I’m still loving this book—Encaustic Materials and Methods by Frances Pratt and Becca Fizell. It was written at a time when encaustic art included a range of materials and techniques, and many of the formulas were developed by the artists themselves.
As I worked with encaustic pieces that contained both hot and cold wax, I began to want a glaze that could create a uniform surface. I also needed a little more bloom control. The weather has been very winter-y here at the Hive and it’s not the flowers around here that are blooming.
I turned to my Frances Pratt to see what her long ago artists had to say about encaustic glazes, and found several glaze recipes, two for hot wax and one for cold wax. I tested each for a variety of results: 1) Application method, 2) Drying time, 3) Transparency, 4) Interaction with underlayers, 5) Finished look, 6) Bloom prevention.
This week I’ll talk about each of these recipes.
Half and Half Beeswax / Damar Resin
I saw a paint recipe by Boston Expressionist Esther Geller (1922-) in Encaustic Materials and Methods. Click this link to see images of Esther’s work posted on Pyrocantha’s Flickr Photostream. Esther often worked on Masonite in very large formats, which is about the coolest thing for an encaustic artist to do.
Here’s another image of Esther’s beautiful work:
Esther uses cakes of 50% beeswax and 50% damar resin, to which she adds stand oil and turpentine to make a buttery encaustic paint. Esther’s perfect paint is the subject of another post, where I also curse mineral spirits. Ptooey!
When I made a batch of half and half medium and poured it into muffin tins, I noticed that the medium didn’t shrink while cooling and it was difficult to release from the pans. It also had a nice, hard gloss. I melted a cake on my palette and used it to glaze a piece where I’d worked some oil paint into the surface. Here are my results on the six-point scale:
1) Application method: Hot wax, brushed on.
2) Drying time: Instant.
3) Transparency: Cloudy, more than regular white wax medium.
4) Interaction with underlayers: None. I fused lightly to get a good bond.
5) Appearance: Thick, semi-gloss.
6) Bloom prevention: Very good
The recipe for Half and Half is easy:
Melt 5 parts white beeswax over medium high heat until fully melted.
Add five parts damar resin crystal to melted wax, dropping the pieces into the hot mixture carefully to avoid splatter.
Continue to stir the mixture as the resin melts into thick ribbons. Watch your temperature to keep from going over 200 degrees F. The resin should be fully incorporated around 185 degrees.
Line a strainer with four layers of cheesecloth and carefully pour the hot wax mixture through the strainer into ½ cup muffin tins. When fully cooled, turn the muffin pan upside down and strike the edge of the pan against a hard surface until the wax cakes pop out. If they resist, try holding the pan in both hands and gently flexing the metal. Strike again.
Melt a half and half cake over your palette. Brush the hot liquid onto your painting, trying to minimize lumps and bumps. Fuse lightly with your heat gun. This creates a hard, sticky surface, and scraping will be difficult. Use an iron to even out imperfections and scrape while the wax is warm. I’ve heard that high-resin content will make wax more brittle. While I haven’t noticed this, please experiment when using it on larger pieces.
Next time: A glossy and transparent hot wax glaze. Ooh la la.