Thursday, February 28, 2008

Collecting Encaustic Paintings

There has been a recent resurgence of interest in encaustic art. More and more contemporary artists are exploring this fascinating media, doing everything from abstract work to collage and mixed-media to representational paintings and even sculpture. Art collectors are coming to appreciate this form of expression and also are interested in knowing more about it and how to take care of their purchase.

Let's begin with a little background. The word "encaustic" comes from the Greek word "enkaustikos" which means "to burn in", referring to a process of the combining of hot natural wax with colored pigments to simultaneously paint and sculpt a surface and then fuse the layers together. As a technique that can be applied to just about any medium, it has been used to create unique multi-dimensional effects in art since the time of the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans for use in their elaborate burial tombs, which have survived for centuries. Despite its durability, encaustic art lost favor during the Renaissance due to what was thought to be cumbersome requirements, considering tools they had available at that time. Encaustics has enjoyed a resurgence as a result of modern advances in technology and safety (in heating appliances) as well as its use by more contemporary well-known artists such as Jasper Johns and Diego Rivera. The encaustic beeswax medium, with its organic qualities, is not only beautiful because of its inherent and evocative luster and translucency, but it is one of the most durable of all artists' paints, since wax is impervious to moisture.

After completion of an encaustic painting there is a curing process of a few months. During this time moisture will work its way to the surface and cause a slight haze. If your painting looks dull, or gets dirty it can be wiped clean with water and buffed (gently, firmly but not overly vigorously) to a high gloss using a soft lint-free cloth such as cotton. This sheen dulls over time and can be brought back by repeating the process. Again, gentle is the word.

Encaustic paintings do not have to be varnished or protected by glass. The painting is stable under normal temperatures. Indirect sunlight is perfectly fine, however, I would not recommend direct sunlight (actually direct sunlight is inadvisable for any type of painting but even more so for wax-based paintings). Extreme cold can make the wax more brittle and susceptible to cracking. Again, extreme temperatures are bad for any fine art, not just encaustics. Other inadvisable locations within your house would be any spot near heat sources (such as fireplaces, over the stove in the kitchen, etc). Only direct heat or temperatures in excess of 130 degrees may begin to soften the work. Very hot days can soften the surface very slightly, but will cause no real damage to the painting. Do not leave an encaustic painting in trunk of your car on a hot day. Even with these measures, 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. While most encaustic wax paintings have damar in the wax (a hardening component), it is still primarily wax. Overall, encaustic paintings are extremely durable due to the fact that beeswax is impervious to moisture. Because of this it will not deteriorate and it will not lose its brilliance.

Examples of encaustic paintings have survived from the Greek and Roman empires and are still as vibrant and colorful today as they were when they were painted.

As a collector of encaustic paintings, you will enjoy the depth, the luminousity, and the wonderful creative expressions artists are creating in this media, but you will also have a piece - if the artist properly constructed the layers of wax in the painting, that will long outlast you and your children.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tunli, China Oil Impressionist Painting

"Tunli, China" is an beautiful impressionist original oil painting available for sale at the gallery, 24" h x 24 w" (unframed size), by internationally collected artist Margaret Tcheng Ware.

The painting is already framed with a substantial 3" wide gold frame and comes wired and ready to hang.

Here are Margaret's comments on this piece: "While visiting Shanghai in August of 2007, hoping to cool off, I decided to take a side trip to one of the smaller "canal towns" in the region. The day I was in Tunli, the sun was beating down hard on the grey-tiled roofs, but as I sat in one of the tourist sampans plying the waterways that crisscross the town, I was mesmerized by the reflections in the water and charmed by the strings of gay red lanterns that hung from many of the buildings lining the canals."

Read more about Margaret here:

Monday, February 18, 2008

Canyon Calls 2 Encaustic Painting

This is a new encaustic beeswax painting available for sale called "Canyon Calls 2", part of the Canyon Calls series of encaustics. It is 12x12" and painted on a wood cradle support. It has over 30 layers of pigmented wax that have been applied and then carefully scraped back with a razor blade.

You can see more gallery paintings at

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New Encaustic Paintings by Cari Hernandez

Two new works are now available at our gallery, from Cari Hernandez, contemporary encaustic artist: "Oh... luscious" and "Passion Pod" (see images below).

These are part of Cari's "Oh" series which is a lively series that has been described as "visceral". It was developed while on a quest to explore jubilant emotion-creating a sense of movement and spontaneity in form.

The painting is pigmented pharmaceutical-grade beeswax painted on a solid box-like wood support. The encaustic beeswax medium, with its organic qualities, is not only beautiful because of its inherent and evocative luster and translucency, but it is one of the most durable of all artists' paints, since wax is impervious to moisture.

It is sold unframed (its cradle is so deep, it definitely doesn't need framing) and comes wired and ready to hang. The depth of her color layers and luminosity in her wax is just stunning. Instructions for the care of encaustic paintings come with the piece.

Cari is open to considering commission projects based on her work and style.

You can see more paintings at:

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Gallery Introduction

Kathleen McMahon Fine Art Gallery is a gallery located in San Francisco, CA. We represent the work of contemporary artists with work that ranges from California landscapes and cityscapes to abstracts to expressionism to pottery to hand-blown glass. Some artists work primarily in oils, some in encaustic beeswax, some in acrylics, and others in clay and glass.

We offer artwork for sale both in our gallery and online at our website

Our gallery is located in the Mission district of San Francisco:

Kathleen McMahon Fine Art
3150 18th Street, Suite 105
San Francisco, CA 94110
Open Tues-Sat 11am-5pm

The gallery door is actually on Treat Street, between 17th and 18th Street (even though our mailing box sits on 18th Street), and Treat Street sits between Folsom and Harrison Street.

This blog will be a place to look for gallery news, as well as news about our represented artists, interesting San Francisco art news, feature current or newly added work, thoughts and ramblings. Put our blog on your RSS feed to keep up to date on new postings.

We look forward to seeing you at the gallery or one of our events!