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Modern Encaustic

What is it

Although it has its origins in Ancient Greece and was widely used among the Romans, the encaustic technique is very little known. For those curious to know more, here's what it's all about.

Sketches

The technique

Modern encaustic preserves the same artisanal preparation and the same natural components as the ancient one.

Virgin beeswax and Damar resin were and still are the essential ingredients. Melted at medium temperature, mixed together and filtered, they make up the transparent binder used in all painting phases. Encaustic colors are obtained by adding powdered pigments to a hot binder. As well as in the fourth century. BC, to paint with encaustic you need a lot of direct and indirect heat. From this point of view, modern encaustic is facilitated by the use of electric plates and gas torches. Generally, it is painted on a smooth, untreated wooden board. This allows the melted wax to soak into the wood, creating a perfect base for the subsequent painting process.

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The binder is obtained by melting and mixing the natural ingredients that compose it, i.e. virgin beeswax and Damar resin, while hot. Powder pigments are subsequently added to the binder to obtain the colors with which to paint, maintaining them at a temperature of 80°C-90°C.
The ideal painting base for encaustic painting is a non-wooden panel
treated and sanded, supported on the back by a frame of the same material. The raw wood must be previously impregnated with twelve layers of binder, spread with a brush and melted with a direct flame.
To paint, natural bristle brushes are used, immersed in warm colours. It is important that the colors blend with the underlying binder layers through the
free flame of the gas torch. The latter not only has a fixing function but allows you to obtain many pictorial effects, essentially becoming a "fire brush".
With alcohol inks and shellac superimposed on the encaustic painted surface, very particular effects are obtained. The former have a transparent rendering very similar to watercolor paint and must be protected by a layer of binder. Shellac, natural or colored with pigments, creates
interesting patterns obtainable only on an encaustic surface.

Creativity

An ancient art to create contemporary works

The rediscovery of encaustic in contemporary times has encouraged experimentation by many artists, producing a wide range of new creative possibilities of this technique. 
Encaustic paintings, thanks to the warmth they need, can be transformed over and over again. With the flame, you can mix, blend, and move the colors previously applied on the surface, making them textured or perfectly smooth. While the painting surface is lukewarm, it is possible to make scratches, incisions, and partial or total removal of the painting from the painting panel. On the cold surface, you can use combined alcohol, Indian ink, and shellac. Among the many possible effects, the most peculiar is the shellac burning feasible only on encaustic surfaces. The liquid shellac, applied with a brush on the surface of the painting, retracts when subjected to the flame, giving rise to textures, weaves, curved lines, circles, and other irregular and fascinating figures.

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