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Crayons in the Realm of Encaustic

Wax is the all important component in encaustic, it is important to understand the different waxes in order to understanding encaustic as a medium. In saying that, crayons seem so easy and accessible when first pursuing or wanting to pursue encaustic. However, crayons are like copy paper is to 300lb handmade cotton fiber watercolor paper. The wax used in a crayon is often not high quality- often low, the pigments are not lightfast- meaning the color will fade over time, along with a myriad of other reasons, all more important is that the wax utilized in a standard crayon is not compatible with quality encaustic paints. Further, crayons are not meant to be heated and melted to a temperature upwards 220ยบ (should I say, off-gas). They do have some use, taking in consideration what was just said. What they lack as the encaustic replacement, they make up with (somewhat), generically and for instance, in learning about encaustic, more-so encaustic monotypes, or how wax generally is effected by heat (fyi: different waxes melt at different temperatures and remember safety). Mind you, I am not advocating crayons as encaustic paint or as the be-all monotype medium, use of crayons may be more financially motivated than anything, ignoring health precautions.

Encaustic is high grade beeswax, having better binding properties in the encaustic medium family of ingredients. The pigment is artist quality, Damar resin, or a harder wax, carnauba or candelilla, is combined with beeswax and pigment to harden the medium, in order to make it less susceptible to damage. A crayon, however, is designed to be non-toxic, for obvious reasons, and encaustic, even when using carnauba as the hardener, most often isn't. This is for many reasons, one, pigments are most often not non-toxic, some even being heavy metals- so to speak: not good for digestion. 

Furthermore, crayons include clays- and as you learn anything added relating to pigment, is pigment, and the clay being neutral or white only serves the purpose as a pigment filler in crayon manufacturing. The opacity and pigment concentration is easily seen when melted and applied to a surface. Also wax itself is a synthetic wax or other wax not compatible with encaustic. It is often softer and more brittle, layers thicker than normal drawing thickness or monoprinting thickness is not advisable because of this.

You may ask yourself, "is there a use for crayons in encaustic?," and the answer is, well, yes, one being I suppose practicing monotypes, but especially, and more to point out, their shape or design. It is a far reach I know, to think shape is the only useful attribute for wax crayon in encaustic. But, the shape and design is perfect in many circumstances where a block of pigmented wax is simply to awkward to use. Also the amount or volume of crayon size is nice when making custom colors where you don't use much of a certain color. For example: if a particular color is not your color of choice and rarely gets used, but you like having many varieties available when needed, "crayon size," is a perfect way to have it. 

Remember there is always words to the contrary, it is sometimes subjective and making your own decisions about their use will arise, but experience will speak the truth. Also not discussed, and to throw another crayon into the bucket so to speak- there are also soy wax based crayons- a vegetable wax made from the oil of soybeans. I will leave that for another article.

To learn more about waxes used in encaustic, read How to Make Encaustic Medium and Paint or read about other types of Waxes and Other Raw Materials.


Candelilla wax from the candelilla plant, is a vegetable based wax that can be substituted wherever beeswax or carnauba is used. Candelilla is yellow in color (similar to carnauba), brown in crude form, with a melting point higher than that of beeswax, 154° - 161° F (67° - 71° C). A higher melting point makes it suitable for tempering like that of carnauba wax.

Ancient Faces by Susan Walker and Morris L. Bierbrier

Similar to, Mysterious Fayum Portraits: Faces from Ancient Egypt, and includes many of the same portraits; however, focused more to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's personal collection.

Susan Walker and Morris L. Bierbrier, Ancient Faces: Mummy Portraits in Roman Egypt. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications Series, 2000.) 

Mysterious Fayum Portraits by Euphrosyne Doxiadis

This reference is full of information and many color and black and white images. A must have or read for anyone interested in encaustic, fayum portraits, or ancient Greek/Egyptian history.

Euphrosyne Doxiadis, Mysterious Fayum Portraits: Faces from Ancient Egypt. (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995.)

The Specter of the Golem by Natalie Shifrin Whitson

Sorry this citation may not be quite right.

Natalie Shifrin Whitson, LEONARDO© The Specter of the Golem: The Quest for Safer Encaustic Painting Practice in the Age of OSHA. (MIT PRESS JOURNALS August 2000, Vol. 33, No. 4, Pages 299-304)

Embracing Encaustic by Linda Womack

A step-by-step introductory guide to encaustic painting. Includes many photographs of contemporary artists and a descriptions of their work.

Linda Womack, William Womack. Embracing Encaustic: Learning to Paint with Beeswax. (Hive Publishing; Second edition, May 15, 2008.)

The Painter's Handbook by Mark David Gottsegen

This reference is not in depth and only includes the very basics of encaustic; as well as unadvised methods- such as framing behind glass.

Gottsegen, Mark David. The Painter's Handbook; A Complete Reference. (New York : Watson-Guptill Publications, 2006. rev. ed.)

International Exhibition, London, 1871 by Arthur Beckwith

Although outdated in some respect, this reference is an interesting addition for anyone fascinated with the history.

Beckwith, Arthur. International Exhibition, London, 1871: Pottery. Observations on the Materials and Manufacture of Terra-cotta, Stoneware, Fire-Brick, Porcelain, Earthen-ware, Brick, Majolica, and Encaustic Tiles, Remarks on the Products Exhibited. (New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1872.)

A Manual of Fresco and Encaustic Painting by Sarsfield Taylor

A early record containing notes on encaustic.

Sarsfield Taylor, William Benjamin. A Manual of Fresco and Encaustic Painting: Containing Ample Instructions for Executing Works of These Descriptions. (London: Chapman & Hall, 1843.)

Waxing Poetic by Gail Stavitsky

Provides a basic historical and a relatively contemporary history on encaustic.

Gail Stavitsky, Waxing Poetic: Encaustic Art in America. (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2000.) 

Painting popularly explained... by Thomas Gullick

Title speaks for itself.

Gullick, Thomas John. Painting popularly explained: including fresco, oil, tempera, mosaic, encaustic, water-colour, miniature, missal, painting on pottery, porcelain, enamel, glass, &c., with historical sketches of the progress of the art. (London: Kent and Co., 1859.)

Encaustic, Materials and Methods by Frances Pratt and Becca Fizell

Frances Pratt and Becca Fizell, Encaustic, Materials and Methods. (New York: Lear, 1949.)

Color and Culture by John Gage

A western investigation of colors influences on culture with brief descriptions of encaustic. (Not recommended for a source on encaustic)

Gage, John. Color and Culture: Practice and Meaning from Antiquity to Abstraction. (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1993.)

Wax as Art Form by Thelma Newman

A general guide book for the beginner to wax based arts; including encaustic and other interests.

Thelma R. Newman, Wax as Art Form. (New Jersey: T. Yoseloff, South Brunswick, 1966.) 

The Art of Encaustic Painting by Joanne Mattera

A quality resource for encaustic painting. A introductory, historical, and technical guide to encaustic painting. Also see out her website

Joanne Mattera, The Art of Encaustic Painting: Contemporary Expression in the Ancient Medium of Pigmented Wax. (New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 2001.) 

The Artist's Handbook by Ralph Mayer

A must guide and source for technical information on artist material (Not specifically encaustic).

Mayer, Ralph. The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques: Fifth Edition, Revised and Updated. [New York (Penguin Group): Viking Adult; 5th Rv&Upd edition, 1991.]

Encaustic Workshop by Patricia Seggebruch

Additional resource for encaustic with many photographs, help on getting started, and step-by-step instructions on some techniques; informative for beginners.

Patricia Seggebruch, Encaustic Workshop: Artistic Technique for Working With Wax. (North Light Books, 2009.)

Encaustic Monotypes by Paula Roland

This DVD reference by Paula Roland is available through her website; containing information on encaustic printmaking processes- particularly encaustic monotypes.

Paula Roland, Encaustic Monotypes: Painterly Prints with Heat and Wax. (Studio Galli Films, 2010)

Anti-Fatigue Mat

The anti-fatigue mat is the tool for your feet; this is especially true when you work on a concrete or tile floor and/or if you stand a lot when you paint.

A majority of anti fatigue mats were designed for use in an industrial setting and there are many on the market to choose from.  Cost is fairly inexpensive and can differ with manufacturer and type or style. 

Paint Scraper

Do you want to remove paint fast, create wide bands, or stripes within your encaustic painting?

Large paint scrapers, typically designed to remove paint from the side of a house or other common surface, are the perfect tool for the job. This is even more so with very large pieces- making the job go much more quickly and easily.

This particular scraper was used to create the textured effect seen at the beginning of the technique, Building Texture, also pictured below.

To remove paint simply scrape till your heart is content, that is, if the only thing you wish to do is remove the paint. But there is removing, and then there is removing- meaning: remove to just to remove or removing as a controlled technique.

From the technique: Building Texture
Revealing under-layers and creating wide bands of paint is done better by softening the surface with a heat gun. Cold wax will chip along the edges as with using printmaking scrapers (another tool used for removing paint along with other techniques) and carving tools. So unless this is a desired effect, it is better to warm the surface and your tools.  

Graphite or Pigment Transfer

Graphite on White Encaustic
There is more than meets the eye with transfers onto wax; however, you can create fine lines, patterns, and detailed drawings with a fair amount of ease. Transfers on encaustic are, pretty much straight forward, and almost like any other graphite or pigment transfer- that is to say with a few recommendations. 

First recommendation, use a soft graphite or pigment (e.g. soft pastel and conte) and generously coat the backside of the area to be transfered. Needless to say: it is not necessary to coat the entire reverse side of the paper, only the area that lies behind the image- you can see the image from the reverse side because transfer paper is inherently transparent.

Second use a dull pencil or other dull pointed object. Almost any smoothly pointed tool (referencing the size and smoothness of a ball point pen) will work, as long as it isn't prone to tear the transfer paper. It isn't as much of a worry that the transfer paper gets torn, that it is the tendency to easily cut into the wax surface (unless this is desired). Cutting into the wax is not going to adversely effect your piece; however, fusing the surface after transfer (which is highly recommended) will cause wax to melt into those lines cut to deeply, diminishing the crisp clean look that may be desired. It is also noted that gentle pressure can also slightly cut into the wax, depending on the hardness of the surface, and the time which was allotted for it to properly cool.

Third, and speaking of surface, your wax surface should be fairly smooth when transferring images. This is not to say you can not or should not transfer onto a textured or rough surfaces, only that smooth surfaces lend better to clearer images.

Remember fusing helps seal the transfer, keeping it from smearing, or worse, from rubbing off. Care should be taken in not fusing excessively, because as the surface becomes more liquified, it will move around. It is purely preference to wait for the wax to completely cool/harden, this only helps in not incising the surface. However, a recently cooled piece is slightly tacky, assisting in transfer, yet also softer under tool. 

New Look & Features!

Hello Everyone,

ParksArtworks© has been and will be going through some changes in the way it looks, and in the way you navigate. Things have been streamlined and made more efficient in order to bring a better online experience.

There are two main pages: The Blog and the Encaustic Resource Pages. Additionally a page for the contributing artist and main contact, Jonathan D. Parks' work.

If there are any concerns, question, suggestions, or comments- which are very much appreciated, do not hesitate to contact us.

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Thank you


Palette Cup Lifter (a.k.a. Pot Lifter)

Handling a palette cup on a hot palette can be tricky business. Pushing them about isn't much of a problem; however, when it comes to lifting them off to pour wax or to simply remove them for space- it can be. There are many economic and simple ways of doing this and they can all have there nuisances.

The clothespin is the most commonly suggested and almost everyone has them. Unfortunately most clothes pins are to chintzy and lack the ability to grasp hold of those full cups of molten wax.

A pair pliers work nicely but they can also be awkward to use. Pliers like the clothespin have a perpendicular grasp which makes it difficult to pour the wax out of the cup. Pliers are alright for taking cups of wax off of your palette, so long as you dont mind having waxy pliers. Yet there is something better.

Finding an old handle like one off a capuchino carafe, like I strapped onto one of my large palette cups, was not a bad idea; but, it was only good for that one (round) palette cup - and permanently attached.

Well if you want to lift and pour but don't want the clothespin to fail and spill, or more control than pliers will do, all with the addition of not dumping hot wax on your hand, or if you don't want a bunch of handles geting in the way because they are permanently fixed to you cups - there is a solution. The solution is a common accessory to a camper's kitchen, called a pot lifter. As cheap as a few bucks you won't break the bank and many there are many styles, brands, and designs to choose from. They work simply by hand pressure, squeezing the lifter will grip almost anything fantastically; and it makes pouring wax a cinch. So you might ask: Is there a downside? Some designs put your knuckles close to the palette surface, but this is manageable. And other designs won't allow you to lift something off a flat surface because they were originally made for a pot or bowl that sits on a camp stove that is several inches from any surface. It is all a matter of choosing the right one.

Remember, like all the other options mentioned here, the lifter is also dipped partially inside the palette cup and will collect wax where it grasps. This can cause slight contamination of colors when going from one cup to another. The answer to this problem is simply clean it off, or have a couple on hand. One lifter for light colors such as the medium and whites, and one for dark colors like blacks, blues, and browns; of course a third or fourth if you are really picky - or one for all the colors in between.

The Monoprint or Monotype

A monotype/monoprint is a print that has qualities unique to each and are not reproducable in the process it was originally created. It is possible in some instances, that a less defined image can be made by using the medium that still remains behind on the working surface. Alternative resources sometimes refer to a monoprint as a print made with the same underlying image with differing colors, textures, mediums, etc; and can be reproduced, but rather only one is made. Terms are often used interchangeably and are otherwise types of prints that can only be recreated by digital or electronic means.

When concerning encaustic, use of this technique is achieved on a heated palette, or other heated flat surface; encaustic paint, rather than printing inks are employed. The actual process is very similar; however, there are some things to keep in mind. Read Watercolor Paper and Framing.

Wax, paper, and a heated palette are the general necessities to get you started- outside of a few basic items such as paper towels or tools of preference.

Simple and cheap, standard crayons can be used; however, this should really only be for learning purposes. Standard  wax crayons are not formulated to produce quality encaustic prints- for the same reasons you would not paint an encaustic piece, you would not paint, or in this case print, a encaustic monotype or monoprint. Simply put, the structure of the wax would not hold up. Some undesirable qualities of crayons are muddled colors and non-lightfast qualities. BUT- if you are just starting out, wax crayons can be inexpensive and seeming limitless supply until you become comfortable and/or confident in using quality encaustics.

More coming soon!

Related links can be found on Book Sources and on the Homepage: a march 2011 post, "Teaching Wax Monoprints."

Kozo and Other Japanese Papers

Kozo paper is made from the pulp of a tree that grows in eastern Asia; Broussonetia papyrifera, a Mulberry tree. The kozo fibres are considered to be extremely strong and a traditional part of many Japanese papers.

Traditional papers such as kozo are often a substrate for printmaking and sumi; yet, kozo and other Japanese papers are excellent for encaustic monotypes and other encaustic techniques.

When making encaustic monotypes on light weight paper like kozo, remember not to load it up with to much wax. The more wax built-up the more likely the surface will suffer from cracking and chipping. The goal of a monotype is not to build up a surface with thick/textured layers, rather visual layers; it is easy to forget and overload your print.

Monotypes made with kozo give a very different look than heavier papers such as watercolor paper; the paint soaks in rather than sitting on the surface. The ability to soak through the paper give you a choice to reverse your paper displaying it from either side. You might wonder why this would matter, the side up, as the paper is laying on the palette creates a different look than the side facing down.

Kozo and many other thin papers will turn semi-transparent when impregnated with beeswax or encaustic medium. This technique works well for printing and writing on the paper prior and then collaging back into your encaustic piece.

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---------------------------------------{ A Note to Readers }---------------------------------------

Revisiting old topics and filling in holes is quite a chore, yet a necessary one, one that will offer more quality information. For example: recent activity and questions surrounding hardboard and/or masonite, has directed our attention to fill in the blanks on that topic (currently under revision/addition), as well as, more about gesso (specifically encaustic gesso) and other topics (search the tabs), all are in the works. 

Prior years were to get as much general information as possible up and available- a starting point. More and more however, new topics are focused and detailed, and old ones will be getting revisiting; removing any possibility of confusion. 

I should point out that this is a one person operation (takes me awhile to get around to everything, ohh yeah, I should make some art), Anyway, where was I?, oh! one person operation..., even though I tend to refer in posts and topics as we, it is to remove the need to revisit things later when it really is we. All of this whilst working, making art, and whatever may be the case.

As always, I welcome any opinions, comments, and questions- simply contact me.

Thank you
Jonathan Parks