Mixed-media artist Cathy Nichols enjoys creating bright, lively encaustic paintings, and has provided ten helpful tips for other artists interested in painting with hot wax.
Getting started with encaustic:
- Rejoice in the gorgeous, rich color of your encaustic paints! Encaustics have amazing, luminous colors. Just melting them onto my surface gives me a surge of pure joy.
- Carve the wax.Encaustic paint is sculptural. Visit the sculpture or ceramics section of your favorite art store to find fun mark-making tools.
- Visit your kitchen to find interesting carving tools. Mini cake-decorating metal molds and an apple-corer are some of my favorite non-traditional tools.
- Let it drip. Colored wax dripping inside and over the edges of your encaustic piece can add impact and make a statement. You can even create a Pollack-esque all-drip painting with encaustics!
- Show your unique brushstrokes. While a super-smooth surface is considered the Holy Grail for many encaustic painters, beeswax is also a wonderful way to showcase your brushwork. The wax dries instantly as it cools, and this means the shape and look of your signature strokes can be highly visible.
- Mix signature, reusable palettes of color in mini muffin tins.
- Invest in a professional hot palette. You can use an electric griddle for practice, but the aluminum surface of the professional palette allows you to actually see your paint colors and mix them right on the palette. This is a huge advantage in the painting process and worth the extra cost if you find you enjoy painting with encaustics.
- Use stencils to create crisp, clear lines and forms.
- Work at a safe temperature. Be sure your heated palette is set between 190-210 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures increase the toxicity of molten pigments in your beeswax mediums and encaustic paints.
- Maintain proper ventilation. Work outdoors, use a reverse fan and/or wear a respirator mask. Respirators aren’t fashionable, but you can buy one online for under $30, and they protect your sensitive airways from contaminants.
See more of Cathy Nichols’s work at www.joi-ful.com.