Encaustic painting is the practice of using pigmented, molten beeswax (usually mixed with damar resin as a hardener and stabilizer) to create an image. The word comes from Greek and literally means: to melt or burn. Once the paint is applied to a substrate, either by brushing or pouring, flinging or dripping, layers are melted together and “fused”, creating one cohesive body of paint.
Encaustic painting has been in and out of practice for over 2,000 years, starting with ancient Greek shipbuilders sealing their ships with wax, and adding pigment for effect. From Greece, the medium sailed to Egypt, where people did funerary portraits in encaustic, and buried the paintings over the faces of the mummies. Many of these paintings, called the Fayoum Portraits, are still in existence and can be found in museum collections in Berlin, Baltimore, and elsewhere. As encaustic paintings are impervious to moisture, and beeswax is a natural preservative, they could survive a few thousand more years.