The encaustic technique has been dated to as early as the fourth century B.C. and was brought to the peak of its technical perfection by the genre painter Pausias.
Although wax may appear to be a fragile material, some encaustic paintings from A.D 100-125 survive today in the form of head and shoulder wax portraits set into mummy casings in Greco-Roman Egypt.
Each encaustic 'painting' began life as a white piece of cotton fabric. Fiber reactive dyes are applied to the fabric and the resulting 'landscape' is glued to a wood panel.
To prepare the encaustic medium, I melt together beeswax and damar resin, a hardening and stabilizing agent. Once cooled, this mixture is then reheated to approximately 225 degrees F and painted onto the fabric surface. As the wax cools, it is smoothed and manipulated to create interesting textures.
Some paintings contain laser printed photographic images which are either burnished onto the wax surface or embedded using printed Japanese Kozo mulberry paper. More encaustic wax completes this process. A light buffing creates a wonderfully luminescent painting.
It would take intense direct heat to damage an encaustic painting, but subzero temperatures cause wax to become brittle and can lead to cracking. One should not leave an encaustic painting in direct sunlight or intense cold because extreme temperatures can damage any fine painting. Also, do not hang the painting above or near a fireplace or other heating source.
Although the surface is completely dry, encaustic painting can be scratched, gouged or chipped if handled roughly.
Encaustic paintings can be buffed using a soft, lint-free cloth. This sheen dulls over time and can be brought back by repeating the buffing process.