Minding My Beeswax!

I’m working on some art credits in Painting, and really, really, REALLY wanted to find some time to try out the set of Encaustic Paints I bought this winter before submitting my portfolio for the class. I finally found a few hours to play with the paint, and thought I’d share the experience!

I read about encaustic painting last year in my art history textbook, and have been intrigued ever since. Pigment suspended in beeswax that creates luminescent paintings. The Fayum mummy portraits and early Christian icons painted with beeswax are absolutely beautiful…

Of course, I didn’t think I’d be able to come up with something that pretty the first time around! I did have somewhat of a plan for a painting, and started sketching it on the EncausticBord. I was thinking beeswax… bees… honeycomb… neat “Bee” quote.

My first thought was how to melt the wax and keep it melted. The woodstove is going, why not use it? So all the materials were quickly gathered into the living room, and I went right into “melt the wax” mode. I found out that wax melts quickly on the stove, and hardens quickly off the stove, so I spent about two hours standing within a foot of our crankin’-out-heat woodstove. It was HOT. A base coat of gold was applied with a bit of difficulty, but I got it on there. Then I tried to paint the little honeycomb pattern…

…And that wax hardened way too fast! So I pulled out the heat gun (from my rubber stamp embossing days!) and tried to melt it a bit to smooth out the glumpiness…

…And quickly created a honey-colored puddle.


After that, I resolved myself to the fact that this painting would indeed be rather abstract. So, instead of being super concerned about lots of perfectionistic detail, I just enjoyed playing with the stuff. Things went a little too quickly to take pictures… and I was a bit too messy to touch a camera… but it was fun, and I actually liked the results. I outlined the honeycomb cells with a purplish color, and then dabbed on the outline of a bee. Fortunately, I had the forethought to print out the quote ahead of time, and I cut that up into pieces and melted it on. The painting still needed a little something, so I added some gold leaf flakes and iridescent ultra-fine black glitter. And then gave the whole thing a coat of melted wax with a tiny bit of color…

All in all, it was a fun project. It was relaxing to not worry about being precise. It was messy. It was sticky. It involved a frantic run for potholders at one point. It smelled HEAVENLY. At least until I melted a plastic lid on the woodstove. I’ll try it again… and will be prepared next time around.

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