Water-soluble Encaustics, part 1

Bethlehem 1882

Copy of Bethlehem 1882 by Vasily Polenov (Васи́лий Дми́триевич Поле́нов)
Water-soluble encaustic on acrylic primed bristol board, 6.75″ x 3.5″

I’ve been practicing with the sampler set of Ceracolors, a water-soluble encaustic (wax based) paint from Natural Pigments. Above is a copy of a painting from a Russian artist who made many New Testament paintings during the late 1800s. This is actually the third painting I made.

My palette consisted of only an ultramarine blue that I made myself from the fluid medium that came with the set and some Rublev pigment, plus the yellow ochre, mars red, and titanium white that were all in the set. With only these colors I had a hard time with bright green, and nothing dark enough to be called black was possible. Still, I think this one came out fairly well. I’m all out of empty 15ml tubes now since I used the last one for the ultramarine, but if I had one more I’d either use it to make a dark black for shadows and easier grey shades or a lemon yellow for mixing green.

Lake Teberdinsky, Caucasus

Copy of Lake Teberdinsky, Caucasus by Nikolai Yaroshenko (Никола́й Алекса́ндрович Яроше́нко)
Water-soluble encaustic on acrylic primed bristol board, 5″ x 2.75″

This is copied from a Ukrainian artist, though at the time he lived it was a part of Russia. This was the second painting and for this one it was critically important to have a blue. Other than the brightest areas of snow every millimeter of paint has blue mixed into it. I was surprised to see how intense the color of the ultramarine was. It seems very close to the color of the raw pigment. If the pigment is mixed with oil instead then it becomes darker and isn’t nearly this intense except in transparent glazes.

Autumn Birches Central Park

Copy of Autumn Birches, Central Park by Robert Julian Onderdonk
Water-soluble encaustic on acrylic primed bristol board, 4.5″ x 3.75″

The original painting for this one was made by an artist from Texas. Besides playing with the paint a little to see what it was like, this is the first actual painting I made with Ceracolors. At this point I hadn’t made the blue yet, so all I had was yellow ochre, mars red, and white. I let some of the black acrylic I had primed the paper with show through in places.

Wax paintings - paper 1aa

Here’s the paper pad I’m working on. The bottom center is just a test I was doing with mostly ultramarine blue and white. I’ll paint over that, so there’ll be five spaces to make little practice paintings for part 2. All three of the finished paintings were made with just one brush, a size 8 synthetic filbert from Escoda that imitates sable hair.

I didn’t used to think I’d actually try wax based paint, because normal encaustics require you to melt the wax with a source of heat and has to be used quickly before it hardens, but Ceracolors have been somehow formulated to be both water-soluble and able to be simply used out of a tube without any heat needed. Using a blow drier on it afterward is suppose to fuse the layers though. In some ways it works like acrylic, but I already like Ceracolors better. It dries fast but dried paint can be rehydrated even a short time after it’s dried and it seems easier to rinse out of a brush.

For someone like me who has dry pigments and likes to make paint it was very good to have the fluid medium in the set because I can make small amounts of many different colors to experiment with. For most other people I think maybe a tube of blue would have been more useful than the fluid medium, since the lack of blue in the sampler set causes most of the color wheel to become inaccessible and makes landscapes a little difficult. Still, the set was only $9.95. The paint seems to be very good so far and I’ve enjoyed practicing with it.

5 thoughts on “Water-soluble Encaustics, part 1

    1. I’ve always wondered about Encaustic painting – do you melt the wax, etc.? The whole process intrigues me ~ and I feel like it’s something I’d like to look into more. Thank you for this glimpse!

    1. Oh I haven’t actually used the drier yet, it’s just something I heard in a video about it. I think for the sake of longevity, but it doesn’t appear strictly necessary.

      I did a little side by side comparison with some Winsor & Newton gouache that I mentioned over in this forum thread (no photos of the comparison though) – http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1395359
      “From what I’ve seen so far Ceracolors can be rehydrated after they’ve dried, but not easily as gouache. I think it’s easier to layer brushstrokes or cover over an area without accidental mixing but harder to blend new paint into dried paint. Ceracolors also hold a brush stroke much better, even when thinned down a lot. It’s seeming to stay wet on the palette much longer than gouache, except for the ultramarine I made, which I think doesn’t have enough fluid medium in it for the amount of pigment I used. I haven’t tried it, but there’s a retarder medium for Ceracolors that keeps them wet even longer. So far I wouldn’t say they stay wet on the primed paper I used any longer than gouache though.”

      They actually stay wet on the palette for a very long time compared to gouache. 🙂

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