The Art of Encaustic
6, April 2009 § 3 Comments
On a beautiful Thursday afternoon last week, the Aegean Center enjoyed a lively and interesting presentation by Euphrosyne Doxiadis. A long time friend of the Center, Euphrosyne presented two previous talks this semester regarding the Fayum Portraits and the contested Peter Paul Rubens painting of Samson and Delilah in London.
Euphrosyne presented the art of encaustic painting — painting with beeswax. Byzantine icons and the portraits of the Fayum use this ancient technique which dates back thousands of years. Pigments derived from earth are mixed with the hot wax which can then be applied to a prepared surface, such as wood or canvas. Based on the tetrachromy (or four color palette) of white, black, red and yellow, this simple palette can yield hundreds of colors.
Euphrosyne gave an overview of the preparation –melting the wax on a hot plate, adding mastic resin to act as a binder, adding the pigments themselves and the application of the paint with large stiff brushes. The colored wax, once applied, immediately hardened on the surface and could then be further manipulated by using electric tools to heat, melt, scratch and shape the wax.
Many of the students experimented with the paint and found it exciting but challenging to manipulate the wax paint before it set. We found it would take some time and practice to learn subtle handling of this medium.