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A Passion for Encaustics

Donna Persinger brought her passion for encaustics to fellow members at the Anderson Artists Guild meeting on Jan. 14.

After sharing some of the history—including the discovery of encaustic portraits on ancient Egyptian tombs, a story about Leonardo da Vinci’s ill-fated attempt to apply wax to a painting, and a revival of the art form with Jasper Johns in 1954—she talked about her own discovery of the possibilities of creating art with beeswax and damar resin and encaustic paints. She stopped in an art supply store during a visit to Portland, Oregon, and was hooked on what she found. It was the medium she had been searching for. “I had never heard of it but loved the texture,” she said.

During a demonstration, she explained the general steps of the process. She heats the wax on a dedicated electric griddle, using a thermometer to avoid going over 200 degrees, the point at which the wax will smoke and become toxic. On a board or panel that has been coated with clear medium (eight parts wax to one part damar resin) or encaustic medium, she applies the hot wax with a natural bristle brush and then fuses it with a heat gun or blow torch.

Then the fun begins with the addition of paint (such as oil sticks or pan pastels but never acrylics) and stamps and stencils and elements like fresh greenery. With each new layer, more heat is added.

She advises taking classes (she offers some at Arts Off the Alley in Seneca), experimenting, and practicing. “The first thing I made was terrible,” she said.

For more information about Persinger, visit

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