Minding Your Beeswax with Acrylic Encaustic Art

Minding Your Beeswax with Acrylic Encaustic Art

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Patti Brady explores how to use acrylic paint supplies to create an aged patina and encaustic art lookalike in this excerpt from the 10th anniversary edition of her seminal book, Rethinking Acrylic (also available for immediate download as an eBook).

Acrylic “Encaustic” Art | An Aged Patina Project

Acrylic is a totally different medium than beeswax, but it can create beautiful transparent and translucent layers that simulate the seductive quality of encaustic. Some of the luminous colors and lush surfaces produced with beeswax are easily reproducible with acrylics. In fact, many artists use acrylic gels simply because they create stunning multidimensional effects—even when they aren’t trying to copy the look of traditional encaustic art made with beeswax.

Acrylic Encaustic Options

I’ve found that there’s no “one” encaustic look. Artists who are interested in working with encaustic but are unable to provide the proper ventilation may find acrylics a viable alternative. Many acrylic gels can appear waxy, resembling encaustic artworks. This is especially true of the matte products.

High Solid Gel Matte is particularly good, as it’s very stiff and dries to a waxy, translucent surface. Adding small amounts of Fine Pumice Gel or Pastel Ground will change the level of matting agents, creating the milky, diffused transparency that characterizes encaustic surfaces. Experiment to discover your own formulas.

Acrylic “Beeswax” Formulas

Below are three formulas that you could apply over a finished painting to create effects reminiscent of beeswax. The different viscosities of the formulas create different surface textures, as will the technique with which you apply them.

Always test a formula on a sample and allow the mixture to dry, as there’s a color shift from wet to dry.

Unrefined Acrylic “Beeswax”

Add 6 drops of Fluid Interference Blue (Fine) and 1 to 3 drops of Fluid Quinacridone / Nickel Azo Gold to 8 ounces of Golden High Solid Gel Matte. This formula creates a thick “wax” with a stiff viscosity in a bright, cool, translucent yellow. Apply the mixture with a wide palette knife.

Yellow Acrylic “Beeswax”

Add 2 drops of fluid Fluid Naples Yellow Hue, 1 drop of Fluid Quinacridone / Nickel Azo Gold and 2 drops of Fluid Interference Red (Fine) to an 8-ounce jar of Golden Soft Gel Matte. This creates a “wax” with the viscosity of yogurt and the color of warm liquid beeswax.

Refined or Bleached Pourable Acrylic “Beeswax”

Combine 2 ounces of Golden Soft Gel Gloss with ½ ounce of Soft Gel Matte. Add ½ ounces of water and then add 4 drops of Fluid Interference Blue (Fine) and 1 drop of Fluid Iridescent Gold (Fine). Let the mixture sit overnight. This creates a “wax” with a smooth, matte surface with minimal color.

Adding an Aged Patina

The yellow acrylic “beeswax” formula has the perfect viscosity for creating the look of soft, warm folds of hot wax spread over a surface. Apply the “beeswax” over the surface with a pastry knife, spreading the formula to create the texture.

Patina Recipe

Mix Fluid Raw Umber and Fluid Iridescent Micaceous Iron Oxide with Golden Gloss Glazing Liquid. Use a soft cloth to apply and then wipe off the excess patina, leaving the mixture in the crevices and buffing the pigments into the gel. If you prefer a more subtle effect, omit the Iridescent Micaceous Iron Oxide from the mixture.

Slather on the “Beeswax”

Here you can see how thickly the acrylic encaustic art “beeswax” is applied to the painting’s edges. Although this looks incredibly thick, acrylics lose volume as they dry because the water evaporates, so slather it on and let it dry.

Remove the Patina With a Cloth

Gloss Glazing Liquid gives the patina mixture a long open time, so if you’ve chosen a color of glaze you don’t like, just wipe it up and begin again.

Outcome: Rich Texture

The finished example is rich with texture and looks as if the “beeswax” was melted onto the surface.

More Faux Encaustic Art Options

Create your own recipes by varying the color or viscosities. Here I applied yellow acrylic “beeswax” and the patina recipe over a painting.

When this dried, I mixed refined pourable acrylic “beeswax,” altering it by adding some Quinacridone / Nickel Azo Gold and Burnt Umber. This gave me the pourable viscosity I needed to create the waxy drips.

Demonstration: Intarsia

Intarsia is a woodworking term for a panel that has been incised to form a channel that’s then inlaid with a contrasting piece of wood. Intarsia is also a great technique for encaustic art because the soft wax can be easily carved. More wax can be added if the excavation is deep, or oil paint can be rubbed into fine lines. Acrylics may be used for intarsia effects as well. It’s a bit more complicated to carve into a dry surface, though it can be done. Here the carving is performed while the acrylic is still wet.


·wood panel or canvas over board

·Chromium Oxide Green
·Naples Yellow Hue
·Pyrrole Orange

·Cobalt Teal

·Colour Shapers in various sizes
·soft cloth

·GOLDEN Gloss Glazing Liquid
·GOLDEN Heavy Gel Matte
·GOLDEN High Solid Gel Matte

1. Prepare the Surface and Incise a Pattern

Over a dry basecoat of Naples Yellow Hue, use a wide Colour Shaper to apply a mixture of 3 parts Heavy Gel Matte to 1 part Chromium Oxide Green. While wet, incise a pattern with a pointed Colour Shaper so the basecoat shows through. Frequently wipe off the Colour Shaper’s end for clean lines. Let the surface dry.

2. Paint Over the Incisions

Mix 3 parts High Solid Gel Matte with 1 part Heavy Body Cobalt Teal. Spread the mixture deeply into the incisions with a wide Colour Shaper. Scrape in different directions, pushing the mixture deep into the channels.

3. Touch Up the Surface

Dampen a soft cloth with Gloss Glazing Liquid and use it to remove the Cobalt Teal from the areas surrounding the incision.

4. Apply Final Details

The basecoat of fluid Naples Yellow Hue peeks through the carved lines. On the left, the yellow channels remain empty. On the right, the thick mixture of High Solid Gel Matte and opaque Cobalt Teal paint blocks out the yellow base. In the middle, I applied a stripe of Pyrrole Orange, a transparent pigment, which allows the yellow to glow through, creating more depth and richness of color.

Meet the Sponsor

GOLDEN is proud to introduce the Just Paint Experience, providing artists with quick-reading, studio-oriented content to help bring their visions to life. Your experience begins with exploring the many creative surface options available to artists.

Meet the Artist

Patti Brady is an artist, author and former working artist program director for Golden Artist Colors. For more information visit Patti’s website.

This article is excerpted from Rethinking Acrylic by Patti Brady, with the permission of North Light Books.

Watch the video: Encaustic - Imbedding Photocopies (August 2022).