Encaustic Resources

SUPPLIES

I’m pretty much a do-it-yourself type when it comes to encaustic supplies, but you can also buy most things ready to go.  Here is a handy list of links and on-line shops that I like to buy things:

If you want to make your own medium and paint, Dadant is a beekeeping supply shop that sells really nice USP beeswax by the pound. Always use natural or white USP beeswax, but make sure it is not chemically bleached.

dadant cake beeswax

Other options, which provide a very consistent product, include these:

enkaustikos refined yellow bag beeswax sinopia

You will need to melt damar resin crystals into your beeswax.  A common ratio is 1:8, or 1 part damar crystals to 8 parts beeswax.  Strain the molten medium to remove particles that are present in the damar resin.  No, damar varnish is NOT the same thing.  See the “How-To” section below for a link to a good video on this process.

Damar rf  Damar ek

If making your own medium sounds like work, you can buy it already made.  Clear medium is the basis for all encaustic art. It comes in blocks, tins, beads and pastilles.  Try one of these:

Your next choice is to buy paint already made, or color your own medium.  Fine encaustic paints are available from a number of manufacturers, and will provide you very reliable color and consistency.

Encaustic colors come in blocks and sticks as well as tins, and you can buy them one color at a time.

You can always use paint sticks or oil sticks for color: melt a bit on your palette or in a tin and mix with encaustic medium, draw with them, or use them for encaustic printing.

There are lots of places to buy pigment, and I happen to like Sinopia and Kremer. You might also try Natural Pigments, who have other fabulous products for painters. There are plenty of options.

You can also color your wax medium with oil paints, but that will be more expensive. Start with a little pigment, stir well, and let the heat bring out the color. Add more if you need more.

A newer product called Ceracolor is a water soluble fluid paint made with an encaustic medium. Once dry, it can be set with heat. I have only used it on top of “normal” warm encaustic, so I can’t tell you how it works on its own, but you may want to experiment. Available through Natural Pigments.

Brushes and scrapers: Pottery tools come in handy for manipulating the wax.  They are readily available, but for that special tool, try Bailey Pottery.  Brushes should to be made of natural bristle, as nylon bristles can melt.  You can find them in plenty of places, including hardware stores.

Encaustikos, R&F, and others sell hot plates and heat guns and all sorts of supplies you might want to purchase:

There are kits with a bunch of things for beginners – perhaps easier than assembling everything yourself:

For inexpensive and sturdy surfaces, I like to use birch plywood. Sometimes I use a product called Encausticbord and I really like the results. It can be found at art stores – I shop at Blick. (Here’s a video about Encausticbord, featuring a painting by one of my teachers, Francisco Benitez.) You can often find wood plywood panels and boxes, which are great for encaustic. You may want to treat them with rabbit skin glue (sizing).

Here in the Albuquerque / Santa Fe area, encaustic supplies are available at fine art stores like Langell’s and Artisan.  You won’t find much in the way of encaustic supplies at craft stores.

Other miscellaneous things I use include disposable mini loaf pans for wax medium. I buy them at Kroger/Smiths where they are often on sale for a dollar for a pack of 5 tins, or they are available in bulk. You might want a few real metal ones for your favorite colors and clear medium. Heavy kraft paper to cover my work surface is something I purchase at the home improvement store, in the flooring department. A skillet makes a fine place to heat your wax, and can also be used as a hot palette.

Heat is typically applied using a heat gun or a propane torch. Remember to fuse between every layer of wax!  Inexpensive heat guns can be found at the craft store.  R&F sells a super heat gun that has heat and air volume control.  If you like to use a torch, the big hardware store or plumbing supply store is the place for you.  Especially handy are the ones that self-ignite.  Propane bottles are cheap and can be found at lots of places, including camping stores, big box stores, and hardware stores.

For DIY gallery framing, I like pictureframes.com Remember to skip the glass!

INFORMATION

R&F has lot of information on their website, like this page of FAQs.

What the DIY artist really needs is a good recipe and instructions, so here is a great video that provides both.  I would add this: wear a mask when dealing with the crushed damar – you don’t want to inhale it. I use an electric frying pan to make mine in and melt 4 pounds of wax and 1/2 pound of damar varnish in the pan at once. Silicone cupcake molds work well for making cakes of medium.

There aren’t a lot of books out there, but your library may have one of these:

Here’s a handy website/blog: All Things Encaustic

GROUPS

There are the International Encaustic Artists (IEA).  Their website has a calendar with all sorts of happenings on it.
The Encaustic Art Institute offers workshops and has a blog.  It also has links to other encaustic arts groups.
There are annual conferences!  The International Encaustic Conference is now in Provincetown, MA in the spring.  The IEA has encaustiCon in the fall – in 2014 it will be in Miami, Florida.

SAFETY

Ventilation is very important, and I’ve seen many different ways that encaustic artists vent the wax fumes away from themselves.  Whether you go high tech or low tech, you just need to make sure you don’t heat the wax so much that it smokes, and you keep yourself safe from fumes and from pigment dust.
I’m a low tech girl.  I use a box fan blowing out the window of my studio.  My wax is between me and the fan.  I keep my palette at the lowest possible temperature to keep the wax liquid, just around 225 on the big electric griddle.  When I’m using smaller tins of wax, I find I can turn it down even lower.
Here is an excellent article about ventilation: this handout from R&F is clear and even has pictures.
It’s a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher handy.  I bought mine at the hardware store. Water is also good to have nearby.
If you mix your own wax paint colors, always wear a mask and gloves when handling powdered pigments.

HOW-TO

Some of the best resources for how to do stuff are videos posted on YouTube.
Here is one I like about making your own encaustic medium.  There are several, but this one is pretty thorough.

2 thoughts on “Encaustic Resources

  1. Elena Pappas

    Hi. Love Encaustic painting. I did my one and only painting in college in 1964.
    It is still on my wall. Would love to send you a pix. I always tell people that it is the oldest form of painting…found in Egyptian Tombs.

    I was influenced by Carl Zerby. I think he taught at the U of Iowa. He went
    blind as a result of using raw bees wax as he was allergic to the wax. Have you ever encountered that?

    1. Sharon Post author

      Hi Elena, please DO send me a picture of your work – abq.sundog@gmail.com I would love to see it! Although I have not heard of blindness, I have heard of paralysis from working in poorly ventilated space and heating the wax too high. Safety is always a concern and something I am quite diligent about.

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