Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, involves using heated wax to which colored pigments are added. The wax must be liquefied and kept molten at around 90 degrees Celsius to manipulate. The liquid or paste is then applied to a surface—usually prepared wood. Artists using encaustic work hot to cold instead of traditional wet to dry. Encaustic wax is usually made by adding pigments to a mix of beeswax and damar resin.
A variety of heated appliances, tools and special brushes are required to work with encaustic because the wax medium must be repeatedly reheated and reworked. Tools such as blowtorches, heat-guns and irons are used to fuse and manipulate the wax once it has cooled onto the surface. Because wax is used as the pigment binder, encaustics can be sculpted as well as painted. Other materials can be encased or collaged into the surface, or layered, using the encaustic medium to stick them to the surface
The word encaustic originates from the Greek word enkaustikos which means to burn in, and this element of heat is necessary for a painting to be called encaustic. Encaustic art has been around for over 3000 years. The wax encaustic painting technique was described by the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder in his Natural History from the 1st Century AD. The oldest surviving encaustic panel paintings are the Romano-Egyptian Fayum mummy portraits from Egypt around 100–300 AD. It was a very common technique in ancient Greek and Roman painting.
Damar resin is a natural resin from a tree. It seeps out of the tree from a cut, similar to how maple syrup is harvested from maple trees. It dries in large lumps or crystals. It originates from India and East Asia Beeswax can soften at room temperature and is not sufficiently resistant to scratches. For this reason damar resin is added to help with the clarity and hardness. It also elevates the overall melting temperature so the paint is more durable.