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632 Agua Fria Street
Santa Fe, NM, 87501

505 989 3283

Museum of Encaustic Art

Encaustic Painting

Encaustic Painting

The artworks in this section are strictly encaustic, meaning they are painted with pigmented wax on a substrate, such as a wood panel, and are fused or burned in through the use of a heat source, such as a heat gun or propane torch. All of the art in this section was achieved through mixing colors by applying heat to the location of the color, such as the work itself or a hot palette.

This technique is also one of the differences between an encaustic artist and an oil painter, water colorist, or acrylic painter who all mix colors on a palette. In contrast, the “palette” of an encaustic artist is a hot plate, the “colors” are pigmented encaustic.

The art in this section illustrates several distinctions and differences of methods between encaustic painting and more traditional methods of painting. The artists who created the work displayed here would typically, though not always, have their artwork lying on a flat work surface, rather than upright on an easel, for example.  

Another difference between encaustic and traditional painting is that encaustic paintings have many layers of encaustic applied to the surface, one on top of the other, with each layer being separately fused in. This technique results in a depth and luminous translucency that is unique to encaustic art.

In addition, many of the artists featured in this section use a technique of creating a layer of wax, fusing it, and then scraping or carving into the surface of the painting. During this process, various tools are utilized to manipulate and move the wax before the next layer is applied and fused once again.

Some encaustic artists use stencils, wood blocks, or rubber stamps to make patterns in their paintings. Others may use a brush, or other tool, to apply alcohol ink, powdered charcoal or graphite, and oil paint to the different layers of wax. Another technique unique to encaustic is “intaglio.” For this technique an artist uses incising tools, such as a needle tool, to cut or etch into the wax to create distinctive lines or patterns. Some artists rub oil paint or oil stick into the incised areas to create a linear effect within their painting.

The various methods described here are just a portion of those used to create the art in this section. Most importantly, however, the luminous quality of the art was achieved through a process of painting with encaustic, and then fusing or burning in each layer with the application of a heat source.