Encaustic is the very earliest known form of paint that predates oil, fresco, tempera, etc., and was first used by the Greeks over 2000 years ago. After 'Alexander The Great' conquered Egypt in 331 B.C., a large number of Greeks went to Egypt bringing their ideas and customs. The amazing Fayum Mummy Portraits were painted in encaustic by the Greeks in Egypt and still being fresh and vibrant are exhibited today in the world’s greatest galleries.
Encaustic paint is pigment in a beeswax and resin base. The resin raises the melting temperature of the paint, hardens it and resists dust. Encaustic medium is the beeswax and resin base without the pigment and is used to make colour transparent, and gives an optical depth unique to the medium.
Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, involves using heated medium to which coloured raw pigments are added. The molten liquid is then applied to a surface - usually wood, though canvas and other materials are also used. Metal tools and brushes can be used to shape the paint before it cools, or heated metal tools can be used to manipulate the wax once it has cooled onto the surface. Today tools such as heat guns, and other methods of applying heat allows artists to extend the time they have to work with the material. Because wax is used as the pigment binder, encaustics can be sculpted as well as painted. Other materials can be encased or collaged into the surface, or layered, using the encaustic to adhere it to the surface.
The wax surface of an encaustic painting is a protective finish, nothing needs to be added to preserve the paintings; they will not deteriorate, or discolour. Paintings are best when allowed to breathe and should not be varnished or kept under glass.