Cold wax painting: my first!

Hello dear readers, I’m excited to share something new I’ve finished working on. Below is my first cold wax painting titled, ‘Massimo, You Are the Music in My Heart’. This piece is dedicated to my son who is a violinist.

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I’ve always admired the look of a cold wax painting for years but did not know how it was produced and with what medium. By chance and research, I stumbled upon it through working with hot wax (encaustic).

Cold wax is a paste-consistency medium made with filtered beeswax and odorless mineral spirits. There are a couple of variations in formulas on the market today, mainly by Gamblin and Dorlands. I work with Gamblin because the formula has less additives.

Cold wax paintings are generally made with cold wax medium, oil paint and/or pigment. There are other additives for the cold wax medium but it’s up to the artist to choose. Some artists choose to add marble dust, charcoal and dry pigment. The dry additives can be mixed in with cold wax and will help it dry quicker as well as add colour and texture. Oil paint added into the medium will dry a little slower. In either case, cold wax dries faster than traditional oil paint alone.

A few of the application methods of the cold wax are by squeegee, palette knife, plastic card or a brayer. The great qualities of this painting medium are: layers dry fairly quickly, surfaces can be engraved and scraped, light collage elements can be added, oil sticks can be used in conjunction, minimal odor, no heat required, natural finish is matte but can be polished to a soft sheen and most of all, it has a lovely texture to work with.

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Above is a detail of my piece that shows the inscribed lines and faux-gold leaf incorporated into the paint layers. You can also see the textural elements and the sheen of the polished surface as well.

In the picture below, shows how the cradled panel was finished. I chose to use clear acrylic varnish to seal the edges and let the wood grain how though. I think the natural wood goes well with the early colours of the piece.

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Experimental Interlude in Encaustic

The last post on the encaustic piece I was working on left off with the addition of gold leaf. I was happy with the way it progressed so far and I didn’t want to ruin it. And I needed to bring more focus on the central subject of the tree, but wasn’t sure what to do. When this happens, I usually put whatever I’m working on aside and try different things by experimenting. In this case, I am using different encaustic techniques on small pieces of rag board (100% cotton mat board); using these boards for experiments is less costly than using a birch cradle board. I will continue doing these until something clicks.

In the experiment below, I made a random design onto the mat board with India ink. Then I covered it with a couple of layers of encaustic medium and fused it. After I added some glass cabochons and ensconced them into the medium and fused it with more medium to hold it in. Using glass is a bit tricky, you have to make sure the size of the glass and the way it’s secured is compatible with the strength of the piece; this involves weight, gravity, adhesion etc. … After the glass was added, more medium was randomly dropped onto the board to add more texture and black oil paint was smudged in.

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Below you can see the glass cabochons in more detail:
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I like the way the design underneath can be seen in magnification through the cabochons. I don’t know if this can be incorporated into the piece I was working on but it gives me something to think on. By the way, these experiments are little works themselves and will be used in a series I think.

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Paint making into the wee hours of the night

 

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Above is all the encaustic paint I made before I ran out of supplies. Usually I make paint with pigment in powder form but my growing concerns with health and safety prompted me to search out dispersion pigments. Of course, dispersion pigments are suspended in water which are not compatible with encaustics. Most people use oil paints to make encaustic paint but I did not like the solvent and linseed oil (smell and toxicity) in most oil paints. However, I found out that one of my favorite watercolour paint companies (M. Graham) make an oil based paint using JUST walnut oil as binder. This paint is wonderful; it’s highly pigmented and does not have a strong odor at all!

The paints are cooling above in seamless tins and I still have 6.5 lbs of beeswax to render into paint and medium. It’s good to have encaustic medium pre-made so it’s ready to go. For now, this will have to do until I get more resin soon.

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