Wax and Fire

by juliemaida

Finally! I made an attempt at the whole painting with hot beeswax thing (encaustic art). I dedicated quality time to learning about it (watched several YouTube videos), ordered the correct equipment (all things that have the ability to badly burn me or create a fire), and “I” cleared out an area in our garage as a temporary home for this endeavour (my husband, Joshua, actually did the  clearing). With fresh enthusiasm and determination, I decided I would create my first hot wax painting, and that it would, of course, be an immediate masterpiece! And I failed miserably.

In my head, I was going to create something ethereal and dreamy with lots of colors, kind of like this one pictured below. This  work was created by artist Natalie Salminen. I adore her work. Click on the painting to be redirected to her website.

Despite having high hopes for my instant transformation into a capable encaustic artist, I did not create anything close to masterpiece. I did not even create art. In fact, all I really did was make a mess.

Let me explain. Encaustic art requires several things. One needs pigmented beeswax (which is the actual “paint”), a hot palette to keep the wax hot enough to spread over a surface (in this case a wood panel), some kind of wax to use to “wash” off the beeswax from your brushes in between applications, and a heat gun. You can also use a special iron to apply the wax (which I have, but have failed at doing anything with other than melt my painting). Sounds reasonable, right? Apparently, it is much harder than it looks on Youtube.

Notice the tree in the background that makes it look like I may have created that in wax.
That is definitely just an acrylic painting. :/

What I did not realize is that all waxes have different flash points. This simply means that there is a temperature at which the wax will catch on fire and explode (exploding wax is baaaad). Being the good little researcher that I am, I knew this about beeswax and kept it at the correct temperature (yay me). However, I did not know that soy wax, (which is the wax used to wash the beeswax off of the brushes), has a much, much lower flashpoint. Ooopppss. The issue, though, is that when I turned my hot plate temperature to something lower and more agreeable to the soy wax, the beeswax isn’t hot enough and starts cooling before I even get the brush across the painting. This results in a stupid looking mass of wax on some wood.

Not art

I was a little frustrated by this at first, but alas! There is still hope for me!  I simply need second hot plate/palette, so that I can keep the two waxes at different temperatures. This means that I can expect to create several more disasters until I manage to get the hang of this thing. I will say that I really enjoy the heatgun. It is my new best friend, and I am excited to use it when creating future messes.

Heat guns are awesome.