encaustic

Definition:

(noun) - Encaustic (which also goes by "hot wax painting") is an ancient technique. The artist heats beeswax to the liquid stage, then mixes in pigmentation. The resulting medium is applied to a surface (typically wood). After the artist has everything "just so", heat is applied to the whole business, which results in a fusion of colored wax and wood. (Yea, verily -- they become as one...an extremely durable one, at that.)

Before the wax cools, an artist can do all sorts of things to his or her encaustic piece. Metal tools or special brushes can shape and/or texture the substance (layers of which can be anywhere from thin to relief-map thick). One may even affix objects (such as coat hangers, or light bulbs) into the wax, as Jasper Johns is known for doing. Additionally, an encaustic can be polished to a final sheen, or reworked (through use of heat, again) as much as necessary until the artist is satisfied.

The earliest and best-known examples of encaustic are the Fayum mummy portraits from Egypt (ca. 100-300). The ancient Greeks often used this technique for mural painting, but today encaustic is mostly confined to easel painting.

Pronunciation: en·caws·tick

Also Known As: wax painting