Betsy Bustamonte received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana. Fine art has always been a vital part of her life. Her work has included a wide range of mediums over the years such as painting, photography and fiber art. She has lived in the Pacific Northwest for the past 17 years and currently resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two young children.
Betsy has spent the last handful of years exploring encaustic as her painting medium. She enjoys the versatility, depth and luminosity achieved when layering and heating beeswax. These layers of wax provide a painted surface to carve into, apply drawings and add patterns that create depth and mood. This process provides a refuge in which the artist can pause to enjoy and express the life within and around her. To create with this rich and fragrant molten byproduct of the bees' work with flowers is to her a delight.
Encaustic or hot wax painting originated in the 5th century BCE in Greece. It was originally used as a means to seal and decorate ships and later evolved into a fine art form, most often used in mural painting and funeral portraits.
The technique involves melting beeswax with damar crystals and adding dry pigment. The hot wax is applied to a rigid surface, which quickly hardens. Heat is then applied to the wax paint, fusing the pigment and wax. The literal meaning of the word encaustic is "burning in" which refers to this step of fusing. Once the wax paint cools additional layers can be added to achieve depth and texture. Oil paints, oil pastels, dry pigments, metal leaf and other substances can be worked into or layered onto the wax. Each layer must be fused with the layer below. Once the surface has cooled, the paint hardens into a permanent finish that can be worked to the rich and lustrous patina that is the hallmark of encaustic paintings.
Encaustic paintings are extremely durable due to the fact that beeswax is impervious to moisture. Because of this they are archival and will not deteriorate, yellow or darken with time. Encaustic paintings have survived from the Greek and Roman empires and are still as vibrant and colorful today as they were when they were painted.
As with all fine art forms, encaustics should not be exposed to direct sunlight or extreme temperatures. The ideal environment is between 35 and 125 degrees F. with indirect sunlight or bright, white lighting, which will bring out the luminescent quality of this medium. An encaustic painting may develop a film on the surface for the first six to twelve months as the wax cures. This is a natural process called "bloom" and is easily removed by wiping the surface with a soft cloth. Gently dusting the painting's surface and buffing it with a soft lint-free cloth periodically will maintain the unique patina of the wax.