Pine Sap, Bees Wax & Oils

Date: September 9, 2019
Author: Raini Armstrong

Encaustic painting, or hot wax painting, uses heated wax and colored pigments on a variety of solid canvas-like surfaces. The technique has been in use since 200AD, but it seems to have become all the rage over the last ten years.

Gretchen Grunt, a fabulous artist, educator and the owner of the 29 Palms Creative Center & Gallery in 29 Palms since 2003, provided an enlightening demonstration on the encaustic painting form during the September 2019 general meeting. This medium is ancient, using bees wax and pine sap as the carrier for pigment—in this case, oil pigments. Gretchen is clearly a fan of this interesting medium because of its versatility and workability. In fact, she raved that encaustic painting is about discovery, experimentation, carrying with it only a couple of rules—paint on a solid surface and make sure to ‘fuse’ a layer if you want to keep it in place. You are free to lay color down, create textures by dragging almost anything through the pigmented wax and roughing up the color, or simply by removing zones that didn’t quite turn out. Until heat is used to solidify the layer, the applied color is completely changeable. The resulting art piece can become as detailed as you want it to be, and the built up layers that results from the application of color reaches a three-dimensional status quickly. Best yet, if you are a person who enjoys the tactile experience, the resulting art can be touched!

The encaustic art form is versatile, long lasting and intriguingly forgiving for those artists wishing to have fun with experimentation. It is possible to purchase encaustic materials directly from art stores. If you are an avid DIYer you can you can make your own supplies from you favorite oil pigments, bees wax and pine sap, and time to mix everything together.

The demonstration was amazing. I have been hoping to know more about the art form since art stores began stocking growing selections of tools and painting mixtures. Gretchen's demo provided the perfect overview of the medium, and best yet, she shared ways to lower the cost of materials, making the art form absolutely accessible for experimenters like me!

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