"Encaustic"means "to burn in" in Greek, and is one of the most ancient wall and easel painting techniques. The ancient Greeks used it extensively. Oil painting and egg tempera displaced it due to changing requirements of European art, along with the cumbersome equipment and difficult technique, and it became a "lost art" in the medieval and Renaissance periods. Eighteenth century mural painters revived encaustic when they began to search for materials that would supply permanent results under drastic conditions, especially dampness. The process is simple: raw pigment is mixed with molten refined beeswax and perhaps a small amount of resin, such as damar. The palette needs to be kept warm to mix the wax and pigments together. Once these are mixed together, the artist needs to work very fast, since the wax cools quickly and becomes unworkable. In ancient times, the Greeks used a metal palette over a barrel of hot coals. Today one can buy a metal palette heated electronically. This is the "hot wax"method.
Encaustic painting is considered one of the most archival painting techniques, since the wax, unlike the traditional oil painting mediums of oils and resins, doesn't become brittle and crack over time. It hardens once it cools, yet one can go back and re-work a painting years later.
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