Cuni encaustics, new formula and other info

I received a sample set of paints using the new formulation, which I assume will be the only type available from now on. The paint is quite changed in the speed it sets up on the palette. For me, this has not turned out to be an advantage, since it makes palette management harder (and it was already kind of hard).  The old formula would stay loose and rewettable overnight if I covered it with plastic wrap; the new formula has to be discarded more quickly.  I am not as clear on how the paint has changed on the canvas.  So far,  I find it can still be lifted if re-wetted, even after a day or more.   It certainly doesn’t behave like egg tempera, which sets hard very quickly and can be overpainted without lifting.  Cuni says the new formula cures more quickly.  I’m not sure if he means this change is noticeable in a range of time that really affects painting technique.  I don’t have enough experience with it.

According to Custom Encaustics, the retarder should bring the old behaviour back to the paint, so I will probably start using that more. Since most people will never see the old mix, I would suggest experimenting with the retarder in different proportions to get something that works for you, especially if you are finding it frustrating that paint dries quickly on the palette.  The retarder has a big effect in small amounts, in my experience.

I am not sure if the pure medium will be reformulated also from now on. I personally hope not, or hope that they keep both formulas available. I will check that with Cuni and update.

I had disallowed comments because of endless spam, but a few interesting comments on the paint have showed up on the About page on the blog, where no one is likely to see them.  (I decided to turn comments back on, hoping my new spam filter will work.) I am quoting them here:

From Rebecca Crowell: By the way, in answer to one of my questions, the company suggests thinning the paints with turps rather than water, but that seems a bit odd as it would negate the solvent-free attraction of the product. 

My response: I see no reason to try solvent personally, since water solubility is one of the main attractions to me, but I can see why you might. The paint has a complex relationship with water. The more water you add, the more water-resistant the surface gets. If you use watercolor-style washes, it can get very water-resistant, and you need to switch to paint with little or no water to get the next layer to stick. Solvent should eliminate this.

From amir49749, very interesting info  (I lost the posted comments when the blog was hacked, so here is the whole thing):

amir49749 says:

Jan –Thank you for your posts regarding Cuni encaustics. On one of your threads, a comment was made by Richard Frumess of R&F Encaustics that he thought that Cuni used saponified beeswax. George Hanlon of Natural Pigments also remarked in his forum that Cuni used saponified wax.

However, I came upon a scientific paper written and submitted in 2011 by Jorge and Pedro Cuni that suggests otherwise. The Cuni brothers proposed, using scientific analyses of ancient Roman frescoes, that the ancient wax medium was NOT produced using saponified beeswax. Rather, the soap in the form of linseed oil potassium soap, was added to the wax to form an emulsion. I can reasonably assume that Cuni’s formulation follows this method of using unsaponified wax in their paints.

The encaustic wax formulation proposed by Pedro Cuni (their dad) appears on page 4 as one of the reference samples (sample #4). The Cuni “formula” is as follows:

“Encaustic medium of beeswax and linseed oil soap:
20 grams of white beeswax
20 ml of distilled water
5 grams of linseed oil potassium soap handmade in the 1980s by Jose Cuni with cold pressed linseed oil and potassium hydroxide

This mixture is boiled and vigorously stirred.”

The sample paint film was allowed to dry naturally then dried for 3 hours in the oven at 50 degrees centigrade (122 degrees farenheit) to simulate the “burning in” process of the ancient artists.

Here’s a direct link to their paper:

I hope this info helps.