Over the last few weeks I have been trying my hand at encaustic painting, while at the same time finally setting myself to learn some basics of anatomy. I’ve always had a sketchy grasp of the human hand, so it seemed a natural place to start. Slowly building up the wax musculature from the bones out, and literally engraving the latin names in the individual tendons and muscles has been surprisingly visceral and rewarding. The fragrant beeswax is tactile and translucent, as unlike computer code as can be. At 5 foot by 3, the scale is also much larger than the little sketchbooks I’ve been used to.
One of my favorite pieces from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art is an encaustic funerary portrait. The youngest of the Nelson’s ancient Egyptian collection, it still predates oil painting by 1300 years. The portrait is full of naturalism and personality, yet this genre has a style almost as proscribed the more ancient Egyptian sculptures surrounding it.
It’s a wonderful work of art––don’t miss it on your next visit.