If you’ve been following our magazine this year, you’ve likely seen the inspiring new Expressive Painting column from mixed-media artist and professional painter Annie O’Brien Gonzales. So far this year, she’s shared innovative ideas for creating expressive photo-inspired collages, acrylic paintings, and more. In this tutorial from our May/June 2017 issue, Annie walks you step-by-step through creating an oil and cold wax painting. Follow Annie’s instructions below to try out this technique!
Oil and Cold Wax Painting by Annie O’Brien Gonzales
If you have never tried oil painting or have felt unsuccessful with previous attempts, I suggest you give cold wax painting a try. Cold wax is comprised of beeswax, resin, and solvent and, unlike encaustic, it requires no special setup. For cold wax painting, cold wax is mixed with oil paint at room temperature. In addition, cold wax and oil paint remain workable for quite some time and can be layered with other media. Working with the wax mixture is a unique tactile experience unlike any other.
- Paper palette or parchment paper
- Cold wax medium (I use Gamblin or Dorland’s.)
- Oil paint, professional grade (I used Gamblin Artist’s Oil Colors in Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Transparent Orange, Cadmium Red Deep, Quinacridone Magenta, and Titanium White.)
- Palettte knife
- Brayer, key card, or bowl scraper
- Painting surface, rigid (I used an 11″ x 14″ Ampersand™ Gessobord™.)
- TIP: Because the wax mixture can crack if applied to a flexible surface, such as canvas, always work on a rigid surface.
- Stencils and stamps, a variety
- Texture items: fabric, thin collage papers, plastic fruit bags, etc. (I also used Mexican papel picado flags and tissue paper cutouts.)
- Mark-making/scraping tools: Catalyst™ tools, old paintbrushes, chopsticks, etc.
- Powdered pigments (I used Jacquard. Pearl Ex in Aztec Gold, Sunset Gold, and Flamingo Pink.)
- Soft cloth
- Disposable gloves
- Oil pastels (I used Sennelier brand.)
- Gamsol™ odorless solvent
1. Tape a paper palette to your work surface, and scoop a couple of tablespoons of cold wax onto the palette.
2. Beginning with a dark color, squeeze a small amount of oil paint onto the palette. I used Alizarin Crimson. Add an equal amount of cold wax to the paint, and mix them together with the palette knife. The mixture will look and feel like frosting. Mixtures with greater ratios of cold wax to paint will create more texture and translucency.
NOTE: Experiment with colors and transparencies, varying the ratio of wax to paint.
3. Using a brayer, bowl scraper, or key card, spread the paint/cold wax mixture thinly onto the panel. (FIGURE 1)
4. Continue to mix different colors of paint with wax, and, using a brayer, add the mixtures to the panel in thin layers. (FIGURE 2) Work directly over damp paint, or allow the layers to dry a bit before adding another. Experiment. Drying time varies, depending on the climate you’re working in. I added analogous colors.
TIP: Alternate layers of transparent color with opaque mixtures. Scratching into the layers will yield color surprises.
NOTE: Adding Titanium White to any oil color will make it more opaque.
5. Add texture and pattern, using stencils and stamps. (FIGURE 3)
6. Add more texture between the layers as desired with a variety of materials, such as fabric, plastic fruit bags, etc. Lay the items on the surface, and use a brayer to impress the items into the wax, or apply a thin paint/wax mixture over them. I used some commercial stencils, a piece of a placemat, and plastic netting. (FIGURE 4)
7. Add marks with sticks, pencils, and more to create even more texture. (FIGURE 5)
TIP: Once several layers have been added, experiment with scraping through the paint or even dripping odorless solvent and removing some paint to reveal underlying colors.
8. Sprinkle some powdered pigments onto several areas of the painting. Spread the powder around for a pop of shine. I used gold and pink. (FIGURE 6) A little goes a long way, so start with a small amount.
9. Add a thin layer of clear wax over the powdered pigments to help them adhere to the painting and add translucency.
10. Add some thin papers. (FIGURE 7) Anything goes, and anything can be covered with more paint/wax mixture.
11. Keep layering elements: thin oil/wax mixtures, transparent and opaque paint colors, collage, powdered pigments, and mark making, until you have 10–12 layers, or more.
TIP: Use oil pastels for additional mark making.
12. Allow the piece to dry for several days, and then buff it with a soft cloth. There is no need to add varnish; the wax acts as a sealant.
Annie O’Brien Gonzales is a professional painter, teacher, and author from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her work is represented by galleries across the U.S., appears in juried exhibitions, and is collected internationally. She is the author of Bold Expressive Painting: Painting Techniques For Still Lifes, Florals, and Landscapes from North Light Books, and has three videos on expressive painting. Her next book on expressive painting for beginners is due out in Fall 2017 from North Light Books.
Visit Annie’s website at annieobriengonzales.com