Sunday, November 21, 2010

Making Encaustic medium and paint

I spent the day learning to make encaustic medium and varying opacities of paint at Michelle Belto's home-studio.  I appreciate how meticulous she is about safety.  Encaustic work has to be carefully monitored in terms of paint temperature, ventilation, and being safe when mixing powdered pigments.  These are things that surface design artists should be aware of, too.  I know too many people who have developed extreme sensitivities to chemicals after years of working with them in less-than-optimum circumstances.

As part of the day-long "Essentials" workshop the students were provided with chunks of primary colors and white.  We created other shades of paint by mixing the colors and adding varying concentrations of them to medium.  I learned how to test for opacity, add mica for an iridescent quality to powder pigments prior to mixing with medium, and learned that artist oil paint can be used to create encaustic paint by leaching as much linseed oil as possible from the oil paint before adding to encaustic medium.
We poured the paints into silicone candy molds and allowed them to set.  The other student and I shared our colors, though (strangely) we were mixing similar colors without knowing it!
 grinding damar resin before adding to beeswax.  Ratio:  5 parts wax to 1 part resin
 mixing paint color on the griddle, adding to medium
 After wax and damar has melted it must be filtered to remove the inclusions in the resin
 pouring paint into molds
 Michelle Belto grinds pigment, adds just enough linseed oil to bind the pigment,
and then adds the mixture to medium
 a small, quick little painting on birch board
 clockwise from top left:  2 cakes of medium, student-created paint bars in varying
opacities (some with mica-added), and beginning palette of encaustic pigment bars in can
 a sample piece of varying textures (created in 2009)
on birch board
 mixed-media collage using leaves, an old calendar, and wax
on birch board (2009)
encaustic on birch board (2009)


  1. Great photos and how fun! My friend and Gallery owner Katie Sevigny let me do some encaustics with her -I was hooked. I just can't take on another medium right now! You may enjoy the work of another friend Sheary Suiter -she also teaches and makes beautiful and textural layerd encaustic paintings.

  2. Thanks for sharing Sheary's website with me! Her work is lovely and intriguing!

  3. Leslie, thanks for posting this ... I just took an encaustic class about ten days ago too so it will be interesting to compare notes! The plywood mixing box is such a great idea; I've seen something similar made by cutting 'armholes' in the side of a clear plastic blanket storage box. Enjoy your new medium! MJ

  4. The blanket storage box is a great idea! I would love to see what you have done with encaustics. Send me a few pics, if you don't mind!


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