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Just Add Wax – Encaustic

"Blah" - photograph with encaustic by Kimberly Chiaris

“In The Garden” – photograph with encaustic by Kimberly Chiaris

Molten wax is at the heart of one of my favorite techniques. Kimberly Chiaris, my artist photographer friend, employs this process to create some of the most appealing photographs you’d ever want to see! I met up with Kim recently, and she showed me how she makes encaustic photography.


I had heard that using encaustic can be really smelly. Kim set me straight on this, explaining that she uses bees wax, and never notices a bad smell. She then showed me the damar varnish crystals, electric skillet, and other tools she uses in the process.  “It’s not considered encaustic until the wax is set by heating it a final time after it’s applied,” Kim said.


She says that she began using this technique partly because it’s a great way to protect her photos without having to use glass & frames. At the same time, the wax helps to diffuse some of the visual edges, creating a softness which reminded her of “Diana” images. For several years, Kim used the small, plastic Diana cameras to shoot black and white photos. I am the proud owner of several of her earlier Diana images, and I especially love the way subjects appear in varied degrees of focus. Encaustic can echo this effect.


For her recent series of photos, Kim shot pictures in one of her favorite spaces: her flower garden. Using a tilt shift lens, She took close-up images that she enlarged and cut vertically to create a triptych. After applying the first layers of wax, she added bits of gold leaf.

Kimberly Chiaris with one of her photos

Kimberly Chiaris with one of her photos

Kimberly lives in my hometown of Loveland, Colorado. We met over 30 years ago, at the Kansas City Art Institute, and she has been inspiring me and encouraging my creative endeavors ever since.

About Mollie Walker Freeman

I am a fine art painter, & I am studying to be a health coach at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.

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