Francisco Benitez, Encaustics
I did my first encaustic painting in the fall of 2005, after years of being fascinated with the medium, but never daring to paint figuratively in it. In the 1990’s, when I lived in France, I discovered a book called the Mysterious Fayum Portraits, by Euphrosyne Doxiadis. I was mesmerized by these ancient portraits, but could not imagine how to paint with heated wax in such a way. I began experimenting with the ancient tools, called “cauteria”, and the four-color palette of the ancient Greeks. I was hooked. The medium took some practice but I have developed a whole body of work in the technique, and as I have worked with it, more and more secrets are revealed. It is a medium of utter beauty, elasticity, and depth.
Encaustic is a particularly challenging, yet beautiful medium, in which to paint. As encaustic is the technique of fused wax, it is one of the most permanent mediums known to us. The funerary portraits of Ancient Egypt are oftentimes better preserved than many works from three centuries ago. I have used the four-color palette of Apelles, which at first was daunting, but later revealed itself to be very suitable for rendering flesh tones. I have been inspired by the numerous encaustic funerary portraits which have turned up in the Fayum district in Egypt. They attest to the Greek training many of the local artists received, and are unprecedented in their psychological depth, realism, and evocation of that remote period in time. I have sought to create a number of portrait heads in the spirit of the Fayum works, of contemporary sitters.