Essential Encaustic Paint Colors for the Beginner

Going to the encaustic Conference this week? Before you enter the wonder of the vendor room, be sure to read this post. This list is a great start for the beginning encaustic painter as well as advanced to find the color combination of your dreams.

Last year, I wrote a popular post listing the Encaustic Paint Colors I Can’t Do Without and as a result a reader requested I write a post listing some colors for the beginner. The International Encaustic Conference is starting this week with it’s overwhelmingly wonderful vendor room, so now is a perfect time for this post.

There are only a handful of colors one really needs in order to mix all colors; magenta, yellow, cyan, black and white or the primary colors Red, Yellow, Blue, Black and White…actually, you don’t even need black, you can mix that by mixing all the colors in equal proportions. But who has time for that, it’s just easier to have some colors at the ready and I developed this list with that thought in mind. I also thought about some colors that are just so luscious you might want them all the time without having to mix them. I started with a varied color wheel and branched off with a few oddballs you might find interesting. As a beginner, it’s important to start small and purchase some, rather than all. Buy the small sizes instead of the mega size, find what’s right for you and go from there. When I first started painting with encaustic, I only used 4 colors and slowly added more. This list is a good place to start for the beginner as well as advanced and I hope it helps you find the color combination of your dreams.

Other things I mentioned in the first post that I would like to reiterate. I never use colors ‘straight out of the tube’, all of my colors are mixed with 2-5 colors and yours should be as well. It creates a more personalized palette when you do this as well as a more interesting painting. Once again, this list is in no particular order and I photographed the paints on top of an in progress painting just as they are…messy, mushy, splashed with other colors, alluding a little to my process and looking like colorful little sculptures. If you’d like to see the paints pretty and clean, just click on the links to the paint distributor’s sites. If you’d like to learn more about encaustic color mixing, take a workshop with me, I discuss paint mixing in a all of my workshops.

If this post was helpful to you, please let me know, I invite your comments questions and suggestions in the comments section now located in the upper left sidebar of this post.

Stay tuned for my next post, Part Two of my Evolution of a Mark series of posts in which I trace back to my beginnings as an artist to where I am today. If you haven’t done so, make sure you read Part One so it all makes sense.

Enjoy the lovely flowers blooming everywhere.

R&F Paints

  • Alizarin Orange I LOVE this color, it will be on any list I make regarding paint colors. Bright and versatile, it can go from a light gold to a rich rusty orange in one swipe. When mixed with white or any other color, it retains it’s richness.
  • Payne’s Grey  Like Alizarin Orange, this color will be on any encaustic paint color list I make. I use this instead of black to darken any color. For me, black tends to deaden the color as it darkens, while this one allows the original color to retain it’s voice.
  • Warm Pink Like neutral white, I have used this color since I started painting in encaustic. It brightens any color and when mixed with a little and painted next to or on top of earthy blues, grays or greens, the eyes vibrate!
  • Brilliant Yellow Extra Pale I love to use this color instead of white as it not only lightens, it adds just a touch of yellow and whimsy as it brightens as well. 
  • Cobalt Blue A bright, clear blue, I use it more than any other blue.
  • Malachite Green I use this color way too much. It’s one of those colors that changes as it’s painted next to different colors. It makes any color and any painting sing.
  • Phthalo Turquoise Another color that looks dead in the package and like black when it’s melted, it is actually one of the brightest and most versatile colors. Add just a touch of any white and watch the magic happen.
  • Phthalo Blue Embarrassingly I just read what Phthalo colors actually are a few years ago and now buy anything described as such because of its unmatched intensity. There is a clarity to this blue that you will find in no other for water, skies, anytime you need blue. It mixes beautifully and always retains its voice.
  • Alizarin Crimson I do not have a Cadmium Red on this list, which may be odd to some, but quite honestly I have rarely ever used it because it always reads slightly orange to me. To be clear, Cadmium Red is the purest red and I would be remiss to tell you not to have it in your collection. However, I always find myself reaching for the Alizarin Crimson instead. It’s a cross between magenta and red and leans on the darker side of both. However, when it’s mixed with only a slight amount of white, it comes alive and is quite bright. It also makes a wide range of lovely pinks when mixed any light or white color.
  • Cadmium Green Pale  Not really true green, not really yellow, its a good mix of both, but I wouldn’t call it yellow-green. This is my go-to green, it can be lightened beautifully as well as darkened.
  • Zinc White Not having Titanium White on this list may also be a color faux pas but again, I rarely ever use it because it’s so uncomfortably white and a bit too pure for my taste-kind of like a bridal gown that almost looks blue it’s so white. Zinc white is a cross between Titanium and cream. Zinc is very white, but it’s just a degree off and lightens colors just as well as Titanium, yet keeps them just a degree to the left.
  • Cadmium Yellow Medium & Light We have to have yellow, it’s the indispensable color, which is why I have two on this list. I almost always go for the Medium yellow, but sometimes I just want less and pick up the Light. R&F also offers a Deep Yellow, but I wouldn’t advise going for it just yet, it’s a bit orange and may not be needed for your palette if you have the other two.
  • Cobalt Violet Light  I don’t use purple much and frankly, when I need it I mix it myself. However, this color is unusual, is difficult to mix and works well to add just a hint of pinkish-purple-violet to any other color.

Enkaustikos I can’t link directly to each color, so this link goes to all of the colors listed below, just scroll the list to see the color.

  • Opal Aquamarine I love this color so much I buy it in huge bulk and for all of my workshops. It makes any blue or green bluer and richer, like the most amazing, clear glacier water. 
  • Indian Yellow Bright, clear, not quite yellow, not quite orange. I reach for it time and again in place of yellow and mixing it with R&F’s Alizarin Orange is magical.

Evans Encaustics

  • Manganese Black The only black you’ll ever need, I was instantly smitten when I first used it. So creamy rich, so deep and consistent. It’s a true black, no blue or brown or gray cast. You only need a teeny tiny bit to darken any color. If you use black by itself, you’ll never find grayish spots or be a bit dissatisfied with this color.

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Kama Pigments I can’t link directly to each color, so this link goes to all their colors , just scroll the list to see the color I listed.

  • Rose Hornyak/Hornyak’s Pink Again, me and pink-I’ll buy any pink. This one is so Pepto Bismol its almost gross, but it does so many things that the average pink doesn’t do! It adds just that tiny bit of purple that makes other colors vibrate. Try mixing this with Alizarin Orange and/or Warm Pink and/or Brown Pink for a pink magic fest.

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Catching Up

I’ve been having a fantastic summer teaching and traveling all over the western part of the country and I realized I skipped July’s post! This month’s post is devoted to catching up with all of the amazingly good things happening in my world this summer. Thanks so much for reading, I’ll see you in September with a post about my early work in encaustic and why it looks nothing like the work I do today.

 

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I’m so pleased to announce that I have a new catalogue of my work and writing spanning from 2005-2017. The great Tom Manzione designed the catalogue and did an amazing job integrating a recent drawings series with over 12 years of my encaustic paintings. Also, integral to the success of the catalog is the excellent design-making the story flow with those little details often overlooked by novice designers like myself. The best lesson I got out of publishing this catalogue is that it is so worth it to hire someone rather than try to do it all yourself. Tom was so patient and organized, all I had to do was upload my images and left the rest to him…too easy and worry free. If you would like to purchase a catalogue, they are available for sale on Magcloud in both hard copy and digital form.

 

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One can never have too many places to show their work, so I signed up with Saatchi and now have a site with them. Right now, I’m only listing my smaller (Mini Paintings, I call them) encaustic pieces for sale-sizes 10×10, 8×8 and 6×6 with prices starting at $500 and under. These smaller works are quite coveted and Saatchi will help me to better manage the sales and shipping of these little gifts from me to you. I will be adding many more over the next few months so check the page often. To see what’s available now, go to the page here.

 

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Did you know I have an ongoing encaustic sculpture series I started in 2011? Indeed, I do and a piece I finished last year called The Space Between just won Third Place in Sculpture at Art of the State for which I am truly grateful. I started this series at a time when I was very much in transition with my work and life and this series came about as a way to sort out my thoughts through meditative process. I secretly call these pieces ‘worry blocks’ because these pieces are the vehicles by which I deposit my worries. Through the repetitive process of burning holes and using encaustic to place my hair strand by strand in grid patterns, I think, reflect and heal. I’ve had a nervous habit since I was little of twisting my hair when I’m stressed or thinking and I keep a bag of it in the studio that I add to daily. I have been using horse as well as my own hair in my work for quite some time. It makes a beautiful line in the wax and it also speaks to the bodily connections that have always been at the core of my work.  I first showed my worry blocks at the Gallery at R & F Paints where they were very well received and this encouraged me to keep making them. I make about 1-2 of the larger ones and 5-10 of the smaller ones per year. The smaller ones make great holiday gifts for the worrier in your life and I sell out every year. I’ll be posting them on Instagram when they are finished, so keep an eye out for them in the next couple of months. To see more of the larger worry blocks go to my web site here and here to read a statement about the series.

 

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It seems like I just attended the opening, but the show, Taking Wing, at Ellsworth Gallery in Santa Fe will be coming down on August 16, 2017. I’m honored for my inclusion in this fabulous show and grateful for the opportunity to show my work in Santa Fe with amazing artists Arin Dineen and Claire McArdle. The opening was super fun, with artist talks and an exciting interpretive dance by Ingrid Zimmer. See below for installation images and images of the opening.