When I saw microcrystalline encaustic wax art displayed at The Artist Project in Toronto, I was very interested to see how it compares with beeswax encaustic medium. Of the ten artists showing encaustic artwork, two of them used encaustic medium made with microcrystalline, not with beeswax/damar. The effect was a quite different from what I know of encaustic.
Microcrystalline compared to beeswax/damar encaustic medium
The first thing I noticed was that the paintings had a different textural quality – it was almost like plastic. I also noted that it didn’t have the lovely beeswax smell.
Microcrystalline is a petroleum-based wax that will give off vapors in the molten stage. Extra consideration should be taken to provide proper ventilation.
Reasons artists choose Microcrystalline Encaustic wax
Microcrystalline has a higher melting temperature than beeswax so it is more pliable allowing for more time to mold, shape, model, cast, carve and form objects. You can apply encaustic paint over the modeled surface with minimal disturbance to the bottom sculpted surface.
Microcrystalline is also less expensive than beeswax. Some artists paint exclusively with microcrystalline wax others use a combination of microcrystalline and beeswax.
Microcrystalline will yellow over time due to residual oils in the refining of wax. For this reason, it is best to add pigment to the wax.
I spoke at length with Nina Sampaleanu. Much to my surprise Nina said that she switched from using beeswax to microcrystalline because of headaches. I would have thought that the natural beeswax would be less likely to produce headaches. Nina said that even with proper ventilation, beeswax encaustic medium produced headaches.
Nina Sampaleanu was showing two-sided sculptural encaustic pieces.
What do you think?
Please add your comments. Have you ever worked with microcrystalline? Have you experienced headaches from working in encaustic? What do you know of how it is different from working with beeswax?
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