Here is a quick glimpse into my studio. Eventually, we’ll have the studio drywalled (maybe), but for now I’m happy that it has a door that I can close. I have a window to my right which gives me the much needed ventilation (although it does get a bit chilly in January). I’d love to have one of those peg-boards on the wall to make all my tools readily accessible – the studio is still a work in progress.
You can also see some of the hot tools that I like to use – a blow torch (Home Depot), natural bristle paint brushes (Lee Valley Tools), a heat gun (Home Depot, but I got this one from Andrea Bird’s supplies) and an encaustic iron (also from Andrea). In order of frequency of usage: heat gun (used for most of the fusing, easy to control); blow torch (great for getting very smooth surfaces but needs a number of wax layers first); and the iron (mostly used to remove/smooth the wax on the edges of the panels).
Anyways, onto melting the wax! I’m using an electric breakfast skillet (go, George Foreman) with empty cat food tins (before we got our cats, I made the family eat a lot of tuna or salmon concoctions) to hold the melted encaustic medium. I bought lots of these inexpensive natural bristle brushes and just leave them in the encaustic paint afterwards (no clean up!). You can see the colour difference between the encaustic medium that I made using natural beeswax and damar resin (front) and the commercial grade clear encaustic medium (filtered to remove the yellow colour and impurities) in the next row. I had only worked with my encaustic medium before and was curious to work with the ‘good stuff.’
You can see on the paper how yellow is the encaustic medium made from natural beeswax. It quickly gives an ‘aged’ or ‘antique’ look to the paper. Of course, if you don’t want a yellow tinge to your colours, the clear encaustic medium would be a better choice.
Here you can clearly see the difference between clear and natural beeswax encaustic medium.
I found the best way to make a smooth and evenly coated surface with the encaustic medium was to melt the excess wax off with a heat gun and have the panel tipped at 45 degree angle. This leads to a lot of wax build up on my table panels.
I can scrape up the waste wax with a paint/wallpaper scraper with a bit of direct heat from the heat gun to soften, but not totally melt the wax. I recycle the waste wax in a ‘mud pot’ (since all the colours combine to make the wax turn a muddy brown colour) and add a dark coloured oil paint (like Vermeer Brown) and use this to coat my edges on my panels to finish them off. If there’s any stray debris (like brush bristles), they tend to settle to the bottom of the pot, and you can pour the melted waste wax into a new clean metal can.
Here you can see my completed five paper-based wood panels – two with natural beeswax encaustic medium, (top right and bottom left) (I made a ton of this medium and it is a lot cheaper than buying the commercial filtered encaustic medium), and three with the clear. These panels will be put aside for now while I prep the wax-based panels.