Monday, July 11, 2016

Painting With Encaustic: Tips and Insights

Pods - Terry Jarrard_Dimond
Encaustic Painting - 12" x 12" - 2016

In my last post: Encaustic Worksop at Cullowhee Mountain Arts,  I talked about my recent workshop with Lisa Pressman in a general way.  This week I want to share some tips and insights I have had since returning along with information Lisa shared that finally sunk in with me.  

Smoke Ring
 - Terry Jarrard_Dimond
Encaustic Painting - 12" x 12" - 2016

  • All mediums are not the same.  I have used several brands of encaustic medium and I have also made my own.  I have spent lots of time trying to get a shine on the surface of my work and it never seemed to look good.  During the workshop we used R&F Medium and the work looked hard and shiny as soon as it dried.  It could then be buffed up every more. I am totally sold on this product.

  • I have lots of the "old" medium which I can not afford to waste so I will use it as one layer of the prime for my boards but I will no longer mix it with my encaustic paint.

  • Lisa uses a safety razor blade held between forefinger and thumb to scrape rather than loop tools.  The razor blade worked much better for me as well.  Much more control....however, I have arthritis in my right thumb and it becomes painful after a while.  When I returned home I found a holder for this type razor blade used for scraping windows and tried scraping with the blade in the holder.  Not a much finest as just holding the blade but a mix of the two approaches will be good.

Window scraper 

  • When priming your board always warm the board first.  I had forgotten that.

  • When using the heat gun always put it on low or you will move the wax around in ways you won't like.

  • Air bubbles can be popped when using a propane torch by flicking the bubble with the tip of the flame.  Don't over heat.

  • Encaustic paint can be mixed with lots of medium and remain beautiful.  Don't use the paint straight from the block.  

  • You can fit more paint containers on your hot palette if you use rectangular paint containers.  I began with round containers but I just got some of R&F's paint pans. I can fit about 10 pans on my small hot palette.

Strings Attached - Terry Jarrard_Dimond
Encaustic Painting - 12" x 12" - 2016

  • Establish two palettes.  One for opaque colors and one for transparent colors.  I have previously not been very careful about that but I like this idea and I am loving what transparent paint adds.

  • Using soy wax to clean your brushes and tools may leave a residue which can cloud your paint.  Rather than cleaning your brushes all the time try having brushes that you use with only one color.  If you do use soy wax to clean your brushes be sure and wash then with soap and water afterwards.

  • I replaced the wooden clothes pins which help remove my paint containers around on the hot palette with tiny metal clips I bought on Ebay.  These work a lot better.

  • Don't pick your paint containers up with the clips as they aren't that tight.  To pick things up off the palette I use a pair of pliers.

When the Dust Settles - Terry Jarrard_Dimond
Encaustic Painting - 12" x 12" - 2016

  • If you like to work in a square format (I do) it gives you the opportunity to combine several paintings to make one larger one.

  • Don't melt an entire block of paint into one container.  Break the paint up with a hammer and melt the chips as needed extending them with medium.

  • Float frames work great with cradled boards.  They can however be very expensive.  I've just ordered one frame from Dick Blick that isn't expensive.  I'll let you know how it looks when it arrives.

  • For safety I plug everything into one multi plug outlet along with a night light.  When the night light is off I know everything else is off.  This includes 3 electric hot plates and a vent-a-fume.  So far I've had no issue with power outages but you will want to be careful.

  • When my palettes and paint cool down I cover everything with a drop cloth to avoid dust or other debris from getting into or onto my paint and equipment.

Enjoy your studio time!



  1. Glad you are enjoying working with encaustic. I'm sure you will make more discoveries and find ways of working that suit you as you continue.

  2. Your tips are invaluable. Terry! One of my friends taught me after she had taken a class and we worked together for a year or so- I had somebody to ask when I ran into trouble! She has since moved away and I'm on my own and have some need of reminding about basics as I slather away at my pretty colors! I know I have developed some questionable habits- gonna get back on the straight and narrow soon!

    1. Thanks Sandy. Having a peer to work with is wonderful but sometimes questionable habits are the best. Xo

  3. Terry, you are such an inspiration to me! I've never really used encaustics but have wanted to for ages. I just might try my hand at it soon!

    1. Thank you Janis. It's a wonderful medium with huge potential which people are exploring anew. Best to you!

  4. I have a couple of metal putty knifes that I ran through the knife sharpener and they did a dandy job of scraping paint off my palette (when I was doing that kind of thing) and were easy to control and easy on my hands.