Martin Assig, Hilde Stock-Sylvester, and Norimichi Akagi created important works using the technique of encaustic.

The mixture of wax encaustic used by many artists encaustic currently consists of wax of bees refined, of the type used in cosmetics, and resin of damar. Other types of wax that can also be used for encaustic are paraffin and microcrystalline, both derived from petroleum, and carnuba and candelia, which are resins. As auxiliary utensils, an electric cooker, a saucepan and metal containers held with tweezers are needed to pour the wax and make the color mixtures.

The wax melts at about 80 ° C, although to make the mixture it is necessary to heat up to the highest melting temperature of the damar. The wax melts almost immediately, however it has to be removed so that the harder Damar crystals finish melting. A 1 to 8 ratio of damar to wax is added to the mixture. This is not an exact measurement. The reason why Damar is added is to make the wax harder and scratch resistant. Wax is also harder to work with. Also, using an excessive proportion of damar increases the brittleness of the wax, making it easier for it to flake off the edges accidentally by striking, for example.

Once the mixture is homogeneous, pour the liquid into the molds or reserve to make the mixtures with pigments. If a Teflon mold is used, wax mixing tablets can be made for later use. If used in this way, you can remove the remains of plants from the resin that settle down completely while the wax cools. By remaining then on the surface of the tablet can be easily removed.

To make the color pills you can use pigments or oils. You should always observe the pigment power of the pigment or the oil. The less you have, the more transparent the mixture will be. The hardness and melting point also varies according to the type of pigment used.

If oil is used, it must be remembered that flax oil follows its own oxidation process. If the amount of oil in the mixture is very high, when drying and reworking the surface of the encaustic, the oil film cracks, creating an unwanted effect (according to taste, of course). This problem is avoided either by leaving the paint to rest previously on a kitchen paper to remove the excess oil, or by noting that in the proportion of the oil / wax mixture the wax always predominates. The added oil should be just enough to achieve the desired pigmentation.

The wax mixture is poured into the molds and the oil or pigment is mixed until the mixture has completely dissolved. Allow to cool and the tablet will be ready for later use, returning to melt for liquid use with a brush or using hot electric tools.

Supports and tools
The wood board, the fabric and the masonry walls are used as support. As tools are used spatulas, the brazier to heat them, brushes and linen rags to polish and polish.

Encaustic painters
Artists specializing in encaustic painting include the following.

Benjamin Calau Rodney Carswell Pedro Cuni-Bravo Michael David Christel Dillbohner Thomas Dodd Betsy Eby Fritz Faiss Esther Geller Heraclides Jasper Johns Christopher Kier John K. Lawson Pausias Michele Ridolfi Jenny Sages Tony Scherman Janise Yntema Karl Zerbe

Source from Wikipedia