HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR ENCAUSTIC PAINTING
Encaustic paintings are durable and archival, due in great part to the fact that beeswax is impervious to moisture. Because of this they will not yellow or darken with time, unlike an oil painting. There are many examples of encaustic painting which have survived over 2000 years which are as vibrant and fresh as if they were painted yesterday.
Work in encaustic should be cared for as you would for any fine art piece. Work can be stored, wrapped in waxed paper and bubble wrap, (be sure to face the bubbles out so they don’t make imprints in your work) at room temperature and out of any direct sunlight. Encaustic work can be wiped clean with a soft cloth or paper towel. If the piece is especially dirty, it can be wiped with a water-dampened cloth.
Encaustic paint is stable in a temperature range of approximately 40-120°F. Wax is more fragile in the cold and becomes extremely brittle in freezing temperatures. If you would drop the painting in cold temperatures it will shatter. The paintings will begin to soften at 120°F. The wax begins to be workable at 150°F, and it becomes liquid at 162°F. Very hot days can soften the wax somewhat, but will cause no real damage. If the wax on your painting does soften, and/or dulling occurs, wait until the painting has hardened (by moving it to a cooler location) and buff it with a soft cloth. Always protect the surface and edges of the encaustic painting when moving it. Although the surface is completely dry, encaustic paintings can be easily scratched, gouged, or chipped if handled roughly.
If you must transport the painting in hot or cold weather simply first cover the entire wax surface with wax paper, then cardboard, and some form of insulation. When that painting is at room temperature remove the wax paper and unwrap the painting. When in hot weather the wax paper will stick to the painting but will cause no damage as long as it is removed at room temperature.
Do not hang your painting in direct sunlight, or near heat sources such as stoves or fireplaces. You should never put any fine art in direct sun or near heat, but with encaustic there could be more immediate consequences. If you are nervous about the placement of the painting just feel the surface. If it is warm the painting needs to be moved. It should always feel cool to the touch.
The paints have a damar resin in its formula; this cures and hardens the wax over time making the paint less vulnerable to damage. It's like varnishing the painting from within...so it doesn't need glass. However, you can still take your fingernail and scratch the surface.
The greatest attribute of encaustic is its exquisite surface quality. A good deal of this gets lost when the painting is framed behind glass. Glass does protect the surface from denting or scratching, but if the painting is properly exhibited/stored/shipped, this danger is minimized. Framing behind glass can intensify the heat (particularly from gallery lights or sunlight) causing a greenhouse effect, that could soften or even melt the wax. A floating frame is good protection for the edges and it is your best option as a framing presentation as it protects the edges and still allows for you to view the edges as they are quite often of interest.
In the first year your work will go through some slight changes. The piece will become clearer over time increasing the beauty of the surface and transparency between layers. Occasionally, gently wipe dust off of your piece with a clean and lint free rag. The painting may develop a slight haze as moisture in the wax comes to the surface. It may also occur if a painting is exposed to cold. You will need to buff your painting if it seems dull or hazed over. The painting should always be shiny. When the painting is "young" or recently finished, it has not yet had time to cure and harden (this could take up to 6 months). It will therefore go back to a matte looking surface after buffing the first few times. Buffing will add a beautiful sheen to the work and discourage dust buildup on the surface.
When the painting is at room temperature or cooler take a soft 100% lint-free cotton cloth (they are used for buffing cars) and buff the painting in a circular motion like you would buff a waxed car. Do not buff the painting if it is over 75 degrees F. Do not buff hard enough to create heat. After a year, when the wax cures, you will rarely need to do this to keep the sheen, maybe once a year. Note: Works with high surface texture or oil paint/pastel on the surface should not be buffed in these areas. Dust these with a soft brush.
Encaustic paints are perhaps the most durable form of painting as wax has several inherent qualities that allow it to withstand the test of time: it is a natural adhesive and preservative; it is moisture resistant, mildew and fungus resistant, and unappetizing to insects. Wax paint also does not contain solvents or oils so they will not darken or yellow with age. Leaving the painting as fresh as the day it was painted.
Feel free to contact me for any questions not covered.