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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 220º (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.

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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
Sincerely
Jonathan Parks