somerset workshop: experiments with encaustic

I believe it was the end of last year that I received an email from the editor of Someset Workshop asking if I would write a few articles on how I paint with encaustic and to create some new pieces for their next issue. Fast forward almost a year and I am excited to announce that the stepped out articles and paintings are now available to be read and seen in the current issue!

Somerset workshop, volume 8
one of the spreads of my chapter
Somerset Workshop, vol 8

The interesting thing about writing and creating pieces for a stepped out article is that it’s much like the cooking shows on t.v. where the chef puts in a just-assembled casserole into the oven, and then opens another oven with a cooked casserole to show the next step in preparation of a meal. For each painting I had to actually create anywhere between 5-10 panels. Each panel showing a step, and then the subsequent step after. It was an interesting way for me to look at how I create my pieces as I’ve never had to think about it in that way before. When I’m painting I just kind of go with the flow. After a while you just kind of do things by instinct, much like riding a bicycle or playing the piano. But breaking it down into steps for the articles actually helped me prepare for teaching the workshops that I taught this year.

Once all the many panels were done and the articles were written and the extra paintings were made for the gallery section, I packed up the boxes and shipped everything out to California for the editor and photographers to take over. They shot the photos out there following my instructions. It’s funny for me to look at the photos because those aren’t my hands! ha! They really did a wonderful job with photographing the work, which believe me, anyone who has taken photos of encaustic work knows that that is no easy feat!

I want to share a few photos of my own tools and equipment that I have in my studio here in Chicago to give anyone who read the articles a glimpse into my encaustic setup.

First, say hello to my little friend, the Wagner Heat Gun:


When I first started experimenting with encaustic, I did use an embossing heat gun as I wasn’t ready to splurge and get the real deal. But once you use a real deal heat gun, you won’t go back. It gets HOT and fuses the encaustic paint much easier. Once you get a handle on using a heat gun, I suggest trying out a torch. Now, THAT, my friends, will ruin you for a heat gun. It’s faster to cover larger areas with a torch. I still am loyal to my heat gun though and use it routinely, but at times I will switch to a torch when I need tighter control of my fuse.

my Wagner heat gun and I have been through a lot together

In the article I wrote that I like to keep my encaustic medium separate from my encaustic paint, so as to avoid contamination. Also, I use a lot of medium during my painting process, so I like to have a big vat of melted medium handy. I use an electric skillet for this, which you can buy at a Target, or any home supply store.

melted encaustic medium in an electric skillet

I like to use wide hake brushes for my medium. I attached those bull clips to the end so that there is an edge for the brushes to rest on, otherwise you will constantly be fishing your brush out of hot wax. Not fun.


Above are samples of premade encaustic paint. I like to use R&F as that is what I learned with and I just like them. But there are other manufacturers as well, and the photo includes a tin from Enkausticos. In the article I talk about using oil bars and pigment sticks to rub into the surface of the painting. The R&F sticks are like buttah! So lovely to use. Many artists who work in encaustic make their own paint, but I highly recommend doing thorough research before doing so or learning how in a workshop or class. It is not difficult but you need to be aware of safety issues especially if you are working with dried pigments. Please, your health and safety should always come first.


I like to melt my premade bars of encaustic paint in tins on my hot palette.


And here are my two hot palettes. The black one on the left is an electric griddle that I bought at Target. These are nice because they aren’t expensive and they also have a built in thermometer. You always want to keep an eye on the temperature of wax for safety reasons. The palette on the right is an anondized aluminum palette that has a burner underneath. This is more expensive, but I find the heating to be more even than the griddle and the aluminum surface provides a nice surface to mix your paints on.

Writing the articles and creating the pieces for Somerset Workshop was an exciting experience for me and a wonderful opportunity to share what I have learned along my creative journey and how I have incorporated encaustic in my mixed media art. I hope it inspires others to try out encaustic, take a workshop, or even to just appreciate and understand the art of encaustic. There are so many ways to incorporate encaustic into one’s creative pratice, and this is just one of many! If anyone has any questions, please feel free to email me. I’m always happy to answer any questions and if I don’t have the answer, I will try to get it for you.

I made a page of encaustic painting Resources on my website for links to tools and supplies as well. Hope that helps!


  1. I just found your blog, and am so inspired by this post–I want to try encaustic now… 🙂 Also: the post on motherhood. YES. So beautifully written–my book, which has just left my hands for the editors has a chapter on this–on being mother, and being other.

    I’ll be back for a visit…

  2. Congratulations! The Somerset publications are brilliant, but unfortunately not readily available over here. I’m intruiged with encaustic, I’ll have to find myself a workshop or something and give it a go.

  3. How exciting! I will definitely have to look for the Somerset issue. Do you know which issue it will be in?
    And thanks for the peek into your studio! I love seeing other artists creative spaces.

  4. How fun to have an opportunity to share your process with a wide audience, and like you said, to think it through step by step. Congratulations!
    My word verification word is burner – too funny!

  5. Just finished reading your article in the Somerset Workshop – WOW! Really fabulous – well written and filled with so many inspirational tips! Your work is just so wonderful – thanks for sharing!

  6. i just ordered my copy online…it’s usually sold out at michaels. i have bought all the supplies i need to do encaustic, and have experimented, i just feel frustrated. i really need to take a workshop, and have not found anything in my area, even living outside of sacramento, i haven’t found anything. i wish i could be in your studio and just watch you bridgette!

  7. Went to my local Barnes and Noble today to get the Somerset Workshop issue and they don’t carry it! I was sorely disappointed! Especially since they seem to have every other Somerset publication out there! I will have to order it online.

  8. thank you for the follow on twitter and leading me to your gorgeous blog! your work is absolutely breathtaking. you make me want to explore encaustics it’s so beautiful. nice to meet you. 🙂

  9. A huge congratulations Bridgette. I will definitely look for the magazine. This was such a fascinating post for me, seeing some of the tools of the trade. I am inching closer to trying this out and it is just a matter of time until I do. Thanks for the motivation.

  10. Your work is so stunning, it always makes me catch my breath. So organic.

    Congratulations on the article.

    Have you used shellac burns as a finishing layer at all? So scary-sounding but the effect is nice; I think you have used it on a piece on your flickr. I have tried to replicate the marbelized surface by using ink, oil and a pearly R and F encuastic white , or just heat a transfer till it cracks, but it isn’t the same 🙂 I don’t trust myself to try it without someone who has done it…

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