Water-soluble wax paints

A contradictio in terminis?! It sounds like it, but this “new” medium isn’t as far off as you’d think.

A chemical study of the paint media used in Roman paintings has allowed the development of a new painting technique, with outstanding characteristics, based on water-soluble beeswax. The basic components of the water-soluble encaustic (Punic wax) have been identified in Pompeian wall paintings and in Roman-Egyptian mummy portraits.

Water soluble wax paints

Cuni paints

Encaustic Cuni comes in 7 colours and can be applied  as a glaze, diluted with water and in full strength as impasto, allowing for lots of texture. I had an opportunity to test the paints and did a little landscape on canvas, using mostly glazes, and a small project on a wooden butterfly, with a palette knife to apply the paint in a thicker fashion.

Water soluble wax paints

Cuni waxes on small canvas

Wooden butterfly + normal gesso

Wooden butterfly + normal gesso

Painted with glazes and impasto method

Painted with glazes and impasto method

After applying with a palette knife I did heat the wax with a heat gun to force-dry the paint. The wax retained the texture much better than the normal wax paints, but did stay tacky for at least a week. I did scratch some lines into the dark blue glaze while still wet, to reveal other colours underneath, which had soaked into the gesso. Really like this effect!

The Cuni paints will be available at the Fifth International Encaustic Conference in Provincetown, Mass.,¬† and I’m sure they will cause a stir through the encaustic community!

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9 Responses to “Water-soluble wax paints”

  1. ines Batllo Says:

    Tina , I see that you use the torch . Great !
    I talked with Cuni from Spain and they told me that they didn’t experiment with the heat gun or the torch . For impasto effects it will work nicely but I wander about the transparency , that is the aspect I love of wax .
    Tina , are you going to be at the conference , and the workshop ?

  2. Thea Haubrich Says:

    It takes a very long time for the impasto paints to dry without heat. By diluting the colours with water you get some lovely transparency.
    I won’t be able to attend the conference this year, as I will be getting radiation treatment for my breast cancer around that time. I will surely miss my friends, as I have been there for the past two years.
    And, by the way: my name is Thea, not Tina….;-)

  3. Gail Nicholson Says:

    This sounds like an interesting twist to what we know as encaustic painting presently. I want to follow any information that comes forth about it.

  4. Mary Says:

    Hi Thea! That looks promising. It looks like it flows really well, like oils maybe, or does it feel more like acrylics?

  5. Ines Batllo Says:

    It flows very well , and has a velvet nice aspect , also can be diluted with water and used as watercolors. Impasto as well. I haven’t try with the torch because my art studio is been remodeled but I will post more info about it as soon as I try with heat .

  6. Kay Graham Says:

    Thea,
    Is there any suppliers that are currently selling these paints?? What an amazing product!! Hope your treatments are going well, well, as well as can be expected!! Take Care!!
    Smiles, Kay

  7. Kay Graham Says:

    Woops, I meant in the US??? Thanks

  8. Aigner Says:

    I like painting with Encaustic Cuni since two years, I got it from my son ( he lives in Madrid where Encaustic Cuni is situated).
    Regards from Anna Maria/Bavaria

  9. Vargamari Says:

    I also had the privilege to try it: LOVE it! Very easy to work with it and also good to combine with hot wax. I made the background by hot wax and the fine details with Encaustic Cuni. It is now the same way as to paint by oil, but much easier. I hope it comes to the market, because I want to use it further!
    Best wishes,
    Vargamari

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