Encaustic and Fresco The durable pair
Encaustic and Fresco share many qualities. They are the 2 most durable paint mediums, they are the most ancient of the media still used for serious artwork, and they are both quite odd compared to conventional Oil Paint or water based paints. Both are developments of the ancient Greek world. The Frescos of bulls with acrobats from Minos are world famous as one of the greatest masterpieces of the ancient world. The earliest existing tomb of an artist is of a Greek woman who was buried with her encaustic  heating equipment and tools. Although we know of earlier artist's names, their tombs are lost. Although this woman artist's name has been lost we know her first love in life. The Greeks developed sophisticated charcoal heated implements and central to the art form was the pot belly shaped container for glowing charcoal with a flat metal plate on top on which the waxes were melted. The basic painting tool was referred to as the Cestrum. Fresco remained the principal mural painting method until recent centuries. Encaustic was the main easel painting medium for 2,000 years until it died out in the Middle Ages. Two hundred years ago a search for a more durable painting method lead to the recreation of encaustic based on ancient writings and the development of electric hotplates has increased interest in this ancient painting method. The encaustic American flags by Jasper Johns are one of the iconic contemporary artworks of the 20th century.

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Oils and Alkyds

Watercolors and Gouache

Acrylics and Tempera

Drawing Media


Encaustic Paint characteristics
When melted encaustic paints are thick and easily manipulated. because they can be easily melted and solidify relatively quickly they are capable of a wide range of effects. The finished artworks are extremely durable. They do not yellow, and are not affected by moisture. Only extremes of temperature threaten them. The famous encaustic portraits from Fayoum look as perfect today as when they were painted more than 1,500 years ago. The equipment needed in those days for making Encaustic paintings was cumbersome, but the ease of using today's electric hotplates has encouraged a resurgence in interest in the medium.

Fresco Characteristics
Like Encaustic Fresco embodies a medium of great simplicity with a tedious working method. Unlike Encaustic however modern technology has not come to the aid of the Fresco artist. Fresco has the unique characteristic of having no direct binder to mix with the pigment particles and instead is applied as a simple pigment paste in distilled water to wet plaster. The difficulty in Fresco lies purely with the plastering skills and preparation of walls and ceiling on the one hand, and being able to visualize what artwork will look like walking around on the floor while having to work close up. Both of these skills are major hurdles that set the Fresco artist apart as a special breed working at the limits of artistic challenge. The limitations of human capability combined with the nature of plastering walls define the areas that can be worked on contiguously, compounded by the scale of what is required in an architectural setting. That in itself would necessitate a simplification of materials used, but the nature of lime and its taxing demands on pigments means that color and its application must be like the artist, pithy and direct.

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