Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Encaustic Kitchen Mixology

When I first read books about encaustic wax painting, they all mentioned that it is economical and advantageous based on your painting needs to make your own encaustic medium from beeswax and damar resin... Right! I figured I would never need to take the time to make my own medium because it would surely be readily available from my local art supply stores... Wrong! In a desperate pinch, I found myself having to work some kitchen magic to make encaustic medium for a class I was teaching. Now I no longer tremble in fear. It's really quite simple!

I grabbed the kitchen supplies from KMart - candy thermometer, 4 quart saucepan (I recommend one with side pouring lip(s)), a small metal strainer, tight woven cloth for straining (like organza) and a cookie sheet or ice tray... preferably a silicon one! I found some great silicon King Cube ice trays at Ace Hardware to help with easily popping out the cooled blocks of medium. SCORE! :)

If you haven't already, grab Linda and William Womack's book, Embracing Encaustic; they have an easy to understand recipe and great pictures to help you along with the making encaustic medium process. The formula simply uses white beeswax and damar resin (not damar varnish!). The resin looks like light colored chunks of amber and is quite hard. I found the Jacquard beeswax at Jerrys Artarama. Sometimes you can find the beeswax and resin at Pearl Paint, and Utrecht as well - look for it in the oil painting area.

Making the encaustic medium in your kitchen is so easy. I usually use 2 pounds (2 bags or 32oz) of white beeswax and 4 ounces of damar resin. I make sure to turn the stove top extractor fan on high, then throw in enough beeswax to cover the bottom of the pan to at least 1/8 of an inch, bring it to 175 degrees F / 80 degrees C on a burner and wait for it to melt - swirl the candy thermometer around in the wax and watch the temp carefully. When all the wax in the bottom of the pan is melted, I add all 4 oz of the damar resin at once and raise the temp to 220 degrees F / 105 degrees C. The resin will begin to sizzle and pop...this is ok! Swirl the resin and small amount of wax around until the resin is liquefied (this could take up to 15 min)  then pour in the rest of the 2 pounds of beeswax. Turn the temperature back down to 175F/80C, put the lid on the pot, and keep an eye on the melting, occasionally stirring with the candy thermometer.

 It can take a half an hour or more for all the wax to melt. When all in the pan is liquefied, use the candy thermometer to swirl together the ingredients. Pour the liquid medium out of the pan, through the fine cloth (like organza) and through the metal strainer into the cookie sheet or ice cube tray. Set aside to cool.

If using a cookie tray, cut the medium in squares with a knife while still warm. After the medium cools, pop out of the blocks of finished medium...if they are difficult to get out, put the tray in the refrigerator or freezer for 5 to 10 minutes, the flip the tray over and bang on the back. All will pop out easily!

Now that I have made encaustic medium several times, I wonder why I ever stressed so much about doing it. Is there something you have avoided doing along your artistic journey that you can try soon in order to overcome your fear? Thanks for sharing the activity you attempted and conquered with me and other readers in the comments below...

HAPPY ARTING!      Tristina