thoughts on medium
Cold wax medium looms large in my art life--I use it by the gallon, teach it, talk about it, answer questions about it, and have recently launched a website
devoted to information about it. Obviously, I love the stuff. And over the past ten years or so, I've built upon my knowledge of it and acquired expertise in its use. But I have a problem with being defined by any one medium or set of techniques. In fact, although I most often use oils and cold wax, I work occasionally in watercolor and also with water based mixed media such as acrylics, acrylic mediums, pastel and charcoal. Given the opportunity I would happily make monotypes or etchings, and when I travel, I like to sit in the landscape and draw with pen and ink.
While going through some of my works on paper today, I happened to notice the similar textures, format and overall feeling of the two paintings below as they lay in proximity on my work table:
The top painting is done with cold wax medium, oil, and some additives like sand and powdered pigment. The bottom painting is acrylic, acrylic medium, graphite and drawing materials. Their similarities arise from a consistent vision for my work, their differences from the qualities of each particular media. My cold wax work usually ends up looking refined and subdued, while water-based mixed media has a rougher energy. When I work in these differing materials I find that what I learn in one influences the other. For example, I use many of the same techniques in the water-based work that I have developed for cold wax to create rich texture and color, and the fast and spontaneous nature of the quicker drying acrylics and watercolors helps me loosen up with cold wax.
I used to say that I didn't care for working with acrylics, but with time and practice, I have changed my attitude and now I find them very satisfying. Of course, I only have so much time and work space, and painting in cold wax and oils remains my main focus. But my work is not primarily about the materials I use. Given the interplay of form and content, materials do suggest ideas and direction, and process-oriented work especially depends upon materials to assert their unique qualities. But it is vision, practice, control and careful editing that shape the materials into paintings and create bodies of work that explore particular ideas in depth.