Photo encaustic is the process of combining a photograph with encaustic medium and paint. More importantly, though, is the manner in which the encaustic medium actually transforms a photograph, the paper it’s printed on and the interaction with backlight.
Encaustic medium is beeswax mixed with damar resin. Add pigment, and you have encaustic paint. Encaustic painting has existed for centuries. You create or build up a painting by layering melted encaustic medium and paint. An important part of the painting process is using heat, typically produced by a heat gun or torch, to fuse the layers. After you apply a new layer of blue, let’s say, for the sky in a painting, you fuse or bond the layers together with heat. You continue this process, adding layers and fusing, until the painting is completed.
Encaustic paintings have a marvelous feeling of depth and luminosity. They are also very durable and can last for centuries. A piece is also generally hung without framing it with glass. Part of a painting’s beauty lies in the exposed surface.
Photo encaustic extends this process to our field. In one application, an image is printed on non-glossy matte paper and is subsequently brushed with, or is dipped in, a pool of melted encaustic medium. Much like creating a traditional encaustic painting, you can then add color, incise or cut lines in the wax for filling with colored paint or add materials to create a collage.
There is a wealth of information about encaustic painting and the photo encaustic process. Of particular note is R&F Paints. R&F is a major manufacturer and force in the field, and the company’s web site has information about encaustic products, painting and associated safety/health issues.