Untouched by the Passage of Time

Courtesy R&F Handmade Paints
Courtesy R&F Handmade Paints

After spending all day sitting at my desk, click-click-clicking away on my computer, I savor getting out and being active, especially if I’m learning a new activity or skill. It’s the difference between reading through the steps of a complicated, unfamiliar process and actually seeing it performed in front of me, giving me the opportunity to observe fellow artists and instructors as they work.

Courtesy R&F Handmade Paints Photo (bottom) by Andy Uzzle.
Courtesy R&F Handmade Paints Photo (bottom) by Andy Uzzle.
Courtesy R&F Handmade Paints
Photo (bottom) by Andy Uzzle.

Recently, I attended an encaustic-painting class held by artist Beverly Ryan, and it reminded me how important it is to closely observe an artist’s creative process when one is trying to learn new techniques. Encaustic painting is an ancient method in which the artist applies melted pigmented wax to a surface (usually this is wood, but canvas and other supports can be used). The Egyptian Fayum mummy portraits were created using this technique, and still look almost untouched by the passage of time. Their durability is due to the fact that the paint is wax-based and highly resistant to moisture and mold. As a result, they are also less prone to deterioration, yellowing, and discoloration than paintings done in other mediums.

As Ryan and her students created their works, they all seemed to echo one answer when I asked them why they enjoyed this medium— it provides great flexibility. Encaustics allow an artist to combine various techniques and media, such as carving, sculpting, painting, grisaille, faux finishing, drawing, printmaking, inlay, collage, and photo transfer. Seeing the diversity of works produced in the class reinforced this idea, and I was able to see that there is almost no end to the mutability of encaustic painting. 

Before seeing Ryan’s demo and her students’ work, I didn’t fully understand how to paint with encaustic, even though I’d seen plenty of finished encaustic works. Observing the process firsthand, I was able to come away with an understanding of the fundamentals, which would have taken a lot more time if I hadn’t been able to see the process in action. Encaustic Painting Techniques can give you that same kind of advantage. It is essentially a library of encaustic all in one book with an emphasis on new and exciting ways to work with the medium. Enjoy!

Beverly Ryan's encaustic paintings, such as Flying Carpet (left) often combine figurative and
abstract imagery and striking color combinations. Leigh Palmer's work (Poet's Woods, right)
attests to the moody, atmospheric effects of encaustics mixed with oil paint. Martin Kline
builds up sculpture-like texture in his encaustic works, as in Green Bloom (center).

Beverly Ryan's encaustic paintings, such as Flying Carpet (left) often combine figurative and abstract imagery and striking color combinations. Leigh Palmer's work (Poet's Woods, right) attests to the moody, atmospheric effects of encaustics mixed with oil paint. Martin Kline builds up sculpture-like texture in his encaustic works, as in Green Bloom (center). Beverly Ryan's encaustic paintings, such as Flying Carpet (left) often combine figurative and abstract imagery and striking color combinations. Leigh Palmer's work (Poet's Woods, right) attests to the moody, atmospheric effects of encaustics mixed with oil paint. Martin Kline builds up sculpture-like texture in his encaustic works, as in Green Bloom (center). Beverly Ryan's encaustic paintings, such as Flying Carpet (left) often combine figurative and abstract imagery and striking color combinations. Leigh Palmer's work (Poet's Woods, right) attests to the moody, atmospheric effects of encaustics mixed with oil paint. Martin Kline builds up sculpture-like texture in his encaustic works, as in Green Bloom (center).

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

2 thoughts on “Untouched by the Passage of Time

  1. nice posting- I like working with wax a lot though I’m hardly good at it.

    It would have been nice to have a link to the video you are writing about. searching for it has proved fruitless.

    will go back and search some more.

  2. Thank you for this post. I love encaustic painting. In the States it is getting very popular. In Germany there hardly any classes or books out dealing with encaustic painting.

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