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Wednesday, February 06, 2013
  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.
 
Comments:
I am a photographer, and am always looking for interesting ways to embellish my work. I've played around with encaustic, but found it a bit of a challenge to do on a large scale. Can CWM can be used directly on a paper print (without adding any pigment or paint) as a sort of texturizing varnish? If so, that would be fascinating to work with! I'll have to see if I can find any articles by people doing that.
 
Hi Daniel-sure, I know your work! and I am pretty sure the answer to your question is yes--I know that people use it over fully dried watercolor for example. However, CWM does contain solvent and that might be an issue. My advice would be to email customer service at Gamblin, one of the companies that makes cold wax medium, and ask. They are very knowledgeable about their products and will answer that for sure.

I see that you have joined the Oil&Wax ning site, so maybe you will share your answer on the Forum when you get it?
 
Oh Rebecca... I so identify with this. Thanks for the post. Love that acrylic painting posted BTW. ...although I really like the other one as well.
 
Wonderful post as usual. I can so identify with this since I work with many media. Love that acrylic painting that you posted... Call me the green lady LOL...
 
I sent a message, but they didn't really have any information on using CWM on pigment prints. Can I ask you this? I've tried using Renaissance Wax (Pretty smelly stuff) on my prints. Do you know if cold wax similar in consistency and usage to that?
 
Thank you, Rebecca. Your post is succinct and helpful as always, I was particularly taken with your comment on "careful editing." I am one who spends days into weeks observing "finished" work to see what it needs to say "yes!" in my head.
 
Daniel, I don't really know what Renaissance wax is--looked it up and it is described as microcrystalline wax. So it would be different in that it contains no beeswax. Dorlands cold wax contains both microcrystalline wax (parrafin) and beeswax, while in Gamblin the only wax is beeswax. I'm not sure if the Renaissance wax contains solvent, which cold wax does. Unfortunately I can't say anything about the consistency since I've never seen it. Cold wax has a consistency kind of like Crisco, if that helps.
 
Carol, yes I do think there is so much to careful consideration in making a painting truly one's own. It is that very special and refined vision that we use in tweaking the work that makes it distinctive.
 
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