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I am often asked "what are encaustics?"
Encaustics are paintings made with wax. Damar resin is added to beeswax as a hardening agent and this becomes the medium to which pigments are added to create the colors. The molten beeswax is applied to the surface, (I use wood panels) then fused with a heat gun or blow torch to strengthen each layer. The result is a lustrous enamel-like finish.

Because many collectors are new to encaustics, there are a few valid questions that come up repeatedly. The first is "will it melt?". My answer to that is that encaustics are one of the most archival of paintings, and when cared for properly they will last a very long time. There are encaustic paintings that have survived from 100 - 300 AD. The hardened wax used in my paintings melts at around 150 - 160 degrees. The most common scenario that might threaten the surface of the painting is being left in a hot car on a very hot day. It is also adviseable not to hang an encaustic painting near a heat source, or ship them during a heat wave or cold snap, as extremely cold tempuratures can cause blooming or cloudiness in the wax.

Another question is "Will it scratch, or dent like a candle?" In fact the surface of an encaustic painting is somewhat vulnerable to this, which is why care must be taken when shipping, moving or storing these paintings. It is however, really no different than taking care of a porceline vase, or a beautifully framed oil painting. All fine art requires careful handling and encaustics are no different. Small scratches may be buffed out during polishing, but it is very likely that over time, part of the antiquing process of an encaustic painting is to attain several small nicks and scratches. I've viewed vintage German wax relief sculptures, older encaustic paintings in museums, homes and galleries and taken note of their condition. I find that the older it is, the more divots and scratches it has, especially if it was a privately held piece for a long time. In my opinion, the scratches and dents do not detract from the overall beauty of the painting unless they mar a crucial element.

Here are some guidelines for keeping an encaustic painting in good shape.

Hanging:
Hanging your painting securely is the first step to protecting and enjoying your investment. Consider the proximity of heat sources when you hang it. Don't hang your painting near a fireplace, heating vent or any appliance that generates considerable heat.

Dusting:
Remove dust with a feather duster or soft cloth.

Polishing: (for paintings with smooth surfaces - do not polish sculptural style wax paintings)
Some encaustic colors can "bloom" or become cloudy over time. If your painting appears indistinct, or even just a little dull, first dust the surface, then vigorously (although be gentle around built up areas) rub the surface with a soft, finely woven cloth (an old t-shirt makes a perfect polishing cloth). It will polish up to a nice shiny finish. I do this a few times a year to the paintings in my home.

General Care:
Like all paintings, encaustic paintings should not be hung in direct sunlight for long periods of time, doing so will cause the colors to fade. When transporting your painting, be aware of temperatures in your car. Likewise be aware of extremely cold temperatures.

Shipping and Storing:
Before packing your painting, lay a sheet of wax paper over the surface, then bubble wrap with the bubbles facing out away from the painting. Give it plenty of protection then place in a sturdy box or plastic tub. Pay attention to the temperatures. It's best to store it somewhere that wont expose the painting to unregulated temperature extremes.


To learn about the fascinating history of encaustic painting check out the information on Wikipedia.
You can learn more about the encaustic medium at these fine websites

Encaustic art institute website.
R & F Paints