Encaustic painting has captured Jo Sheppard's interest since 1990; she incorporates it into her large scale oil paintings, and since researching the possibilities of encaustic online she has experimented with using the medium in its own right. The new series of landscapes going on show in November to December at the Cank Street Gallery are small scale encaustic paintings that demonstrate the versatility of the medium.
“The medium is very flexible. Layers of encaustic can be built up, you can pour, flick, splat, introduce collage, encapsulate images,” says Jo Sheppard, “The possibilities are endless and for this reason I have found working with wax very addictive.”
Encaustic art has a long history and is one of the world’s oldest art forms.
Fayum portrait of Aline
The Fayum portraits, aging back to the Coptic period, are portraits painted on wooden boards attached to Egyptian mummies, showing naturalistic Greco-Roman influences. Tempera, oils and fresco increased in popularity in the middle ages and although there were certain exceptions (such as with Diego Rivera), the use of wax fell out of favour until Jasper Johns reinvented the technique with his flag paintings in the 50s and 60s.
I was first introduced to using wax during my degree in 1990. I was working on a series of highly textured Mediterranean cityscapes.
My tutor recognised that wax would be the perfect addition to my mark-making repertoire. The wax pot was thrust into my hands and I was ordered to ‘go play’. I have revisited the medium various times over the years, but particularly more recently. It wasn’t until the advent of the internet that I was able to research the process more and become truly aware of its versatility.
I like to use a mixture of microcrystaline wax and damar tree resin as my painting medium. To add colour there are various options: oils, paint sticks, dry pigments, chalk pastels or oil pastels, depending on the required effect.
Encaustic works require the use a blow torch or heat gun to fuse the layers into one another, otherwise the painting would flake and be neither stable nor archival. This is one of the reasons that working with wax can be very frustrating… one momentary lapse of concentration and you can ruin a day’s work as your slaved-over surface melts into a soggy puddle!