The true method of knowledge is experiment. (William Blake)

Lately, I had the opportunity to take a Cold Wax Medium workshop with Melinda Cootsona.  It was a perfect compliment to my previous workshop I took with Martin Campos.  CWM has changed my perceived way of creating by lending a process in which artistic play and experimentation occurs. Cold wax effects are created by using many layers thick and thin, transparent and opaque, using brayers, squeegees, pallet knives, etc. Through scraping and scratching you are able to discover the underlying layers of colors and affects.  Adding to and taking away creates an intuitive process that allows the artist and art to reveal itself. Reduction becomes as important as adding to.  What is underneath becomes as important as what is on the surface. Isn’t that true about our lives as well? 

Currently, I’m aware of three brands of Cold Wax Medium; Gamblin, Dorland and Evans. Evans also makes a Cold Wax Paint.  Gamblin’s CWM is simply a pharmaceutical grade beeswax, Gamsol and a small amount of alkyd resin.  As the Gamsol evaporates out of the medium the soft wax harden, similar to the consistency of wax of a candle.  The difference between CWM and encaustic is that CWM can be malleable without heat; the Gamsol is the heat substitute. There is a special medium for encaustic. CWM should not be heated. And it is wise to not mix the different brands of CWM, since the brands have different ingredients.  The advantage to using Gamblin brand is that the mediums that they provide are compatible with the wax.

Detail CWM
Detail CWM

Cold Wax Medium can be mixed directly with oil paint; usually a mixture of 30% to 50% wax.  When using CWM in higher percentages on stretched canvas it is best to first add to the wax 25-50% Galkyd Gel, Solvent-Free Gel, or for a more fluid mixture, Galkyd.  These mediums aid in giving flexibility to the CWM.   The more medium added to the wax the faster the layer will dry and the more wax added the more translucent the layer.  When using on rigid supports you can use a higher amount of CWM.  Although the rigid supports help, the more wax used the softer more dissolvable the paint layer. Using some medium helps strengthen the wax.  If you prefer a gloss finish you can add Neo Meglip and Galkyd G-Gel by Gamblin to the CWM.  For texture marble dust, sand, coffee, graphite powder, powdered lime, coffee ground, powdered pigment, and even dirt can be added to mixture.  I’m sure there are other grounds you can explore. 

CWM allows you to have a variety of layers.  No longer is it necessary to have lean first you can mix the thickness of layers using different ratios of wax to paint and grounds. 

A variety of supports can be used with CWM, although the more flexibility the support the more fragile the painting will be.  It is recommended to use thinner layers of wax on canvas and paper.  The various supports are Arches Oil Paper (doesn’t have to be gessoed) and comes in two sizes, other types of paper may be used but it must be gessoed, Gessoed Canvas, Gessoed Boards, canvas boards and cradled boards. When using Arches Oil Paper it should be mounted on board and it should be framed under glass.  Priming your support first with a solid color of oil paint is advantageous to prevent seeing white of support when scraping. Also, it may be better to be working on more than one support to account for drying time.

Detail CWM
Detail CWM

CWM is not necessarily new, but the ways in which it is being used are. Thus there are new avenues to explore and discover.  Nothing is written in stone yet.

Because there is so much information I decided to have a two-part post on Cold Wax Medium.  Next week’s post will be about techniques and tools. 

Below are some links in the mean time I think you will find helpful.

Rebecca Crowell will be publishing a book on CWM “Cold Wax Medium: Technique, Concepts & Conversations” that will be out late 2016, but sorry to say the first edition has already been presold.  She did mention that there would be an additional release in 2017. 

In the meantime, I found “Wabi Sabi Painting with Cold Wax, Adding Body, Texture and Transparency to your Art” very helpful, especially in techniques. 

Oil and Wax Resources for Cold Wax Painting 

Step by Step CW Painting by Sherril Kahn  

If you have any questions please add them to comments below.  I will then answer them in the next post.  Thank you!