Encaustic painting is a technique that uses beeswax, tree sap (damar resin) and pigment. The colored wax is melted on a heated palette and then painted in thin layers onto a solid, absorbent surface, usually wood panels. The layers are fused together using a hot air gun, torch or iron.
Ancient Greek shipbuilders began using hot wax and tree sap to weatherproof their ships. Pigment was added later for decoration. Greek artists also used this technique as early as the 5th century B.C. to paint mythological scenes on panels, and for the coloring of marble, pottery or ivory. Encaustic painting was also used to paint portraits on mummy cases in Egypt in the 1st century A.D. Some of these cases are on display today in museums around the world. They are known as the "Fayum Mummy Portraits".
care and handling
Encaustic paint will not yellow, fade or darken over time. Beeswax is naturally resistant to moisture, so encaustic paintings are durable and archival. They can be gently buffed with a clean, soft cloth to restore a glossy finish. However, the wax can be easily scratched so extra care is needed when buffing. Encaustic paintings should not be hung in direct sunlight or exposed to extreme temperatures (between 40F – 100F is best).