Encaustic printing means exploring your personal creative freedom, a safe bet on improvisation knowing that the richness and variety of results are above those of any other technique. The encaustic printing’s process is as important as the result. Encaustic printing finds its place in the art world somewhere between painting, drawing and graphic art.
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Encaustic printing: Monotypes & Monoprints
Encaustic printing can be called encaustic monotype since they cannot be reproduced and there is only one original. If you print it only once you can call it monoprint but sometimes can be confusing since the same original can be printed immediately in different layers many times like Artist Alexandre Masino does. Nevertheless, I prefer the term encaustic printing since is the general term and includes all techniques.
The earliest monotypes date from the 1640s, when Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione printed compositions he drew on un-incised metal plates. Since then, artists like Edgar Degas and Paul Gauguin have enjoyed experimenting on the plates in a variety of ways, wiping and adding color to the plate, using rags, fingers and brushes, or even adding finishing touches with pastel to enhance the colors.
The first artist to introduce encaustic in the discipline was Dorothy Furlong Gardner, she wanted to combine the directness and immediacy of the monotype with the richness and luminosity of encaustic painting.
She showed an encaustic print in 1980, she called it then “Encaustic monotype”. You can read the full story and process on her webpage Dorothy Furlong Gardner
This technique was innovated by Dorothy Furlong Gardner, but artists like Paula Roland, Alexandre Masino, or David A. Clark are the masters. On their webpages you can see full definition images of their portfolio.
The process is in principle simple: a pigmented wax melted on a heated metal plate is transferred to a sheet of paper using hand pressure or barrens; no printing press is needed and no toxic inks or solvents are involved, just wax, heat, paper and pressure, four variables that on their own create an endless and unpredictable universe.
As in standard print you can work with the additive or negative process drawing or removing areas. Since wax hardens in seconds you can reprint it as many times as you want in the same process.
In principle any stable, flat and non-absorbent heated surface could do, from the simplest to the most complicated. Continuous temperature control is as you can imagine of paramount importance and not only because of safety issues. I think this theme deserves a whole post, but bellow you can find same ideas.
The pigmented wax
Depending on the temperature you use from 70 to 90 you would need the wax medium with more or less Dammar resin, or even none if you work on the low range. If you work with the standard encaustic paint you may need to adjust your working temperature.
The paper chosen can determine the outcome of the print depending on its absorbency, absorbent paper such as handmade long fiber paper makes a softer image and the wax becomes part of the paper, a less absorbent paper the wax does not penetrate the paper and the result is more a traditional print.
Depending on the consistency of the wax at the given temperature and the absorbency of the paper, you may need to put a light pressure, with you hands in specific areas or with barrens.
If you are curious you can start today making some experiments on your griddle, but if you don’t want to get lost and ruined trying all the alternatives of this technique, I very much recommend to learn at least the basics from an experienced teacher, as I once did.
This post is also available in: Spanish