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WHAT IS ENCAUSTIC ART?
With artwork by Kiki Curry Winters
WHAT IS ENCAUSTIC ART?
ENCAUSTIC means “to burn in.” This technique has been dated to as early as the fifth century
B.C. Although wax may appear to be a fragile material, some encaustic paintings from A.D
100-125 survive today in the form of head and shoulder wax portraits set into mummy
casings in Greco-Roman Egypt.
Encaustic painting was practiced by Greek artists, applying coatings of wax and resin to
weatherproof their ships as a preservative
Pigmenting the wax gave a colorful coating to decorate warships. Mention is even made by
Homer of the painted ships of the Greek warriors who fought at Troy.
WHAT IS ENCAUSTIC ART?
To prepare the encaustic medium, I melt beeswax and add damar, a hardening and
stabilizing agent, then melt the wax mixture and add pigment in tins sitting on griddles.
I paint swiftly, often only a few strokes at a time, for the wax cools very quickly. After I've
applied a layer or two, I use a propane torch to reheat the wax, smoothing the surface a bit
and bonding the new layer to the one below.
I continue to build up layers of wax with pigment added, heating it after each layer with the
propane torch. This layering lends an ethereal quality that is part of the appeal of an
encaustic painting. In some paintings I add other materials—paper, linen, twigs, yarn—to
create a collage effect. Some paintings have 10 to 20 or more layers of wax.
HISTORY OF ENCAUSTIC ART
Ancient Greece Artists have practiced the technique of encaustic painting for over two
thousand years. It is the oldest painting technique still in use today
One of the earliest applications of encaustic paints dates back to ancient Greece, where
artists highlighted the features of marble statues with wax paints.
This treatment adorned many statues that served to greet visitors at the gates of the
Acropolis. Encaustic painting was so popular that the artists of that day referred to their wax
paints as "waxes" just as modern artists speak of their "oils" and "watercolors".
This incredibly durable medium was used to adorn not only sculptures, but murals, boats,
and architecture. The Greeks alsoused wax paints in the earliest form of easel painting.
CHARYBDISCharybdis, born from Gaïa and her son Poseïdon, was originally a sea-nymph who
flooded land to enlarge her father's underwater kingdom, until Zeus turned her into a
In Greek mythology, Charybdis, or Kharybdis ("sucker down", Greek Χάρυβδις), is a sea
monster, daughter of Poseidon and Gaia, who swallows huge amounts of water three
times a day and then belches them back out again, destroying all the boats that sail
around. It takes form as a huge vortex that lives on one side of a narrow channel of water.
On the other side of the strait was Scylla, another sea-monster. The two sides of the strait
are within an arrow's range of each other, so close that sailors attempting to avoid
Charybdis will pass too close to Scylla and vice versa.
The phrase between Scylla and Charybdis has come to mean being in a state where one
is between two dangers and moving away from one will cause you to be in danger of the
Between Scylla and Charybdis is the origin of the phrase "between the rock and the
whirlpool" (the rock upon which Scylla dwelt and the whirlpool of Charybdis) and may be
the genesis of the phrase "between a rock and a hard place"
CUSTOMENCAUSTICEmail Kiki for a custom work of art, your favorite musician pet portrait, etc.
CARING FOR YOUR ENCAUSTIC PAINTING
Encaustic paintings are durable and archival. As with all fine art forms, they should not be exposed to
direct sunlight or extreme temperatures – they will thrive in temperatures between 35 and 150 degrees F
Indirect sunlight or bright, white lighting is desirable and will bring out the luminescent quality imparted
by the wax medium.
An encaustic painting may develop a film on the surface for the first six to twelve months as the wax
This is a natural process called "bloom" and is easily removed, along with shallow scratches, by wiping the
surface with a soft cloth. Always use a soft rag, never paper towels or abrasive material.
Dusting the painting surface with a soft brush and buffing it with a soft cloth periodically will maintain
the unique patina of the wax. If bloom appears again, repeat wiping process.
Email Kiki for questions or concerns