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   Welcome to my blog! I'll be posting thoughts about art, photos, happenings, and other things that strike me--and hopefully my readers--as interesting. And please visit my website by clicking the link to the right--thanks!

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

Sunday, February 06, 2011
  so much stuff

The photo above is a snapshot of a small area of my work space--a portion of what extends over several tables in the part of my studio where I paint. The variety and quantity of supplies I use is always growing, and this has been the case since I moved away from traditional brush painting about seven or eight years ago and started using cold wax medium with my paints. The piles of tools and supplies are an outgrowth of exploring the possibilities and wonderful versatility of cold wax medium. (That my supplies are normally in a state of chaos is an outgrowth of something else, I guess! I do try and organize things now and then, but the order always disintegrates once I start working.)

Besides the cold wax medium and innumerable tubes and jars of oil paint, my supplies include boards and multi-media paper on which to paint, powdered pigments, charcoal and graphite, brayers and palette knives of all sizes, various objects used as squeegees and scrapers, brushes (mostly old and splayed, for more interesting lines), many pointed implements for scratching and gouging the paint surface, high quality odorless solvent (I use Gamsol), a variety of papers (used to impress texture onto the surface, transfer line drawings, and lift off layers of paint), sand, dish scrubbers, whisk brooms, steel wool and cotton rags. There's also a lot of miscellaneous stuff for creating interesting textures--including bits of packing material, corks, yarn, blocks of foam, and stamps I've carved in wood, rubber and sheets of foam.

This list will be at least partially familiar to others exploring cold wax medium, with variations according to personal favorites and, I'm sure, additions I haven't thought of myself. Using cold wax medium with oils allows for a smorgasbord of techniques adapted from printmaking (especially monotype), collage, drawing and traditional oil painting, each requiring some additional supplies and tools. Fortunately many of these supplies are everyday objects, not pricey or specialized.

Although it may sound reasonable for beginners with cold wax to set about acquiring this mountain of stuff, I don't recommend it. It's good to know the possibilities, but having the all the needed supplies on hand may actually be counter-productive and result in being overly focused on technique alone. My own cache of supplies has grown slowly. I think a good approach is to work through a limited number of techniques in some depth before moving on, keeping the focus off technique for its own sake and on one's personal vision, and what is being said in the work.

On the other hand, a few new art toys can be very energizing--I'm definitely not opposed to having fun shopping in the hardware or kitchen supply store, where many of the best tools are found. (The current trend in silicone kitchen gadgets like dough scrapers and rolling pins is a boon for cold wax painters, as some are perfect for spreading, rolling or impressing textures into paint.) Or browsing the art supply store or catalog for some new products to try out, a few here and there that fit the budget.

As with so many things in life, there's a balance to strike--and finding the right tool or supply at the right time can lead to a whole new vision for one's work. After all, that was cold wax for me, a number of years ago--just an interesting new (to me) art supply with which to experiment.
Your writing is always so clear and organized, perceptive and informative that it is somehow reassuring to know that your studio is wonderfully messy. I think your advice about tools being acquired slowly was also very important.
It's amazing how tools and equipment accumulate. I probably use about 20% of the stuff I've got. I find the gardening section a good place to look for new goodies.
Thanks for the comments, Ann and Carrie...yes, messy it is! (I do clean up when I teach in my studio, in case anyone wonders...)Hmmm--gardening section--what do you find there? I am curious.

I actually do use most of what I acquire, but that has to do with teaching workshops. I talk about and demo things that I don't necessarily use in my own work, but have stumbled upon while experimenting...I seem to lug more and more stuff now when I travel someplace to teach.
Some of my favorite tools are just pieces of sticks/branches I find outside.
yes! leaves are great too, pressed into the wax.
Hi Rebecca

I have finally located you! I was working like this in 1976-1980, mostly drawing media but some canvases. Scribbles into mixed media, textures, odd symbols, markings. I had my formulas and tools, invented some, had a blast. My apartment studio looked just like this. Most of the energy ended up on paper, however, in standard drawing media--storage issues. After a couple shows and some yawns by viewers, I moved on, but have greatly missed this kind of effort. It stays with me as the most natural, direct connection to life and its own processes through time--everything you talked about on the front page of your website. I was delighted to find this blog so I could at least try to contact you. I am an instant fan. Just by seeing one of your panels I know precisely what you are doing.
And thos sort of gives me permission to show my attempts at this on my blog. I am overjoyed to have found you. Thank you. I am so happy you're out there.


Ps - I discovered Jala Pfaff like this a couple weeks ago and was happy to see her comment although not surprised. Hi Jala.
Thank you, William--great to hear all of this! it does seem to me a very direct expression of inner workings, to work intuitively, to be in the process. Love the 70s works on your blog--R.
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       Rebecca Crowell