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   Also please check out my second blog, The Painting Archives to see older (pre-2004) paintings for sale.

Friday, September 03, 2010
  FAQ part 2

In this post I'll continue with answers to some of the questions I am asked most often about my painting process in general and the use of cold wax medium (which I mix with my oils) in particular. If you're interested in learning more ( a lot more!)about using cold wax medium, please sign onto the Ning site that I created for discussion and sharing of ideas and questions, and posting of art work. (If you do wish to become a member of that site, please sign in using your complete name--a strategy to ward off spammers!)

When/why did you start using cold wax medium in your work?

I think it was around 2002 or 2003--I only remember that I bought some at the suggestion of a sales clerk at my favorite art supply store. For several years I didn't attach any special importance to the wax. I liked it better than other painting mediums I had tried, but it took awhile for me to start to discover its potential and what it could bring to my work. At some point I realized that the body, luminosity and faster drying time that it added to the oils were leading me into the more abstract direction I had been seeking in my work, and that there were countless ways to use it for complex textures and mark-making.

Even as recently as 2008, I did not think of mentioning the role that cold wax plays in my process when the video was made of me working in my studio. It was not until I was asked to teach a painting workshop that the importance of the wax some to mind. I listed in a notebook all of the techniques I had developed and realized that this was unique information around which I could create a 2 or 3 day class.

How many layers of oil paint and cold wax do you put on your paintings? (a variation on how long does it take you to make a painting?)

I can't really give a specific number of layers or amount of time spent on a painting. This is partly because I always have a lot of work in progress and cannot keep track of how any one panel develops. The answer is also impossible because I remove a lot of paint during my process. A painting with ten applications of paint layers today may have only two tomorrow, but traces of all ten will remain.

In general, I like there to be a substantial body of paint on each panel, enough so that there are complex interactions between layers and applications of color, and so that scratching and other mark-making can be impressed upon the surface.

How long does it take the oil and wax mixture to dry?

This depends on many variables, including the humidity in the air, the thickness of the cold wax/paint mixture, the surface on which it is laid down, and the color and brand of oils. So it's hard to say! But in general, the oil paint/cold wax medium mixture will start to set up and become tacky in a few hours, and will be noticeably set up overnight. Within a week or so, most paintings are dry to the touch and can be exhibited or shipped. But like any oil painting it takes more time to be completely and thoroughly dry. One advantage to using cold wax medium is that no final varnish is required--always a tricky issue with regular oil paintings when the recommended time to apply that varnish may be months after the painting has gone to a collector.

Are cold wax paintings fragile? Do you have to be careful about hanging them in direct sun or leaving them in hot places?

Cold wax paintings have a hard surface when dry--there is no trace of softness as with encaustic (hot wax) paintings. As with any oil painting, exposing to extreme conditions or hanging in direct sunlight is not the best idea, but they are not especially fragile, or sensitive to heat once dry. They do tend to be a bit brittle on the edges and corners of the panels, so care must be taken when moving them around.

Can you mix cold wax medium with anything besides oil paint? (People most often want to know if they can mix cold wax with acrylic paint.)

Cold wax medium can be mixed with many things, but water-based paints or other substances that would be adversely affected by the solvents in the medium are out. What will work: powdered pigments and metallic powders, charcoal, chalk pastels, and any other fairly fine-grained, natural substance like marble dust or sand. You can also use cold wax medium in collage, with materials like paper, photos, cloth (silk works beautifully), metal leaf, and even dried organic substances like dry leaves or pine needles.

Where do you get your panels? How do you fix them together in your multiple panel paintings? or are the panels just hung together but not actually held in place?

I purchase panels made by Ampersand Art, and prefer those in their Museum Series line, either Claybord or Gessobord. It is recommended that you use a rigid support if you plan to build up any thickness with cold wax medium, but there are plenty of other options--other companies that make panels, home-made ones, or even paper if it is eventually framed or otherwise supported.

My multiple-panel paintings are permanently bolted together on the back by carefully aligning them and drilling through their cradles (not being handy in this way myself, I have a woodworker perform this operation.)The arrangement and orientation of the various panels that make up a painting are as carefully considered as any other aspect of my work.

The painting above is Casa #2, 42"x36", oil and wax on panel, 2010.
!Tu "Casa" es muy bonita!
Gracias, Jala.
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       Rebecca Crowell