Encaustic, meaning, "to burn in", is an ancient medium using molten beeswax combined with dry pigments and natural resin. Greeks that settled in the Fayum region of Egypt adapted the funerary customs of honoring the dead by using encaustic to paint portraits of those past in the prime of their life. Known as the “Fayum Portraits”, with some dating as far back as 23 B.C., the Portraits were first discovered in the late nineteenth century. Encaustic is the oldest known pigment binder. The resilence and color remained intact, uncracked and unfaded over centuries due to wax's imperviousness to moisture. Encaustic was later used during the renaissance by Rembrandt and later by such painters as Diego Rivera, Jasper Johns and Tony Scherman.
Encaustic is a very versatile medium that offers a variety of handling methods. Once molten, the wax is applied to the surface with a brush and fused with a heat gun, heated iron or propane torch. In earlier times, the same fusing process was achieved by putting a flame under metal that heated the entire surface of the painting. Because of the adherent nature of wax, it works well with collage material. Encaustic can be applied to wood, masonite, metal and a variety of other surfaces. The wax can be thick or thin, translucent, clear or opaque, molded, scraped, carved or etched into.
As an oil painter seeking to add more depth, transparency and collage materials to my work, I saw a demonstration of encaustic while in college in early 1990's. I began teaching myself the various techniques shortly after and was seduced by its versatility and how it offered such a vast variety of handling methods.
Since then, I have best described myself as a painter who happens to use wax to achieve a variety of effects with my work. To do this, I custom make all of my own encaustic colors, glazes, primers and mediums. Over the years, I have integrated encaustic with oil paint and works on paper, and have often combined it with fresco, another ancient technique. Over the past decade, I have been developing a method using encaustic collagraphs to make monotypes printed with soy based inks that exploit the various textural aspects found in my work. The monotype often becomes my underpainting that I then mount onto a panel and bury with encaustic and oil paint to become a painting. You can find more information about encaustic collagraph monotypes here.