Using Cold Wax in Mixed-Media Art

Crystal Neubauer’s August Art Lesson, Cold Wax Play, inspired me to try working with cold wax. Like encaustic medium, cold wax is made up of beeswax and resin, but unlike encaustic it also has solvent as part of the mix, giving it a paste-like consistency.

It was time to play. I chose 300-lb. watercolor paper for my substrate, and jumped right in with lightweight spackling and a stencil. Spackling is just one of the many ideas Crystal offers for adding texture to a background before you apply wax. I let it set for a few minutes and removed the punchinella. I was amazed how perfectly formed the circles were.

cold wax techniques

cold wax techniques

I decided to add more texture to the background, collaging items onto the paper, using cold wax to adhere the pieces, and then covering the pieces with another layer of cold wax. When I added the fabric flower in the top left, I added extra wax around the flower and created marks in the wax with a palette knife.

cold wax techniques

Crystal talks about creating marks in the wax with a number of different tools, so I added some wax in between the collage pieces and chose a fat marker and the palette knife again to add some rough texture there.

cold wax techniques

Cold wax can be used as an adhesive as well. I looked through some vintage children’s books, and chose a couple of illustrations of “friends” and one illustration of a little boy sitting alone. Because the boy sitting alone seemed to be waiting for someone, I selected text that said, “By 3:00 their friends were all on hand.” I adhered the illustrations and text with cold wax, and again added a light layer of cold wax over the top.

cold wax techniques

One of the nice things about cold wax is it stays soft for a long time, so if you decide you want to make a change, it’s easy to do so. I decided the wax I’d applied in the center was too heavy, so I scraped most of it off, leaving a light layer. Then I used the side of my palette knife to add lines in two directions in that area. I also left a few of the marks from the marker, because I liked the effect.

cold wax techniques

Now it was time to add some paint. You have to use oil paint with cold wax, and I discovered these paints offered more intense color than I wanted for this piece. I mixed white oil paint with green, and added cold wax, using a 50/50 mixture as directed. I applied the paint with a palette knife.

cold wax techniques

I added some brown paint and blue also with my palette knife, and then used a paintbrush for the fiddly areas. I applied the mixture as more of a skim coat in these areas. You can see the lines I made with the side of the palette knife, as well as the other marks, now that the paint was added.

cold wax techniques

cold wax techniques

I pounced more of the three paint colors over the different sections of the painting, using a cosmetic wedge, to tie it all together. Crystal suggests adding a layer of cold wax over the entire finished painting, but I chose not to do that.

cold wax techniques

Cold wax really makes you think about layers and placement . . . and how many mark-making options there truly are! I discovered that I could keep going and going, adding layer upon and layer and more and more texture and marks, but I decided to stop.

Cold wax is a material that is worth investigating . . .

Check it out!

~ Barb

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Blog, Mixed-Media Painting Techniques, Mixed-Media Techniques

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