Encaustic paint is pigment in a beeswax and dammar resin base. It is the very earliest known form of painting, it predates oil, fresco, tempera, etc., and was first used by the Greeks over 2000 years ago. The Fayum Mummy Portraits are exhibited in major museums around the world and are the oldest and most famous examples of encaustic painting from this period. Because of this process they are still brilliant and colorful today.
Encaustic paint is first melted on a heated palette and then applied in the hot molten state with brushes or by pouring. The paint becomes solid almost immediately. The literal translation of encaustic is to burn in, meaning the new layer must be fused with heat to the layer beneath.
Today artists use torches or heat guns, but 2000 years ago it was done with tools over an open fire which was a laborious fusing process. Encaustic painting has returned as modern tools have made the process more practical. Jasper Johns is credited with the current return of encaustic fine art with his work that began in the 1950’s.