Notebook, 1993-

MATERIALS & METHODS - Encaustic Wax Painting

Painting Methods - Equipment & Materials - Preparing the Colors - Binder - Supports & Grounds - Burning-in / Equipment - Care & Display

Encaustic Wax PaintingBurning-in

The final step in any encaustic method is the burning-in. The painting is placed face up, flat on a table top. A heating lamp mounted in a bowl reflector is moved back and forth about six inches above the painted surface until every part of the surface has been evenly warmed... The wax must be softened enough so that the paint layers are fused to each other and to the ground. Excessive heat may cause bubbling or too much liquefying of the paint, thus blurring the effect of an area. Strong, but not excessive, heat will cause pigments of lighter weight to rise to the top, whereas heavier ones sink. Thus if a layer of heavy pigment, like chrome oxide opaque, is painted over a lighter pigment, like ivory black, it will cover the ivory black completely and opaquely. Then when the area is burned in, if enough heat is applied the ivory black will begin to float up through the chrome oxide opaque in a characteristic pattern. Experienced practitioners will prevent this when unwanted, but at other times they can control and utilize selectively these surface effects, which are typical of encaustic painting. After the first burning-in, the painting can be reworked, and then the burning-in process can be repeated. When the burning-in is finished, the paint hardens to a rich matte surface, which can be left as the final surface or can be polished with cloths or brushes to any degree of brilliance. As the paint ages, it becomes harder and less liable to damage by scratching or melting.

Equipment for burning-in:
The burning-in equipment may consist of nothing more elaborate than an extension cord, a socket, and a diathermic heat lamp, such as is sold in drugstores. This can be held at the desired distance over the picture and will do an adequate job. An old-fashioned heating lamp, which has a heating coil element mounted in a copper reflector bowl, spreads heat evenly over a larger area and may be more useful.... The heat lamp can be suspended with an adjustable cord over a table so that the lamp can be moved back and forth at a constant height. To accomplish this, a set of wood braces can easily be made to support a curtain rod, the lamp being suspended from the rod and thereby moved over the picture. If frequent burning-in is called for, this is a great convenience. More elaborate heating elements can be made to order, with rheostat controls to increase or decrease the intensity of heat or to limit the area of application. Blow-torches have been used but are not recommended because of fire hazard. [pp. 164-165]

[Kay, Reed. The Painters Guide to Studio Methods and Materials. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1983.]



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