Encaustic artist Victoria Primicias describes her work as spiritual, contemplative, tactile and, in subject matter, ordinary. Vast expanses of sky, water and barren fields can magnify feelings of loneliness but the highly textured, raised surfaces invite interaction. They shimmer in the light as if wanting to be touched, begging for company.
Victoria begins the painting process in Photoshop, digitally manipulating a photograph’s saturation, hue and contrast, perhaps adding a tree or moving a mountain, cropping in, always simplifying. Once satisfied, she prints an image for reference and begins the encaustic painting process.
Encaustic paint is a mixture of beeswax, damar (a tree resin that hardens the wax) and colored pigment. The paint is melted at 200F and applied in 6-12 layers onto a stiff substrate like wood or tile. Each layer is fused to the layer beneath to create, in effect, a big ball of wax.
Victoria works from home where her husband lives in mortal fear she’ll burn down the house with her preferred fusing method: a trigger-start Bernzomatic propane blow torch. She’s also been known to trip the fuse box repeatedly with a heat gun and craft iron. Her other tools of choice include a multitude of 97-cent hog’s brushes, tuna can containers, a pancake griddle to keep the wax flowing, cheesecloth, and a shiny new 27 Apple iMac.
Encaustics’ waxy layers create a luminous translucency unparalleled in oils and acrylics. Encaustic paintings are water-resistant and will not melt unless your thermostat is set at 150F.
History of Encaustic Art
Encaustics were first used by the ancient Greeks and Romans over 4,000 years ago to caulk the hulls of ships. Soon, it was used to decorate the ship’s bow and surfaces of ancient temples. Encaustic painting was popularized in Egypt where more than 600 funerary portraits created between 100-300 A.D. survive. In modern times the medium began to make a resurgence in the 1950s.