Encaustic medium is a mixture of beewax and damar resin. This combination creates a durable, archival medium that has been used by artists as far back at the 5th century B.C. Originally used to waterproof ships the coloring of the wax with pigments eventually led to decorating ships with iconography. There are surviving encaustic paintings from ancient times that are 3,500 years old, some of which are part of the Egyptian collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and museums around the world.
Steps to care for encaustic paintings:
1. Consistent temperature - encaustic medium should not be exposed to extreme heat or cold. The wax will melt at temperatures above 162°F (72°C) and freezing temperatures can cause the medium to crack. Do not install near fireplaces, wood stoves, or close to the bulbs of lamps or light fixtures where radiant heat can cause the surface to soften and become vulnerable to damage.
2. Avoid direct sunlight - extended periods of direct sunlight can also soften the encaustic surface making it more vulnerable to damage.
3. Packing / Transporting - avoid allowing shipping materials to directly touch any part of the encaustic surface as these could leave impressions or scratches. Avoid leaving an encaustic painting in a hot vehicle where summer temperatures could easily exceed 150°. Always ship overnight or during cooler months of the year.
4. Storing - encaustic paintings should not be stored in attics or non-climate controlled storage facilities where temperatures may rise.
5. Framing - encaustic does not need to be protected under glass, but floating frames are a recommended option as the frame can protect the edges of the painting from chips and and dents.
6. Curing - encaustic will continue to cure (harden) for 6-12 months after painting. During this time the painting could develop a 'bloom' or white hazy residue. This is a natural occurrence and may even occur on older works that have been exposed to cold temperatures. The bloom is easily removed by gently buffing the painting surface with a soft lint-free cloth.
7. Cleaning - encaustic paintings can be easily cleaned by gently wiping the surface with a lint-free cloth. Just like car wax, gently wiping the wax can bring back a sheen. Note: encaustic paintings with mixed media or oil paint detailing could have a matte finish, as other media may be layered over the encaustic surface.