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How to Make an Encaustic Collage Painting

Melt wax, add color and collage items to create this colorful painting.

Russell Thurston was an illustrator and photographer living in Chicago when his wife got a job offer in Santa Fe. After they moved to New Mexico, Russell decided to put his commercial career aside and focus more on his love of fine arts. Drawing upon his art school education, Russell began creating art full time, and these days when he's not out bike riding or walking his dogs, he's in the studio creating beautiful and colorful encaustic collage paintings.

Materials and Tools:

damar resin
oil paint
oil sticks
natural bristle paintbrushes
wood panels
wax paper
rag papers
collage objects, flower petals, paper cutouts
assorted scraping tools (ceramic tools, bike parts)
muffin tin
mortar and pestle
hot plate or heating plate
salad oil
heat gun
tacking iron
butterfly design
moon design
stirring tool
cloth or rag
handmade picture frame

Figure A


1. Melt a one-pound block of beeswax in a saucepan on a hotplate set at 150-180 degrees F.

2. While the wax melts, crush damar resin crystal into a fine powder using a mortar and pestle. Stir it into the melted wax until it's well blended.

3. Heat up a muffin tin on a hot plate and pour encaustic medium into the tins. Add dry pigments, oil pastels or oil paint colors to the medium and stir to blend well.

Figure B

4. Draw a pencil sketch of the design on paper. Draw the design on a wood panel with a pencil.

Figure E

5. Brush the colored medium onto the wood panel with natural bristle brushes. The wax will harden quickly when it touches the wood. Add each color separately. Heat the wax and fuse the color to the wood panel with a heat gun. Continue adding colors to the wood panel until the design is complete.

6. Scrape the surface with palette knives and paint scrapers to smooth.

Figure G

7. Place collage elements (flowers, photos and cut papers) onto the painting. Brush with heated clear encaustic medium to attach. Fuse with the heat gun or a tacking iron.

8. Scrape into the surface of the painting to create marks and lines (texture) with ceramic tools, bike parts, etc.

Figure H

9. Rub over the surface with oil sticks or paint to work the color into the etched areas. Buff with a rag and salad oil to remove excess paint.

10. Brush the entire collage painting with a finish coat of heated clear encaustic medium.

11. Iron the collage surface with a tacking iron and buff until it's smooth and shiny.

12. Attach the finished encaustic collage painting to a handmade wood frame.

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