Updated: Mar 26, 2020
“Contemporary Ancients: A FUSEDChicago Exhibition”, features the work of 24 Midwest artists working in the ancient medium of encaustic––paint and beeswax––which opens at the South Haven Center for the Arts on Saturday, August 24, 1:00-4:00 p.m.
Encaustic is an ancient method of creating art using pigmented wax fused to a surface by heat, which is then enhanced by paint. The technique dates to the ancient Greeks who used wax to seal ship hulls and pigmented the wax to decorate warships. The combination of wax and paint can then be manipulated and textured using stamps and various tools.
“The encaustic technique can be a mystery to people from the outside,” said FUSEDChicago encaustic artist Cat Crotchett. Working in the encaustic medium encompasses a combination of artistic techniques, like painting with different tools. “It’s not always perfect; the artist must respond to what happens with the paint. I respect the process, going back and doing the additive work with the pigment until my image is resolved.”
Many artists use special paint that is specially manufactured for use in encaustic art. The colors are of higher quality and more vibrant than traditional paints, such as temperas and oils. “The paint was challenging when I first started working with it,” said Crotchett. “The pigment is so pure it was almost like I had to learn how to work with color all over again.” The paint dries as soon as air hits it, so you don’t have to wait for it to dry. “The tricky thing is that you have to keep the tips of your brushes warm, so the wax doesn’t turn into a glob.” Not your proverbial ball of wax.
Encaustic art can be two- or three-dimensional; if a surface is porous it can be used. The rule of thumb to test surfaces is to apply the wax, put it in the refrigerator until the wax is completely cold, and then whack it on a hard surface. If the wax sticks to that surface then it’s porous.
“One of the goals of the art center’s exhibition committee for 2019 was to explore artistic mediums that expand upon traditional mediums like drawing, painting and sculpture, and we’ve done that with mosaic, encaustic and our fall juried exhibition, “Innovations in Fiber”,” said SHCA Director Kerry Hagy.