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Wax Painting

Posted by Vinícius Guimarães on October 9, 2012 in Arts

Wax painting, commonly known as encaustic painting, is a technique based on mixing color pigments with heated and melted wax; this composition is subsequently applied to a surface (for instance, ceramics, wood, canvas, etc.). As several specialized sources report, painters using this technique, usually employ a heat source under the paint container, considering that it dries quickly.  As experts explain, wax painting technique ensures that any resulting painting can be intact for many years.

Wax or Encaustic Painting

Origins of encaustic painting are uncertain and the existing sources are controversial. For instance, several sources speculate the ornamentation of Greek ships that took part in the invasion of Troy, and that was described by Homer in the ancient epic poem The Iliad, were painted using this technique. Other sources attribute to Pausias, a famous Greek painter who introduced the idea of painting the ceiling of the houses, the invention of the encaustic painting technique in the 4th century B.C. However, Pliny the Elder, a famous Roman philosopher and naturalist, mentioned encaustic technique in his book Naturalis Historiæ (77 -79 A.C) and credited its invention to Aristides the Just. Furthermore, Pliny described and detailed the style of the long line of Greek painters who used encaustic, including Pausias as well.

According to Pliny descriptions, in the early years an incisive design was made using a dry point on a wax or ivory board; then, the incision was filled with wax at a slightly elevated temperature (just warmed by the sun) creating a design plan and was polished it. Later, this technique began been used as a waterproofing coating for ships, protecting them from the harmful effects of salt water, wind and sun. In this case a wide layer of wax painting was applied with a brush when the wax was still hot. As several experts state, Pliny did not make any reference to the application of moderate heat on the painted surface, so that painted parts kept joined together. This proceeding was a fundamental step of the whole process and was already been used at that time in both, the polychrome three-dimensional objects, coated ceramic utensils and marble sculptures, and on the flat paintings such as ships, murals, panels, etc. Pliny also mentioned what was known as the Punic wax, a process where wax was boiled in seawater and soda for three consecutive times, becoming it in a slurry substance and increasing its melting point from 60 ° C to 100 ° C.

As reported by specialized publications, Romans inherited encaustic painting from the Greeks and used it for painting murals in such ancient cities like Herculaneum and Pompeii. Next, this technique migrated along with the rest of Greek and Roman culture to Egypt. It is precisely this country which counts with the widest collection of encaustic portraits of ancient history, the so-called Faiyum mummies. These were realistic portraits that were coupled to mummies, and used the encaustic technique on wood, thin oak panels or linden.

Those paintings showed an incredible virtuosity, since faces were painted in numerous transparent layers, ranging from darker to lighter shades, what transmitted vivacity. According to experts, probably the materials that were used at that time were quite similar to those used nowadays by modern painters using this technique: resin, color pigments, beeswax, and such tools as a brush, a tool for incision, and a spatula heated in a brazier and used to fuse the layers. Some mummies with these portraits were discovered in 1615, but as in the 19th century the number of archaeological expeditions intensified, more than 900 portraits were discovered and nowadays they are exposed in American and European museums.

Next, the encaustic painting goes through a period of dormancy; according to some historians due to local economic crisis, while others just explain this phenomenon since the perspective that painting has cycles. The technique reappeared in southwestern Egypt in the 6th century in the monastery of St. Catherine, in the Sinai Peninsula. The murals at that time reached a high degree of complexity. First, painters used a wax emulsion bitumen to waterproof the walls. Afterwards, they performed the design and at the end, they applied a varnish, that was a kind of paste wax, including oils, a kind of bitumen and incense in their formulation.

Later, some important artists as Leonardo da Vinci, Anne Claude de Caylus, Paul Klee and Van Gogh made some exploratory attempts with encaustic, but always using wax just to complement other techniques. Almost ten centuries later, the famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera, also used encaustic painting. Although initially Rivera was a great enthusiastic of wax painting, later he left it aside and began using only fresco in his murals. This is a kind of painting done rapidly in watercolor on wet plaster on a wall or ceiling, so that the colors penetrate the plaster and become fixed as they dry.

In the 1950s, the American artist Jasper John, tired of having to wait for the oil painting to dry, began using encaustic technique, which has continued perfecting and using throughout his life. At the beginning his technique was simple, considering he used mix of beeswax, dammar resin and oil paint; later he replaced oil paint by color pigment and a little of linseed oil. John, applied a few layers; generally, he used to paint by standing, unless when he was painting collages, and used rudimentary tools, some of them invented by him, others discovered during his own experience in Japan.

On one hand, the success of Jasper Johns, as well as other artists employing this technique, like the American visual artist and sculptor Lynda Benglis, the Spanish painter Pedro Cuni Bravo, or the American painter Janise Yntema, among others, and on the other, the availability of affordable tools, have greatly influenced the growing number of followers, users, and adventurers that this painting technique has accumulated in recent decades.

As experts explain, the encaustic mystery still hangs in the air, and it always seems that there is a bit more to discover. This way, there have been published numerous books, there are numerous groups of enthusiasts who exchange their experiences and innovations, and even there are several conferences trying to map the possibilities of encaustic painting. As experts put it, this is not necessarily a discussion about contemporary art, since the main focus is the technique per se, which seems to cause a manipulative fascination and seduction on people.

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Wax painting is an exclusive structure of painting also known as encaustic painting this magnificent artwork which offers the scale to discover the artistic skills and fetch in new modernism into the world of art. Encaustic painting was accomplished by Greek performers as far back as the 5th Century B.C. initially, wax was mixed with resin to strong ships and went on to being used in portrayals, painting on marble and terracotta as well as ivory. Sketches were painted on boards or linen. During the 2nd Century A.D. Encaustic paintings were utilized as funerary streamers to cover preserve mummies. Models of these portraits are now found in the Fayum Portraits deriving in the Fayum region in Egypt. a lot of Fayum portrayals have endured the centuries – which prove to the durability and strength of this medium. There is also the independence to compose variations repeatedly. The wax painters pamper in unrestrained originality and make magnificent creations of arts.  Today, work of art of wax painting has a wealthy chronological past. Its belief of painting with wax set in motion in Egypt, Greece and Rome about quite a lot of thousand years ago. – The paintings remained unaffected to moisture and unfair weather conditions. Wax paintings drawn in the usage of a choice of forms of gears.

Wax Painting

Wax Painting

A type of metal palette blade called ‘Cautarium’ was utilized to mix together deposited wax colors on the exterior. Cold Waxing is an additional category of wax painting practice. Dioscorides and Pliny, the prominent Roman historians former promulgated the design of cold wax painting. Here beeswax is heated in salt seawater and filtered all the way through cheesecloth and kept unwrap under the usual spotlight for its whitening. Then they are merged with sodium bicarbonate and given soap like shapes. The contaminations are worn out with the aid of cheesecloth. They are then rinsed off in lukewarm water and dehydrated in the air. As a final point they are heated with supplementary natural rudiments and used to outward appearance painting. Encaustic means solidifies the wax, which helps in making it further resistant to cuts and grates and easier to combine (heat). The intermediate is a mix of damar resin and beeswax. Carnauba Wax is taken out from a palm tree that cultivates in northern Brazil. Its color is yellow to brown and hence leaves a yellow tenor in the clear bees wax.

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