Chalk & Milk Paint as a stable underpainting for encaustic art
So many of us are familiar with acrylic-based mixed media art. YouTube videos have walked us through thousands of projects and techniques which tend to use acrylic based glues and mediums to achieve fantastic results. That was the case with me and my familiar ground. I painted in and taught acrylic-based mixed media art for years. It’s all I knew and loved.
In walks encaustic… be still my beating heart, a new love! I learned early on that acrylics and encaustic wax are akin to oil and water. They simply don’t mix. I longed for being able to do an underpainting in acrylic and mixed media paint and then brush and fuse on a layer of wax. This would make the process easier on me as it was already familiar, and then the paintings could easily grow in size as the cost of encaustic medium and paints would be greatly reduced.
The Discovery — Two worlds collide
For years I kept the two mediums very separate until one fateful day when a friend of mine asked me to join her in a chalk paint workshop. It was here that the two worlds would collide.
In the workshop, we repainted a small piece of furniture using chalk paint. I loved the fact that we didn’t have to sand the furniture first. When we were finished with two layers of paint on each piece, we talked a little about the properties of the paint.
The properties of Chalk Paint
Chalk-based furniture paints are mineral based. No acrylic, no latex. A small amount of adhesive is added to the paint to allow it to “stick” better to the furniture, but that’s it as far as “plastic” agents in the paint are concerned. It dries to a very absorbent and “chalky” appearance. This is the part where my mind got blown… to seal the piece of furniture we rubbed in a layer of beeswax!
Two years after that class, I wrote and self-published my first little book entitled Two Worlds Collide.
I have been practising what I preach for the past six years and have had hundreds of students comment on their successes with the technique and materials. Chalk paints are a suitable replacement for encaustic gessoes and provide a wider range of possibilities with broader selections of colours and more “paint-like” texture and fluidity.
Not all chalk paints are created equal. If you can’t find out what the paint content is by visiting the company’s website, then opt for one of my tried and trues. Van Gogh Furniture Paintology, Annie Sloan, Cottage Paint and The Fat Paint Company.
Milk paints are equally as acrylic-free, but the powder/water mixing adds another step to your proces—not as convenient.
Try this in your studio:
- Using chalk paints, paint a picture on a wooden board that you might normally do with acrylics.
- Once thoroughly dry (overnight is best) apply a layer of clear encaustic medium using a wide natural-haired bristle brush.
- Slowly iron-fuse the primary wax “transition-layer” fully.
- Now you are ready to embellish with coloured waxes, textures, patinas, foils and stylus additions.
Chalk Paint can also be applied on top of collage items to prepare a distressed background for encaustic painting. You can read more here about my process of beginning with a mixed media collage ground.
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