Ceracolors (part III)


I just got around to conducting more experiments with Ceracolors. Again, these are very quick experiments, no more than 30 mins each (except for applying gesso). I am still pleasantly surprised by some aspects of Ceracolors, while other aspects have me perplexed.

First, the perplexing part: my application of Ceracolors on wood cradle board. In my previous post, I had trouble with the Ceracolors cracking. I thought it was either the heat applied to soon or the untreated substrate of the raw wood on the cradle board.

This time, I prepared the cradle board with 2 coats of R and F encaustic gesso. The result is that it still cracked! And it started to crack even before I used the heat gun:


It was great to paint with and I did use thick impasto applications of the paint. A couple of heavily worked parts lifted off. Which tells me that adhesion wasn’t secure. And I also feel that if my paint was extended with medium rather than water, it would be better for adhering multiple layers as well.

I can think only of couple of things left to try: see if the paint adheres better to a substrate coated with watercolour ground, or try using a commercially prepared board for encaustics. Other than that, I can’t think of anything else.


On the other hand, Ceracolors on ragmat works beautifully. I didn’t do any preparation to the matboard at all. And painted in impasto and any which way I wanted. You can see the paint did not crack:


Matboard is cotton and absorbent, and this is the only difference. Wood cradle board and matboard are both rigid enough, but the wood is not as absorbent as the cotton “paper” of the matboard. It would be great just to paint on matboard, but it would need to be framed.

I like to paint on the deep cradled wood panels because they do not need framing. If the matboard is a larger size, it would have to be doubled-up to increase rigidity for framing but does not need glass. I’m speaking as an ex-picture framer.

I’m going to try again with a substrate coated with watercolour ground and a commercially prepared board, probably Ampersand. They do make quality products. So stay tuned for the results in part IV.

Cold wax painting: my first!

Hello dear readers, I’m excited to share something new I’ve finished working on. Below is my first cold wax painting titled, ‘Massimo, You Are the Music in My Heart’. This piece is dedicated to my son who is a violinist.


I’ve always admired the look of a cold wax painting for years but did not know how it was produced and with what medium. By chance and research, I stumbled upon it through working with hot wax (encaustic).

Cold wax is a paste-consistency medium made with filtered beeswax and odorless mineral spirits. There are a couple of variations in formulas on the market today, mainly by Gamblin and Dorlands. I work with Gamblin because the formula has less additives.

Cold wax paintings are generally made with cold wax medium, oil paint and/or pigment. There are other additives for the cold wax medium but it’s up to the artist to choose. Some artists choose to add marble dust, charcoal and dry pigment. The dry additives can be mixed in with cold wax and will help it dry quicker as well as add colour and texture. Oil paint added into the medium will dry a little slower. In either case, cold wax dries faster than traditional oil paint alone.

A few of the application methods of the cold wax are by squeegee, palette knife, plastic card or a brayer. The great qualities of this painting medium are: layers dry fairly quickly, surfaces can be engraved and scraped, light collage elements can be added, oil sticks can be used in conjunction, minimal odor, no heat required, natural finish is matte but can be polished to a soft sheen and most of all, it has a lovely texture to work with.


Above is a detail of my piece that shows the inscribed lines and faux-gold leaf incorporated into the paint layers. You can also see the textural elements and the sheen of the polished surface as well.

In the picture below, shows how the cradled panel was finished. I chose to use clear acrylic varnish to seal the edges and let the wood grain how though. I think the natural wood goes well with the early colours of the piece.


Encaustic photo: Waxy Fern


I’ve been experimenting as always and one thing led to another.

I decided to transfer my photographs onto a transparency film via laser printer. Then, I wondered how it would look encased in encaustic media. I used a piece of mat board and fused a couple of layers of encaustic medium. Next, I placed the film on top and added a couple of more layers and fused it as well. It gives the picture a bit more substance just by the thickness of it. I like the retro kind of look, the depth and the waxy sheen of the surface.

The only thing that I’m not too thrilled with is the archival factor. I’m kind of a stickler when it comes to archival quality in art works; I always use acid free papers and boards and the highest rated lightfast pigments in paints, etc. In the case of encaustic wax, the wax itself does serve as an isolation layer against acid but it does not do anything for pigments fading. While black toner from a laser printer is pretty good in maintaining ‘colour’ over time, coloured toner does not.

So a piece like this can still be enjoyed but is not a good example of long-lasting art.


Bird photo transfer in encaustic


I hope everyone had a good weekend, for those of us in Canada we’re still having a good long weekend!

I had some mini cradle boards so I ended up experimenting with them. I decided to use a photo transfer of a bird. This time I used different method: instead of using plain paper, I used parchment paper and the image came out much cleaner. Normally, I would do more to it but I just liked the image with a few thin coats of encaustic and gold rub (Inka Gold – I love this stuff). Inka Gold is a brand of water-based coloured beeswax paste. I don’t know of any other thing like it; it’s odorless, easy to rub in, made for porous surfaces and dries fast. The only drawback is that it only comes in metallic colours.

For those of you who are interested, the red background is my silicone mat that I work on; it’s great, nothing sticks to it and it’s also heat-resistant, ideal for encaustics.

Ingots of Medium


Finally I was able to get some more Damar resin, so I was happy making some more encaustic medium. There’s something really relaxing about making the medium; it consists of weighing the proportions, melting the Damar resin first (has a higher melting point) and adding the beeswax. Then the mixture is stirred until everything is melted and incorporated into a unified liquid. It is important to ensure that the temperature is low and even, if the temperature is too high it’ll start to smoke, bad for health and bad for the medium. After the mixture is ready, it is poured into a muffin pan until it is cooled and solidified.

Taking it out is like taking out ice cubes, the pan lightly hit on a hard surface and the ingots pop right out. By the way, I just call them ingots because they remind me of precious gold ingots, it is not some official term.

imageSome people filter the molten liquid because the Damar resin has debris/vegetable matter (Damar resin is essentially tree sap). I prefer to render them into ingots and scrape out the debris from the bottom – the debris settles on the bottom. It’s a lot less messy and troublesome than pouring the hot liquid through a filter, in my opinion.

Once all the ingots are made, they are ready to be used when the inspiration strikes.

Experimental Interlude in Encaustic

The last post on the encaustic piece I was working on left off with the addition of gold leaf. I was happy with the way it progressed so far and I didn’t want to ruin it. And I needed to bring more focus on the central subject of the tree, but wasn’t sure what to do. When this happens, I usually put whatever I’m working on aside and try different things by experimenting. In this case, I am using different encaustic techniques on small pieces of rag board (100% cotton mat board); using these boards for experiments is less costly than using a birch cradle board. I will continue doing these until something clicks.

In the experiment below, I made a random design onto the mat board with India ink. Then I covered it with a couple of layers of encaustic medium and fused it. After I added some glass cabochons and ensconced them into the medium and fused it with more medium to hold it in. Using glass is a bit tricky, you have to make sure the size of the glass and the way it’s secured is compatible with the strength of the piece; this involves weight, gravity, adhesion etc. … After the glass was added, more medium was randomly dropped onto the board to add more texture and black oil paint was smudged in.


Below you can see the glass cabochons in more detail:

I like the way the design underneath can be seen in magnification through the cabochons. I don’t know if this can be incorporated into the piece I was working on but it gives me something to think on. By the way, these experiments are little works themselves and will be used in a series I think.


Hello dear readers, I hope everyone had a nice Mother’s Day on the weekend!

Continuing on with the progress of my encaustic piece, I wanted to accentuate the contrast between the blues and the yellows without being too drastic. By the way, turquoise-blues and golden yellows are one of my favorite combinations; the colours remind me of sun and sea. I decided to add imitation gold leaf to the piece; Instead of large patches or masked off areas, I opted for small pieces. The flecks of gold imitates iridescence due to its reflections of the yellows and it’s juxtaposition to the blues. The sheen and reflection of the gold flecks adds an element of movement to the piece because it depends on the viewing angle and light. I think it was the right choice to use the gold leaf in this manner.


Below is a close-up of the yellow side of the piece. You can see the gold flecks as well as the glass beads from the earlier layers. The glass beads look like little craters or even bubbles under the surface. There’s a lot of interest and richness in the texture of this piece aided by different materials used in different layers; in the upper right area, you can also see the white encaustic paint “marbled” with the blues. The conduciveness to layering is one of the wonderful things I appreciate when I work in encaustic.


A tree…

In my last post we left off with the progress of my encaustic piece as a ‘wintry’ looking backdrop of some sort. It had some organic motifs with transparent beads that added to the ‘icy’ look. Since I’m working intuitively, I never know what I’m going to end up with. I’ve painted the center white and added a photo transfer of a tree. It was then covered with encaustic medium and fused lightly:


Below you can see the piece after the wax had cooled off from fusing, after which oil sticks were used to add more colour. I think it’s looking quite different from before but it’s definitely looking warmer. I think it would be interesting to see how it finally ends up.


Paint making into the wee hours of the night



Above is all the encaustic paint I made before I ran out of supplies. Usually I make paint with pigment in powder form but my growing concerns with health and safety prompted me to search out dispersion pigments. Of course, dispersion pigments are suspended in water which are not compatible with encaustics. Most people use oil paints to make encaustic paint but I did not like the solvent and linseed oil (smell and toxicity) in most oil paints. However, I found out that one of my favorite watercolour paint companies (M. Graham) make an oil based paint using JUST walnut oil as binder. This paint is wonderful; it’s highly pigmented and does not have a strong odor at all!

The paints are cooling above in seamless tins and I still have 6.5 lbs of beeswax to render into paint and medium. It’s good to have encaustic medium pre-made so it’s ready to go. For now, this will have to do until I get more resin soon.


Here’s an update of the piece I started:


Above you can see a few details added onto the background that I had before. Organic motifs were carved out, black and white oil colour was pushed into the grooves of the carvings. Transparent glass beads were pressed into the wax. Which reminds me, another great thing about working in encaustic is that it is very accommodating in regards to mixed media; you can use collage methods as well as embedding things right into the wax. A Blue oil stick was used to smudge colour around the perimeter. A little note about oil sticks just in case you’re interested: oil sticks are oil paint in stick form so they’re drier. They only take 24hrs to dry which is really good if you want to work quickly and put on different layers.

To me, it looks like a wintry scene so far. I don’t know yet if it’s going to stay that way or not. At this point, I’ll just let it dry and breathe for a bit before the next layer goes on.

Below is a detail and a couple of different views of the piece: