- Arts and Design
Encaustic on a Candle - Art on a Candle
Decorating Candles Using Encaustic Painting
A few years ago, I received a strange invitation to a barbeque high up in the Aitana Mountains on the Costa Blanca. The man on the other end of the telephone asked me to bring samples of my work, that was it.
When I arrived through the high security gates, a little angst with anticipation, eight people were stood around a large grill, quaffing beers.
On the grill stood pots of wax mixed with colour pigment, a table adjacent had rows of different sized candles, various pallet knives, and a box of sponges.
Turns out he wanted to know if it was possible to create art on a candle using wax and had invited local artists from different nationalities.
The best four would be invited to create (Mass produce) candles for a price.
That was the first time I had ever heard of Encaustic painting, and even though the dodgy fella turned out to be a scammer, the experience was worth it. Anything can be achieved with wax and the willingness to fail, a little at first.
What's Encaustic Painting?
Encaustic painting involves using heated beeswax, paraffin, soy, and other plant waxes to which coloured pigments are added. The liquid/paste is applied to a surface, usually wood or canvas, but other materials can be used.
Encaustic was developed by ancient Greek ship builders, adding pigments to hot wax they used to repair their ships hulls. Some of the earliest examples of encaustic art are those of paintings attached to mummies in Ancient Egypt, about 3,000 years ago.
I have been applying wax to candles, especially to hurricane candles that burn through leaving the outside intact, the effect is superb.
The technique of mixing wax and pigment for candles is simple.
Use a temperature controllable hot plate. Crumble a cheap plain candle into a stainless or metal shot size pot or muffin tins and add powder pigment with a teaspoon.
Knowing the characteristics of your pigments, whether they're transparent or opaque will influence how much pigment you use. Don't use too much pigment if there's not sufficient wax to stick it down, the wax will flake -- practice will gets the best consistency ratio.
Griddles for melting the wax and keeping it hot.
Techniques for applying the wax
Sponge, pallet knife, an old thin paint brush, and for detailed work a bristle-less thin paint brush with a metal end.
Start sponging backgrounds like skies and seas, form boats and sailing ships, dipping a pallet knife into the hot wax, moving it along letting the wax slip off.
With practice you can judge the speed needed to apply thick or thin lines and pallet knife larger areas in. Almost drizzle the wax, at the same time spreading it. If you go over, even on a wax back ground you can trim back with a knife and repair mistakes.
Paint layer after layer to raise a surface for a motif and also paint the side of hurricane candles for more complex work as the exterior stays intact, you can place a tea light candle inside and keep reusing.
Tools and MaterialsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Safety and further practice
Apart from the obvious, breathing in the fumes, heat from the wax, and the hot plate, the other thing is to not over heat the wax and don't dip a pallet knife, brush or anything into a colour that is loaded with a different colour.
Dipping your tools into the right colour then wipe it, will clean it.
Practice on cheap candles as you can scrap them clean for another try until you get a feel for it.
Once you have and got it down. The next step is to buy a large expensive candle.
I don't think it's necessary to purchase Carnauba wax or Beeswax.
Using cheap clear candles crumble and melt, add powder pigments (from any art shop) or Oil paints and add Damar resin is enough.
Damar resin is mixed with beeswax to harden it and raise its melting temperature. It also keeps the wax translucent preventing blooming (whitening). It can be polished to a glossy shine.
Wax melts at 150 degrees F-- 65 degrees C.
Candles for melting, practice and decorating and pigment powder
More candle examplesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Have you ever used encaustic to create art
Why not try with some wax crayons and a cheap candle dip a sponge into the hot wax and dab it onto the candle use a pallet knife to make lines
I've seen people take days to get it and some look like they had been doing it years, which one are you?