About Encaustic and Monotypes

Fire & Ice, illuminated monotype

PAULA ROLAND, Fire and Ice, eight layered encaustic monotypes with back lighting, 43” x 102”

Encaustic consists of melted beeswax combined with pigment. Pigment gives paint its color. The molten beeswax is the “vehicle” just as oil is a vehicle in oil paint and egg is the vehicle in egg tempera, and so on. Resin is added to the wax when a harder surface is desired, as in painting.


Involves painting with molten wax, pigment and resin combined. A rigid substrate must be used or the wax could crack. The wax paint is applied with a brush, a palette knife, or poured. When painting with wax, layers must be fused with additional heat in order to bond. Care must be taken to avoid extremes in temperature (below freezing and above 140 F). Otherwise, encaustic is very stable. It does not darken or yellow. As with all paint, the color’s permanence depends in part on the light-fast qualities of the pigments used. Unlike most other paints, wax is impervious to moisture and insects! It literally “seals” the substrate!


encaustic monotype

Encaustic printmaking takes place on an evenly heated metal plate. No press is needed. The Roland HOTbox™ is designed primarily for encaustic printmaking and is most commonly used for the process. It is also used to create mixed media drawings on heated waxy paper, encaustic collage work, or impregnating paper or cloth with wax. Clear or lightly pigmented wax makes thin paper or cloth translucent, allowing light to pass through. The Roland HOTbox™ also makes an excellent painter’s mixing palette. 

When printing, the encaustic is most often applied to the plate’s surface in solid form- such as a block, stick, chunk, or crayon- where it melts instantly. The molten image may be further “worked” with brushes or tools. When complete, paper is laid on the plate and the image is transferred by gently pressing the back of the paper with a block printing tool, the baren, or a rag. Prints may be “single-pass” calligraphic images, which leave areas of the paper open, or the image may be overprinted many times until the paper is saturated. Overprinting creates layers of color, depth, and translucency.

During encaustic printmaking, fusing occurs as one works and no additional fusing is needed. The wax preserves the paper, giving it a longer life. If the paper is fully waxed, framing under glass is not required! This allows the beauty of the paper and image to be accessible through alternative presentations. Additionally, encaustic prints are easy to handle and store because the wax is absorbed in the paper, becoming one with it, instead of sitting on the paper’s surface. Prints will not crack and may even be rolled. Unlike encaustic paintings, encaustic prints are not susceptible to extremes of heat and cold.

Monotype vs Monoprint?  Monotypes are unique images, one-of-a kind, and generally priced accordingly. A monotype is essentially a painting done on a printing plate and transferred to paper. It does not exist on the plate after printing, except perhaps a light ghost image which may be a “start” for future prints. In contrast, monoprints utilize a stencil or have an element permanently etched or applied to the plate which makes the image repeatable in subsequent editions, while other elements, like color, may vary. Encaustic monotypes are quite different than monotypes in other media and many of the techniques are not held in common.


Paula Roland Artist

Encaustic prints were first created in the early 1980s by Dorothy Furlong Gardner, a printmaker and artist-friend of Paula Roland’s from New Orleans. Paula did not study directly with Dorthy but received from her basic information about the process and her encouragement to teach it.  After much exploration, Paula, a lifelong teacher, developed a curriculum for this monotype process and began teaching it in 1996. Paula is the first to teach a college-level course in encaustic printmaking, and to specialize in workshops in the topic. Through her teaching and exhibitions of her works, the process has grown enormously in popularity. Roland has taught encaustic printing and its many related techniques to many hundreds of artists across the US and abroad.

The possibilities with encaustic monotype continue to manifest with seemingly endless possibilities. Artist-students have found encaustic monotype, and particularly Paula’s approach to teaching it, freeing and inspiring. Her personal works attest to the range of possibilities, including installation art, back-lit prints, encaustic and mixed media prints, heated drawing, and prints layered with encaustic painting on panel.

Using primarily encaustic, Paula continues to find original ways to express her interests in the natural world and its intersection with humans. Her teaching reflects her wide experience with materials and processes, her exploratory but disciplined approach to learning, and interest in content over media or process. 

In 2010 Paula Roland completed the instructional DVD, ENCAUSTIC MONOTYPES: Painterly Prints with Heat and Wax (Studio Galli Films, 2010). Roland teaches self-organized workshops in her spacious studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She occasionally travels to teach through institutions, artists’ guilds, and art studios around the country and abroad.


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