This weekend I had the awesome opportunity to take a class at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. It was a class on painting with encaustics. For those of you who may not know what encaustics is, it's an ancient form of painting that uses wax and dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Although there are various ways in which to use encaustics, we learned how to create our "paint" from scratch along with using pigment blocks.
To create colors from scratch you need to mix beeswax and resin together. This creates a clear medium with which you can use to make a clear layer on your painting or you can blend pigment in with it. Pigments can be taken from oil paints, oil sticks, oil pastels, etc. Pigment blocks can also be used for more vibrant color. The more vibrant the color the more opaque the color can be too. The trick is to paint quickly with the melted wax because it dries almost instantly. Then, before you continue to add more layers of wax you must heat each layer with a heat gun so that the wax all fuses together. Otherwise, the final product can be brittle and break off in layers.
This whole process was a challenge for me because I didn't have the same control over the medium as I do with regular oil or acrylic paints so I had to get used to just experimenting and trying different things when something didn't turn out exactly how I expected. In the end I didn't wind up with anything I'd want to hang in a gallery, but I did have fun just learning something new. I also enjoyed how easy it is to collage with the wax. Above are two of my collaged pieces from the class. The first was my attempt at mimicking streaked stained glass, collaged with rice paper and the second is an experimentation with collaging with dictionary pages and inscribing in the wax. Overall, this was a great experience and I hope to be able to take advantage of more classes like this in the future.