Posted by: onawhimsey | April 9, 2008

On a Whimsey…. an adventure in encaustic art

On a Whimsey……….. an encaustic adventure!

For some years I have dabbled in various art forms… drawing, water colours, acrylics but could never feel comfortable at all.  Until I came across the word encaustic and my curiousity got the better of me!

Encaustic art?

What is it?

The name encaustic  comes from the Greek for ” burnt in ” …..

It is claimed that the art of encaustic wax painting is at least over 2000 years old and that it was practised by the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians.  Since it has lasted, in some cases, over 2000 years it is considered a very durable form of Art.  Around the world there are examples of portraits which have been painted on wood.

Examples of encaustic tomb portraits from Roman Egypt bear witness to the durability of the medium, which is thought to have been widely used in ancient times. Pliny describes the process in which hot liquid colors were applied to the wall by means of heated irons. It is believed that the waxes used to be heated in containers over a charcoal fire until molten and then applied to the wood with brushes or perhaps heated spatulas.

Nowadays, artists have the use of modern technology and thus are able to produce beautiful works of art with electric tools.

True encaustic painting is produced through a process in which the coloured wax is permanently ‘burned’ into an absorbant backing such as plaster, canvas or some woods.  However, today, the technique of laying wax on a non absorbant support is generally regarded as encaustic art.

The amazing attribute of using the molten wax is that whenever the hot implement such as an iron touches it, the wax will melt and thus can be re-worked. So, you can alter the image until you are satisfied.

The waxes can be of many types.  However, they are usually specially formulated to provide art quality colours in a safe non toxi form which is designed to be used when melted.  This wax melts at 40 degrees Fahrenheit ot just over 60 degrees Centigrade.  The most popular for the beginner is wax made into manageable blocks or sticks.  Otherwise, wax can be melted, different pigments added according to requirements etc.

The main tool is the painting or encaustic iron.  The base plate is used to smooth and texture the wax whilst the edge can be scraped or made to slide through the medium.  Again, the tip of the iron can be used to draw in details.  Encaustic art painting card is specially impregnated and enables the wax to slide around the surface without allowing too much absorbtion.  The card resists heat damage and is tough and flexible.

Other tools can include an encaustic art stylus, scribing tools, hot air guns.  Whatever comes to hand.

Other supports can be used creating different effects such as wood, fabric, plastic or metal.

It is an exciting medium which is not difficult master has limitless boundaries.  Only the imagination can stop you!

Abstract subjects can be wonderfully vibrant and colourful such as this example of a Mandala.  It’s as if you are looking down the kaleidoscope and viewing all those shapes and colours.

MandalaA mandala is a structured abstract which consists of a collection of balanced patterns, expanded rhythms and developed forms.  Here the pattern begins in the centre and gradually grows in an outwardly direction so that the shapes and colours reflect each other.  So, in effect you have a kaleidoscope effect.



Since discovering encaustic art I have concentrated on developing the art by creating individual, original ACEOs.  An ACEO is a saleable ‘trading card’.  Trading cards are very popular and can only be traded.  Their life began in cigarette packets, football players photographs that were exchanged by school boys or sometimes slightly older folk!  Then people who wanted to trade had to start somewhere… how could they if these cards could only traded and not bought?  Hence the birth of the ACEO or Artists Cards Editions and Originals.  There is only one rule and that is that they must measure 2.5″ x 3.5″.  Any art medium can be used whether it be painting, collage, mixed fibre, you name it!  Anyway, I find this size fascinating and have created numerous, one of a kind (OOAK) card which I have been lucky enough to sell from my Etsy store: On a Whimsey ( )

Discover the steps up into the blue cavern   An ACEO entitled Secret Blue Caves      


    Use your imagination….. see the castles in the desolate landscape?



  Remember the Kontiki expedition?  This windswept raft with its rigging damaged is battling it out on the wild seas.  You can just taste the salt spray!



   Storms at sea create huge turbulent waves in a surreal colour hue….. you don’t get sea sick, do you?


  This ACEO was sold a while ago but shows birds flying home in the twilight.

  Working with a hotplate this is a larger encaustic painting showing a peaceful cove.

    A pansey flower can be so simple yet evocative  

 Tulips for Spring was sold

  Another peaceful view out to sea where you can see for miles and miles



  1. This is great Pat and very informative. Good luck with this. Joan 🙂

  2. Very informative! I love learning new things!! And..I love seeing your lovely work!!!

  3. So much information! Keep going, Pat. Excellent

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