Bees Knees Artistry
Art that melts in your mind
   Home      What's Encaustic?
In 1956 a film entitled 'Lust For Life' was made about the life and times of the great artist Vincent Van Gogh.
His creative output was enormous and he was known to have painted with great speed. One scene in the film
involves Vincent talking  - more like arguing - with Paul Gauguin about Van Gogh's work. Paul seems not to
like the paintings and dismisses them out-of-hand.

Paul, "You paint too fast!"

To which Vincent replies, "You look too fast!!"

I mention this fact because to paint Encaustic is to be purely in the moment. 

Encaustic comes from the Greek word 'enkaustikos' which when translated means to 'heat' or to 'burn'. This
term was first used in 1601. Encaustic painting is literally hot (bees)wax painting; one where you add pigments
of colour to the melted wax. So living in the moment is a must in this medium as once the wax is melted - usually
on a hotplate -  and applied, your time is short with which to be creative before it cools and hardens! But should
you sit back and study the work for that extra moment there are other ways to 'sculpt' the cooled wax. You can
scrape or gouge some of it off with specialized tools or one can quickly reheat spots with a heating gun and tweak
from there. Naturally you have an endless palette of colours to mix into the wax - the same as any oil-based
painter. Some of the items I use to create the work includes: electric iron, hotplate, heating gun and heated stylus.
I paint on paper, cards and treated wood panels. (any size). As well, metal tools and special brushes are a definite
must in my studio and the effects created are endless.  


But even though the paintings materialize quickly this does not mean that they do not stand the test of time. Over
three thousand years ago Greek shipbuilders began using beeswax to caulk the hulls of their ships. It worked great
for keeping the water out but unappealing to the eye. They decided to add resins (for hardness)  and colour. A new
medium was born and gravitated into everyday life with artists of the day doing great paintings, pottery and of 
course ships! There is a very vibrant textured quality to this art form that pulls you in with it's depth of field. 

Centuries after the Greeks mastered the art form it made it's way into Egyptian culture. Many of the mummies of 
the day were buried with their actual portraits done in coloured wax on their cases. And, because of the climate,
once unearthed (in modern times) these works of art still looked as vibrant and as beautiful as the day the were
placed into their tomb. 

Wax melts at 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees F). I mention this as when I first began using this technique I did
several paintings for my children - who live in the British Virgins Island, and their concern was that the work would
melt sitting on their walls. I know it's hot in the Caribbean but not that hot! Naturally any painting - regardless of
medium - should be respected and not placed into direct sun as it will cause the colours to fade (like in an oil painting). 
Otherwise it should last as long - or longer - than a Vincent Van Gogh original. Or maybe even a Paul Gauguin!