What is Encaustic Art? Interview with Phil Madley


Fascinated by the swirling whirl of colours, used to such unusual and stunning effect, this month we asked long time artist Phil Madley to share his knowledge and tips about the ancient and little-known discipline of Encaustic Art. The things you didn't know you could do with some coloured wax and an iron!

Phil runs regular taster sessions and Encaustic Art courses from his studio in Hertfordshire. Creating encaustic art

What is encaustic art and where did it originate ?

Encaustic art is basically painting in coloured waxes and originated in early Egypt…encaustic wax paintings have been found in the tombs of the Pharaohs and can be found in the British Museum.

Shelly - hot wax art

How did you discover encaustic art ?

About 20 years ago I was in this pyramid and…I was actually at a craft fair and an elderly lady was painting small pictures using an iron…I was fascinated and bought a starter kit. I asked her why she just painted such small pictures, she replied she had weak wrists and the iron was heavy. When I got home I put wax on the iron and I realised you quickly ran out of wax and if you put more on you got a line where they joined. Thats why she did such small pictures. So I started doing my own thing and developed my own techniques. 

Who does encaustic art appeal to ? Do you have a « typical » student ?

Encaustic wax appeals to everyone there are so many ways of working with it and so many techniques and styles. It is very relaxing and calming to do, it takes you on creative journeys that you have never been on before, it is truly fascinating. Whether young or old, painting in wax lets you unleash your creativity. Most of my students are middle aged ladies.

 Sea scene with hot waxEncaustic art starter kit

What was the funniest thing to happen in one of your classes ?

There is always fun and laughter in my classes and of course a lot of serious creativity. Once in a quiet moment one of the students tummies let out and enormous rumble, without even a blush she looked down and said to her tummy “Quiet! I’ll feed you later.” Now thats confidence.


Can you do encaustic art at home and what is the basic kit that you need to get started ?

Of course you can do encaustic art at home and it is not nearly as messy as you might think.Phil Madley encaustic artist

A starter kit is a very good place to start - this includes an encaustic iron, some encaustic card, a scriber tool and 12 specially selected coloured waxes.


What are your top three tips for students / people thinking of trying out encaustic art ?

1. Come on a taster session with me that way you can have use of all the equipment and materials without having to buy them. I show you how to use everything correctly and techniques, if you like it, then you can buy a starter kit.

2. Setting the correct temperature of the iron is very important. 

3. Don’t use too many colours.


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