Crafts Crafts

Art Classes — What Was I Thinking?

My husband was bugging me to sign my daughter Maia, who loves to draw, up for another art class at a small art school located one town away. Truthfully the thought of adding one more thing to my — or my kids — schedule was enough to make me want to put a gun to my head. Maia did take a drawing class there last year and enjoyed it, but it’s a haul to get there. Without a babysitter it means leaving the other kids alone for longer than I’m comfortable with on a weekly basis.

However, I decided that while drawing is one of the crafts that I have the least talent in, I could give all of my kids little art lessons and give them a broader range of art skills in other subjects that I am more familiar with.

Why I decided to choose encaustic painting with wax for our first official art lesson I will never know. I think it was like the 8th day of cancelled school in a month due to snow so I wasn’t thinking clearly anymore. Encaustic painting is a skill that I have tried in the past, but have certainly never mastered. It involves hot wax, high heat guns and is frustrating. But, being the idiot that I am, that was what I went with right out of the gate. Like I said, I wasn’t thinking clearly.

The kids all had thank you letters that to write for someone and so did I, so we chose this as an opportunity to send a unique thank you. I started with simple 5″ x 7″ canvas boards and had the kids write out their letters themselves on the computer and then printed them on printable fabric sheets that you can get at most office supply stores with margins that fit the 5″ x 7″ canvas size appropriately. Using spray adhesive I applied the letters to the backside of the canvas board.

I use a special metal board/plate specifically for encaustic wax that I place over a electric skillet. This enables you to get more small containers of wax onto the area than you would be able to put into the skillet itself and keeps it at the proper temperature. As you can imagine, any brush you use for encaustic wax is pretty much forever going to be an encaustic-wax-only brush since you’ll never be able to get that wax out of that brush properly, so get yourself some inexpensive paint brushes for a project like this.

On the canvas side you start with a base layer of clear wax that you paint on with a brush.Then, using a high-heat gun (or a hairdryer if you don’t have one), melt the wax onto until it becomes a flat smooth surface.

Then we all started playing around with things. Colored wax, cutout paper, scrapbooking embellishments and other things. I even used a hole punch to create a textured surface that was kind of fun. I used a little spray adhesive to get the items to stick initially, and then we would paint more wax; either colored or clear, and using the heat gun again you carefully melt the surface until smooth again. This can get a little frustrating since sometimes when you’re melting the wax with the heat gun they move around on the surface, but it was a good learning experience for all of us. You can keep layering things on in this way.

It ended up taking us three full hours to get these done and frankly I was completely wiped out by the end. Now I know what an art teacher feels like – but then again I don’t know how many encaustic painting classes for 10-12 year olds there are out there.

This was India's and she did it for her friend Cornelia.

India did two - this one was for Cornelia's parents who we recently visited up in Boston.

This was Evan's creation.

This was Maia's lovely card.

And this was mine. It's kind of hard to tell the 48-year old's apart from the 10-year old's I think.

Now, even though in hindsight I will say this was probably not the right project to start the art lessons with, the kids were totally enthralled with the project for the entire 3 hours. They were enthusiastic to learn the process and fascinated in the different things you could do with the colors and layers.

There really are some amazing things you can do with encaustic wax and painting. The leader maker of encaustic wax supplies is R & F Handmade Paints, which is located just two hours from my house in Kingston, New york. I’ve made the trip up there just to see the place and buy supplies and they gave me a tour of the whole facility and showed me how they make their products. It’s just a small warehouse building and each project really is made by hand in small batches. They give some really great classes that are on my short list of things to do. Check out their website to find out more information and particularly to see some of the artists works that they show there to see what really is possible with encaustics. It’s an artistic medium that I really want to learn more about – especially encaustic collage and photography.

Our next art class will be something much simpler. Linoleum cutting and printmaking. Do you remember making linoleum cuttings in art class in school? I sure do. The products have changed a little bit and now there are softer, easier to carve materials that serve the same purpose. I’ve researched this pretty throughly in preparation and have come up with samples to show the kids and have ideas for each of them to use for their project. I’ll let you know how the next “art class” goes.


  1. loved seeing the process! can’t wait to catch up next week. xo


  1. […] to almost crumble a little. Having learned the hard way with my first “class” in encaustic wax painting, this time I did a little research ahead of time and came up with examples that I printed out of […]

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