My Journey With Wax Painting

It all started when I saw first encaustic painting at a gallery in Gig Harbor, Washington seven years ago. I had a second sighting a month later at a gallery in Whistler, B.C., where a large collection of wax paintings caused me to stop in my tracks. Researching this media online, I found Michael Bossom’s website and learned about the European style using hot tools to melt and paint with wax. I ordered all of his supplies and launched into wax painting on my own. Within a few months I joined a co-op art gallery in Edmonds, Washington. Soon after that a scrapbook store owner asked me to teach this process to her customers, and a local civic group asked if I would give a talk on the subject. It was instant lift off, and I have been in flight ever since.

Melting the wax with an iron, and the user-friendly way the wax behaves, is quite a draw for most people. I introduce this art form to students in my classes and demonstrations. I like to call it advanced kindergarten for all the fun one has in the process of creating an art piece. For example, I created the wax painting below using a pancake griddle! I placed a large A2 sized paper (A2 is a European measurement that’s about 17 x 24 inches) on the griddle and heated it while touching wax blocks directly to the paper – and then watched the magic happen. For smaller paper, I use the iron in the hot plate mode to create the same look.

Christmas Ribbons

In this short introduction to the subject I will share with you some of the ways I have found to work with this style of wax painting. Be careful, as it’s an addictive process and I can attest to its lure even after hours and hours of painting.

Let us begin by taking a look at the tools for this European style of wax painting. Instead of heating tins of wax on a hot plate as is typically used by encaustic artists, we will use only hot tools: an iron, and some smaller hot tools that fit into a stylus, which will melt the wax and work as our brushes. There are three boxes of wax to choose from: a starter box

of 16 landscape colors with gold and silver, an expanded box

that includes the colors that lie between the colors of the starter set and are more pastel, and the vivid set

that are blending and more transparent colors.

In the first attempts to learn this process I suggest a student work on a gloss card stock, which allows the wax to move after it has cooled and is reheated. This allows one to alter the picture. Also, this surface creates vivid colors that are bright and blend with ease. After the wax sets, it can be polished with a cloth or tissue – and to protect the surface it can be covered with a wax coating or even with Future floor polish.

The stylus with the different points

Wax Sealer

The history of this art form goes back to the Egyptians some 2,000 years ago, but Michael Bossom’s method is only about 25 years old. The difference is that his method lays down thin skins of wax instead of thick layers seen in the more traditional method using brushes. This fluid style is one that suits me. When I teach this method I begin by creating abstract pictures with a student, so that they see the patterns the wax can make. Those patterns can result in very realistic paintings once one has mastered them.

We will begin by exploring a series of different sky patterns. Once you have painted five or six skies to choose from, you can begin to put different landscape patterns under them. A rolling hills pattern is a bit tricky to learn, because it is like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time. You have to make two motions: paint a lazy Figure 8 pattern (on its side like the infinity symbol) and then travel down the page with the iron held horizontal. This will create a series of hills and a valley running down the middle of the page. How you load the iron with the wax is also a factor. I melt various green colors on the face-plate of the iron to create grass, and then melt brown onto the upper edge of the iron, which will be the top of the hills.

A quick swipe of the iron will finish the bottom and then, with a lifting motion, create a landscape pattern of grasses.

Rolling Hills

From this pattern the student will go on to learn mountains and mesas. Each of these have many variations. Once there is a nice collection of sky and landscape patterns, you can start using the stylus to insert many details into those pictures. Birds, trees, cacti, and flowers are a good starting point. The tools become more and more comfortable the more they are used and the artist gains control.

A fun process to learn is painting with tissue that is soaked with wax. These wax pads create a look that is not possible with just the tools alone. By pushing the wax through the tissue onto the surface, it shows the texture of the tissue in the process. This makes very nice rocks and mountains. It has a look like sumi ink painting. While the wax is still warm you rub with your fingers to create shading. Here is a painting of a pond that Michael Bossom created as an example of this method. He soaked the pad with three colors to create this look. I painted the mountain picture, creating the rock-like looks by smudging the wax while it was still warm with my finger. I find this process a lot of fun, and I like the Asian feel it produces. To add to that look I use a chop mark for a signature, my name carved into the stone.

Painting with tissue pads

Wax pad painting with waxed sky background

Another process to try is to take a painting like this mountain picture and turn it over on top of some fabric. If you heat the back side of the card with the iron, you will transfer this picture onto the cloth. If using a non-absorbent surface it will transfer, but also blur and blend – creating a whole different picture. This process is called “mono printing” and it can be used to enhance your paintings in many different ways. Sometimes I take strips of card stock loaded with wax to mono print certain areas onto larger pieces that I’m working on.

I often hear the phrase, “I’m not an artist and I can’t draw” from potential students. I tell them that they are perfect for encaustic painting. There are many ways they can create beautiful pictures without drawing, offering them a way out of that excuse. You can use photographs, rubber stamps, image transfers with gel medium, or ink jet pictures to name a few. Those alone can keep you busy for a while.

You can use transfer papers to turn your finished art work into jewelry, such as domino pendants. I reduce JPEGs of my art to 1 x 2 inches and print them with my ink jet printer onto decal transfer paper. I drop these into a water bath one by one, and then slip off the decal onto the domino. That’s just one new way to work with your existing art pieces. Using the same process you can also put the decal on an absorbent surface like canvas or wood, then sink it into the surface by coating it with turpentine. This will melt the decal image into the background surface.

I have a friend in the gallery who is a photographer and I kept encouraging him to experiment with different ways to present his art. I asked for one of his images and then used the above technique with his image – one on wood, with just a cropped section of his image, and another using the whole image on stretched canvas. You could do this with a JPEG of any of your art.

Sam Spencer's Photo Image on Canvas

This image was placed on a cradled board, the exposed wood painted with iron oxide and then rusted with a chemical. For the image on stretched canvas, I again used iron oxide to paint the exposed canvas and treated it with a chemical to alter the look, adding a bit of brown to match the photo.

Can you imagine what you could do with rubber stamps? Take the stamp and create an ink impression on your surface, then coat it with clear wax to protect the image. This will make the next coat of wax more transparent by thinning the pigments. You will be able to see through the wax to the stamped pattern, then take the stylus and fill in the image with details using the pen tip. Now go one step further and take a line drawing printed with an ink jet printer on regular printer paper. Dip the back side of these prints into a bath of clear wax, and then begin to wax the front side with the iron and stylus. This dipping into the clear wax makes the paper become translucent and gives it a smooth surface to use the stylus. For the next picture, I painted in the sky on the back side of the paper so that the look would be very soft on the front side of the paper. I love to discover these tricks and pass them on to my students.

Waxed image off inkjet print

Soft effects also can be achieved by using hot air. I started with just a hair dryer, but these have too much air and not enough heat. I next tried an embossing gun, but that had too much heat and not enough air. With one in each hand I could get the effect I wanted, but not a lot of control. Finally, I bought a professional heat gun from Sears that had temperature and air control allowing me to dial in the exact amount of each. With this tool I could create wonderful skies and fantasy flowers. Here is one example of the effect of hot air on the wax, created on a large mirror. This piece I gifted to a local nonprofit organization I am working with to save a historic home in my city. I was gifted back with this wonderful description of the painting: “Nebula is a cosmic arrangement of colorful swirls and spatters applied with heat to the surface of a mirror, created by a local sage who understood that art is a window into the Universe through which people can see reflections of themselves.”

Nebula, wax on a mirror

The next picture is an example of a fantasy floral image using this same technique.

Fantasy Flowers

Sometimes, mistakes can lead to new ideas. Once I inadvertently left some mat media on a paper and when I waxed over it I noticed you could see marks where it had been. Although this ruined that particular art piece, it occurred to me that I could use this accident to my advantage. Anywhere the mat media was left on the page, it would show up as a ghost image in the wax. I took a stencil, painted some paper with mat media, and let it dry. You can hardly notice it when it’s dry, but put some wax over it and the pattern will show up.

Mat media and stencil

When a student first starts painting I always recommend using the A6 size card stock, as it is about the same size as the face plate of the iron. This way the student will not run out of wax too fast as they begin to learn how to move the iron. Control is developed after making many hundreds of these small paintings, and I am still learning tricks to make different effects each time I paint. The bird on the left was a rubber stamp image placed under the wax to use as a pattern. In the picture on the right, I embedded on the card a sheet of one-ply Kleenex tissue and then painted on that surface with wax to get a very soft, almost watercolor effect.

Rubber stamp example

Painting on embedded tissue

These small cards, about 4 x 6 inches in size, make a great presentation when slipped into photo insert cards. Photo insert cards are sold in packs with envelopes, which when inserted in a clear plastic sleeve are perfect for selling. This is also a good size for giving demonstrations. I often sit outside on the sidewalk in front of the gallery and just paint. Soon a small crowd will gather. Kids are especially fascinated with this process. Of course, I can’t resist their wide eyes and wonderment – so they usually walk away with the card I was just painting, as a gift. Who knows what this little art seed might sprout?

When incorporating photographs into my paintings, I often like using images of statues because they seem to lend themselves to this process. Let me show you an example of one that is just a bit different. First, I made a waxed background, and then I carved grooves into the wax with the round stylus point. Next, I rubbed oil paints into the grooves to bring out the colors of the photograph I was planning to use. I had a large print of a Kuan Yin statue and, using a software program, I softened the edges of the image. I then took the image to the print shop and copied it onto regular printer paper. I then took the finished print and dipped the back side into clear wax until the paper became translucent. Now the image of the background could be seen through the paper at the edges, creating a nice visual effect. I fused the image into the background with the hot iron while applying more wax on the surface. This was just one of many looks I have created using photographs. With endless possibilities to explore, the photographers in my classes are always excited to work with wax.

Kuan Yin

I met an artist who showed me a little press called a Cuttlebug, which allows you to cut and emboss card stock. You run the card stock through the press while using some of the supplied embossing plates. Later, I discovered that I could create my own plates using raised images. I was so sure that this would be a good match for working with wax that I had to go out and buy this press right away. I waxed over these embossed surfaces, and also embedded tissue over the surface first and then wax, which would create those soft textures and give that watercolor look. Here is one of those waxed card surfaces to give you a feel for what is possible.

Embossed 1

When embedding objects in wax you need to use a lot more wax, but you can do some of it with thin layers. In the next picture I used an image transfer together with some images printed with my ink jet. I also inserted a piece of silk scarf, as well as some thick wax strips fused to the surface. I then pressed the raised wax strips with a heated leather tool. After taking this photo, I also used a hot foil pen to write on the wax with gold and blue foil. Once you let your mind start to roam you never know what you will come up with.

Ancient Wisdom

An example of that roving mind might be when I saw a stencil sheet of numbers in a scrapbook store. I was sure I could do something with them. I began with a cradled board and waxed the surface so that I could heat fuse the stencil into the wax. I began to pour diamond glaze in puddles on different numbers, raising sections with different heights. I used a glue gun to write numbers on the sides of the board and then painted over that with iron oxide, which I then rusted with a chemical. I got the idea as I went along that it could be an interesting clock – so I got some clock works, drilled a hole in the middle, and inserted the hands. Again, a fun project that was only discovered going along with the creative process.


So you are getting the drift that I like to play. One day while my grandson was in the studio (he loves to paint with wax, by the way), we were dreaming up different items to wax. We took a blank puzzle kit and began to wax them to see what we could create. Not knowing how they would end up being used, I let them sit around the studio for a while. I finally decided they had to go somewhere and began a large waxed background. I cut up the surround for the puzzle and began to paste it into the wax along with the puzzle itself. A strip of a silk scarf went into one edge.

I began to like this project and decided to mount it on foam core, which was a mistake. As I glued it down the foam core warped and became concave. I learned I should have pasted the back side as well and that would have kept the work flat. This picture does not appear concave here, as it was still nice and flat at the time; but when this happened I decided to keep going and poured a lot of jewelry ice resin over the picture. Now it really looked different and when I went to frame it, of course, that was a challenge. I ended up having to buy some upholstery cord in black to match the frame and glue it along two exposed edges to give it a finished look. Here is the before picture, as the after image is hard to photograph because the resin coating is so reflective.

The Solution

While looking at one of my small landscapes one day, wondering how to create a different looking tree, I hit upon a new idea for creating a three-dimensional surface. By laying a piece of one-ply Kleenex over the area and painting the tree on the Kleenex, the hot wax will go through and stick to the surface below. This creates a raised area. I discovered I could wet the exposed Kleenex and it would wipe away, leaving the now raised tree. It was rather clever, because you don’t disturb the rest of the wax area in any way and yet are able to insert this into the wax.

Working with a picture of a Japanese woman I found in a book, I decided to use this method to give her dress a fabric-like feel. First, I made an abstract soft background and, then, with some tracing paper underneath I got the outline transferred onto the wax. Now I could use the stylus to wax in her image. When I came to the clothing, here is where I wanted to use a raised surface that would seem cloth-like in texture. Because one ply of Kleenex is so thin, you can see through just enough to discern the pattern. Waxing different colors on the different areas of her dress gave the cloth effect I was looking for.

Fabric texture example

Working with different image transfers, I tried the process of using overhead projector film and then transferring the images onto another surface with gel medium. While doing that I had the idea of using the film with the print image as a see-through layer laid over a waxed background. Now the waxed background would show through, and soon I had some new looks as a result. In the one with the woman, I made a mix of regular image transfers along with the cut film. Coarse granular gels, as well as Diamond Glaze, are used in the first image below. The other one, the chest image, used just the film over a waxed under-layer. I might have taken the idea from the time I used a photograph that I printed on a silk transfer paper, and then draped the silk over some wax patterns, heating the silk with the iron until the wax lifted up into the silk – creating a pattern on the body of the model. One discovery always leads to another.



Collage with all sorts of materials is a fun technique to explore. While I was teaching in California I met an artist who showed me some papers she had purchased on eBay. They were pages out of some county court records. She used these pages in some of her art work, so I thought I should give that a try. She gave me one of these pages to work with and it forms the background in the image below. I had fun mixing image transfers and other papers into this collage.

No Judgment

Another of my collage projects is called the Global Series. Here I used stretched canvas as the substrate. I first glued down different tissues with mat media, which when dry stretched the canvas taunt. I painted some of those tissues with mica paints and in some cases dribbled some Diamond Glaze over the surface. The only areas waxed in this series of paintings were the circular coffee filter papers fixed to the surface. I am always looking for some different product to work with and really like the look of this series. I crinkled up the filters first before waxing. This is also something I have done to other paper, waxing the tops of the wrinkles and then using other media to fill in the valleys. These papers were then cut up into different patterns and used in collages.

Global 1

Global Series 2

A collage experience that I have come to delight in doing is taking one ply of Kleenex and embedding that into the wax—leaving enough “tooth” on the Kleenex so that I can get it to take up another medium. My favorite is to use Twinkle H2O mica paint. After I finished that process I went back and drew some circles in white on the face of the hot iron and then stamped the circles repeatedly as the last touch on the Manhattan Nights picture below. On the Shoot The Moon picture below I also used some sheet wax to give it some raised texture. This sheet wax, often used in candle decorating, puts a nice accent in pictures.

Manhattan Nights

Shoot The Moon

I am not sure where this next brainstorm came from, but I have always liked the embossing foils. In the painting below I put blue foil upside down on a non-stick, heat-resistant surface (one of those craft sheets) and then heated up some thick, granular embossing powder until it became liquid. I poured that over the foil in a swirl and allowed it to cool. Then with the blue side up I embedded the foil into a waxed background that I had prepared. I liked the effect of using foil a lot and, in some cases, I have used a hot embossing pen to put foil writing on the wax.


For those who say they can’t draw, I have found that transferring patterns to wax is an easy way to create beautiful art works. I will show you a few different ways I have done just that. The first is a pattern I got from a friend who does wood carving. On an abstract background I transferred the outline and then drew in the body of the bird with a stylus.

Next is a project I took from a stained glass pattern book. I created a three-dimensional effect on the basket and flowers by laying one ply of Kleenex over the pattern in areas where I wanted a raised surface. I would then paint with the hot wax, which would soak through the tissue and stick to the surface below, creating the raised look. You can also see that the background is lightly waxed and then painted with mica paint, which adheres to the un-waxed surface.

Flower Basket

Finally, a third painting is also taken from a stained glass pattern book and uses this same technique to create a raised wax surface.


Patterns were also the idea behind the next piece. Originally, I had cut up scraps of wax paintings and combined them to form a small collaged kimono. That got me thinking that I could create a large painting the same way. So I made the pattern, cut it all out, and then waxed all the different sections. I then assembled the separate pieces and placed them on a background of wax and Kleenex for a nice, soft look. That same process was also done on the front of the dress. Several icons made out of soft paper clay, and a rubber stamp with the symbol for wealth, were dried, painted and placed in the picture. This ended up as a large painting with a striking appearance.

After someone has practiced on the small A6 card and has a feel for the iron and stylus, there comes a time for creating a larger painting. This is the first large painting I made, in which I used a pearl gloss card stock that had a pearl gloss surface. The problem comes when you run out of wax, and you have to reload your iron and try to keep the same flow to the wax as you melt the new layer next to the old one. A bit of practice and you will get the hang of it.

High Meadowland

Abstracts are always a treat to work with, as well as the realistic images. Here are a couple of paintings that have similar styles.

Holy Flame

Lighted Garden

Drawing portraits like the Fayum paintings no doubt would be a challenge for
most. But this should not stop one from creating with the help of a JPEG and your printer. One technique is to first print an image with an ink jet printer, dipping the back side of the paper into clear wax melted on a pancake griddle, and then using the front side of the now translucent paper to color in with wax using the stylus tool. Below are a few examples using this method. The last painting is a collage in which the image is inserted along with some embedded silk scarf and a doily, as well as a strip of waxed Japanese paper.

Encaustic overlay

Overlay and collage

with encaustics

Practicing this process, it would not be long before one is able to create original drawings. Experimenting with the wax can lead to some nice outcomes. Here are a few examples using foil imprints, to give you an idea of what I mean.

In the above four examples, I first made a background with wax and then crinkled up a piece of tin foil, flattened it out, and applied some wax to one side. Next, I turned the foil over and placed it on the waxed surface. Then I lightly touched the iron to the foil and this transferred a pattern with some wax to the image. I created some nice effects this way.

Below, I give another example of using this same process, but then adding another technique. I took some floral gift wrap that looked like it could be a plastic screen-like material. Since I was not sure if it would melt I had to give it a try to find out. It put down a fine screen pattern that I mixed in with the foil imprint to create a new look that I could use.

Antique Rose

Another process that had interesting results I discovered when I dribbled some colored inks onto card stock, then blew the ink around on the surface with an air gun. I then applied wax on top of that. Here are two examples of what that looked like.



I used this same technique in a few more paintings. Of course, it was not long before I got another idea to try. This time I used mica watercolor to color in a section of the surface before I waxed, so that this color would show through the wax. This added a nice flair to the finished picture. Here are two examples of this approach.

Sky painted first

Sky painted first

This painting also has some mica gold powder rubbed into the wax on the tree at the right. This does not always show up in a picture because of the way the light reflects off the powder. Here are two abstracts that use the ink, watercolor background, and mica powder all put together with the wax.

Wishing Tree

Just to complete this section I will add another painting, in which I put one ply of Kleenex into the wax, giving it a textured surface to present a whole new look.

One ply of Kleenex
One can keep putting many different ideas together. Here is a painting that I began as a mono print, then painted in the voids with mica paint, and applied wax on top of that. Next, the foil process was used to create the background, after which I painted in the flower and vine pattern. After all that was done I rubbed some of the mica gold powder into the wax to finish the painting below.


Along these same lines of combining methods, to make the following picture I cut out the image of two sisters and applied wax and tissue on top of that. Then I created the floral image, added in the image of the two girls with wax, applied a layer of fine netting over that, and secured that with clear wax. Over all of this I rubbed in some gold mica powder to achieve the look below.


I hope all of these ideas will inspire you to give encaustic painting a try, as it has given me many hours of joy. Supplies can be obtained by visiting my website at

. I am a U.S. distributor of Michael Bossom’s Encaustic products from his company in the Netherlands. I also feature many teaching videos on my website, as well as an extensive archive of my e-newsletters.

This e-book will be the first in a series.

Only the beginning.

Below are excerpts from some background resources about encaustic painting that may be of interest.

Article by — Ralph Mayer, The Artist's Handbook

Encaustic is a beeswax based paint that is kept molten on a heated palette. It is applied to a surface and reheated to fuse the paint into a uniform enamel-like finish. The word encaustic comes from Greek and means to burn in, which refers to the process of fusing the paint.

Encaustic has a long history, but it is as versatile as any 20th century medium. It can be polished to a high gloss, it can be modeled, sculpted, textured, and combined with collage materials. It cools immediately, so that there is no drying time, yet it can always be reworked.

The durability of encaustic is due to the fact that beeswax is impervious to moisture. Because of this it will not deteriorate, it will not yellow, and it will not darken. Encaustic paintings do not have to be varnished or protected by glass.
Encaustic paint has no toxic fumes, nor does it require the use of solvents. As a result, a number of health hazards are reduced or eliminated.

The History of Encaustic

Encaustic painting was practiced by Greek artists as far back as the 5th century B. C. Most of our knowledge of this early use comes from the Roman historian Pliny, who wrote in the 1st century A.D. Pliny seems to have had very little direct knowledge about studio methods, so his account of techniques and materials is sketchy. According to Pliny, encaustic was used in a variety of applications: the painting of portraits and scenes of mythology on panels, the coloring of marble and terra cotta, and work on ivory (probably the tinting of incised lines).

Wax is an excellent preservative of materials. It was from this use that the art of encaustic painting developed. The Greeks applied coatings of wax and resin to weatherproof their ships. Pigmenting the wax gave rise to the decorating of warships. Mention is even made by Homer of the painted ships of the Greek warriors who fought at Troy. The use of a rudimentary encaustic was therefore an ancient practice by the 5th century B.C. It is possible that at about that time the crude paint applied with tar brushes to the ships was refined for the art of painting on panels. Pliny mentions two artists who had in fact started out as ship painters.

The use of encaustic on panels rivaled the use of tempera, in what are the earliest known portable easel paintings. Tempera was a faster, cheaper process. Encaustic was a slow, difficult technique, but the paint could be built up in relief, and the wax gave a rich optical effect to the pigment. These characteristics made the finished work startlingly life-like. Moreover, encaustic had far greater durability than tempera, which was vulnerable to moisture. Pliny refers to encaustic paintings several hundred years old in the possession of Roman aristocrats of his own time.

The nature of encaustic to both preserve and color gave it wide use on the stone work of both architecture and statuary. The white marble we see today in the monuments of Greek antiquity was once colored, probably delicately tinted like the figures on the Alexander sarcophagus in Istanbul. Pliny says that when the sculptor Praxiteles was asked which of his pieces he favored, he answered those "to which [the painter] Nicias had set his hand." Decorative terra cotta work on interiors was also painted with encaustic, a practice that was a forerunner to mosaic trim.

Perhaps the best known of all encaustic work are the Fayum funeral portraits painted in the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. by Greek painters in Egypt. A significant Greek population had settled in Egypt following its conquest by Alexander, eventually adopting the customs of the Egyptians. This included mummifying their dead. A portrait of the deceased, painted either in the prime of life or after death, was placed over the person's mummy as a memorial. Many of these pieces have survived to our own time, and their color has remained as fresh as any recently completed work.

In the great period of economic instability that followed the decline of the Roman empire, encaustic fell into disuse. Some work, particularly the painting of icons, was carried on as late as the 12th century, but for the most part it became a lost art. The process was cumbersome and painstaking, and the cost of producing it was high. It was replaced by tempera, which was cheaper, faster, and easier to work. In the 18th century the idea of encaustic painting was revived, initially by amateurs as a novelty to rediscover the techniques of the ancient painters. It was further explored in the 19th century, to solve the problem of dampness faced by mural painters in northern climates. The success of these efforts was limited, and encaustic remained an obscure art form.

In the 20th century, the availability of portable electric heating implements and the variety of tools has made encaustic a far less formidable technique. This factor has created a resurgence of encaustic painting, and it is once again taking its place as a major artists' medium. "Its effects, its visual and physical properties, and its range of textural and color possibilities make it eminently suitable for use in several different contemporary styles of painting that are not adequately served by our traditional oil-painting process."

Fayum Painting

“The Mysterious Fayum Portraits: Faces from Ancient Egypt” by Euphrosyne Doxiadis

Paintings from the 1st century BC to 3rd century AD. The climate in Egypt and the conditions there allowed these paintings to survive. Similar Hellenistic – Egyptian paintings were produced in many places of the Roman Empire but only in Fayum many examples were found. The image of a woman could be similar to the portraits produced by Iaia of Cyzicus, a woman Greek painter. According to Pliny the Elder she worked in Rome producing paintings of women and a self-portait. These portraits on wooden panels included in mummies probably represent the deceased. The instruments used:
• cauter or cauterium, an instrument used to fix the colors
• penicillum or penicill, a brush
• cestrum, a (probably hot) graver

How and if these instruments as Pliny mentions were used is actually not known as the opinions of the experts differ. As the portraits show young men and women either they show the persons when they were young or it shows also that the life expectancy at that time was rather small. The encausting technique was a Greek method used in Egypt to produce these brilliant paintings. The method originated in Classical Greece in the fifth and fourth centuries BC.

Among these portraits there is a young boy with a Greek name, Eutyhes . His name probably is derived from eu and tyhe which means good and luck or lucky and in modern Greek also happy. But he was probably not so lucky and died very young probably around 50-100 AD. Due to the influence of the Greeks in Egypt for around 300 years and later the Romans many persons shown have Greek names and wear Roman clothes but their religion is Egyptian.

“Fayum Painting from Portrait-Painting in Ancient Egypt”
by Amelia Ann Blanford Edwards

Finer by far, as a work of art, is the portrait of a young man named Diogenes He was apparently a professional musician. A small wooden label found with the mummy-case calls him "Diogenes of the Flute of Arsinoe;" while a second inscription, written in ink upon one of the mummy-wrappings, describes him as "Diogenes who abode at the Harp when he was alive." From these it is evident that he was a flautist, born in the city of Arsinoe, and that when he came to live at Hawara, he lodged at the sign of the Harp. The panel, like too many others, is badly cracked; but the head is so characteristic, and the expression so fine, that not even this blemish mars its effect. There is a set look in the face, as of some solemn purpose to be fulfilled; and the eyes arrest us, like the eyes of a living man.


Text: © John Vandebrooke and Fun Easy Art. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to John Vandebrooke and Fun Easy Art, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Publication Date: 11-08-2010

All Rights Reserved

To my loving wife Muriel

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