Creation of a Fayum Portrait

Creation of a Fayum Portrait

Creation of a Fayum Portrait

Santa Fe artist Francisco Benitez shows how he recreates an ancient Fayum or ‘mummy’ portrait using Ceracolors-a new water-soluble wax paint by Natural Pigments.

George O’Hanlon and Tatiana Zaytseva recently gave their Best Painting Practices workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico and at the end of the workshop I did a demo for them with their new Ceracolors line of cold wax paints. These are probably the closest approximation to the ancient waxes of antiquity. With George and Tania’s urging, I documented the creation of this imaginary portrait.

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A Brief History of Encaustic and Wax Painting

Fayum PortraitEncaustic paint consists of pigments mixed with hot, melted wax. It is melted and applied as a liquid or paste to a support—usually primed wood, though canvas and other materials are often used.

The simplest encaustic paint is made by adding pigments to beeswax, but there are many other recipes that include other types of waxes, resins, linseed oil or other ingredients. Metal tools and special brushes are used to shape the paint before it cools, or heated metal tools can be used to manipulate the wax once it has solidified.

The word “encaustic” originates from the Greek word enkaustikos, which means to “burn in” and this element of heat is necessary for a painting to be called “encaustic.”

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