A fairly new product to the commercial art world is Encaustic gesso. A very good one, made by R & F Paints, allows us to:
- omit the initial beeswax ‘primer’ layer
- create a white (or coloured), toothy, gessoed surface ideal for Encaustics
- start with an excellent surface for adding a huge variety of media to our Encaustic works of art before laying on the wax, such as soft pastel, charcoal, watercolours, gouache, marker, graphite, etc.
- save money by enabling us to prime our own substrates, rather than buy pricey pre-gessoed encaustic boards
Why can’t I use acrylic gesso with encaustic?
Manufacturers of encaustic paints specifically advise artists not to use acrylic gesso. Acrylic gessos aren’t archivally sound. Acrylic is not absorbent enough to accept the wax. Your painting will eventually lift off of the acrylic surface, and the acrylic will also begin flaking off of the wax surface.
In Joanne Mattera’s The Art of Encaustic Painting, one artist claims to have seen the wax of a completed encaustic painting slide right off of the acrylic gesso!
If you want to sell your encaustic artwork, keep your clients, art buyers and the galleries representing you happy by making encaustic art that could potentially last as long as the centuries-old Fayum Portraits, then only prepare your substrates using gesso that is made for encaustic.
Alternatives to Encaustic Gesso
- Yes, you can use Chalk Paint in place of Encaustic Gesso
- Venetian Plaster an Alternative to Encaustic Gesso
- Stain the substrate with India ink before you begin to paint in place of encaustic gesso