What is Oil and Encaustic on Canvas?
The word encaustic literally means to “burn in” and involves a heating tool of some kind with the addition of colored pigments or oil paints mixed into the wax. The temperature for melting the wax is usually somewhere around 200 degrees. In order for the finished painting to melt, it would have to be in an environment or situation that could reach that temperature.
Encaustic painting has been around since the early 1800s; and it was originally developed by ancient Greek shipbuilders who used the method to fill the cracks in the hulls of their ships. Soon after, they decided to experiment with putting pigments in the wax to create a painted surface: an art form was born.
Encaustic painting has seen resurgence in the work of Modern Art, most notably in the works of 20th-century American artist, Jasper Johns. Recently, encaustic and encaustic techniques are more popular than ever due to their workability with mixed media and other multiple layering techniques. Artists are using electric irons, hotplates and heated stylus on a variety of different surfaces including card, paper and even pottery.
“I enjoy the play of carving back into the wax with a palette knife to create different textures, or a single line of a telephone pole. Heating up the wax allows me to fuse layers of paint to create a surface that is varied and complex. Each layer must be carefully fused to the next to ensure there is no cracking. Stand oil is routinely applied to the wax to give it a little flexibility and makes it possible to work on a canvas surface rather than board. I sometimes put the wax and pigment on cold and melt it with a heat gun, and at other times, I start with a hot wax directly on the canvas. I have found these techniques feel very sculptural in nature. At times, I am building up the surface and at other times, I am subtracting or carving into the surface of the paint. Encaustic painting with oil has given me the emotional response that I am currently seeking in my work. To be able to suggest a subject rather than illustrate it, to literally feel the surface of the paint and to be able to engage the viewer from a distance, and yet retain them when they are close are all reasons I choose to work the way I do.” – Curt Butler