Monday, June 1, 2015

Cold wax medium

Red Sarong
11.6 x 12
Every oil medium gives a different look to brushwork and, of course, to the final painting.  I've been exploring those unique qualities quite a bit lately.

While my old stand by medium is 50/50 oil and OMS, I have taken frequent forays into the world of alkyds in the form of Liquin, Neo Megilp and Galkyd.  This painting, however, used a modern version of an ancient medium: wax.

I used Dorland's cold wax medium throughout the painting as my reading suggested that it should not just be used in one part of the piece.  As well, I painted on a rigid support to avoid cracking from the thicker, harder paint body.  This is on linen mounted on birch.

While the original wax medium in old master's paintings would have been beeswax, Dorland's is,  a mixture of beeswax, several other waxes, and resin.  It's quick dry, thanks to the resin, but, unlike most resin products, it doesn't smell.  As always, it's probably adding some to my indoor pollution, but I didn't have any tell-tale dizziness after using it, so that's a plus!

My jar of Dorland's is pretty old (5+years) and I'm sure it must have undergone some changes along the way.  Still, it's not discoloured and moves pretty well, so I'm thinking it's similar to when I bought it.  But unlike the soft and somewhat creamy movement that Gamblin cold wax gives to paint (very much like a lead-free version of Old Master's Italian Wax), Dorland's gives a stiff, short mark.  Even with just a tiny bit added into my paint mixtures, it seems to stop the stroke dead when it touches the board.  It's a very interesting phenomenon.  Over the span of a larger painting, I know I'd get tired of this slow accretion of paint, and would liberally use a palette knife, but it was a lot of fun on such a small piece.  It gave me texture without imparting a crusty look that I truly dislike in oil paintings. There's a nice sense of atmosphere in the figure's environment that I can't imagine getting from such a thick application of paint with other mediums.

Wax paintings are naturally matte and, to my knowledge, you can't varnish them.  They have an almost fresco-like quality that's different and quite appealing.  I think they'd be superb for landscapes as a way to suggest depth and air.   I'll try that next.

Happy painting!


Teri said...

Hi Ingrid - I use Dorland's as a protective coating on my dried oil paintings. I put it on in a very thin coat with my fingers and let it dry for up to a day and then buff with a soft cloth. It does just as I guess varnish does, in that it brings out the luster to the dulled paints. And it is tough.

I have never used it mixed with the paint, but I know I will try it some day because I just love texture. Was wondering because you mentioned you would not varnish over the Dorland/oil paint mixture ... but what if you buffed it? ... only after it was VERY dry, though!

Ingrid Christensen said...

Thanks for the information, Teri! I have been thinking of finishing with a wax coating and buffing. It should keep the airiness of the piece intact; something that varnish wouldn't do.

Teri said...

If you do buff that painting, could you let me know how it comes out, if you think of it and have time? My email is No worries if you need to let it dry, and no worries if you cannot get to it!

Ingrid Christensen said...

Well I had to see how it would come out, Teri, so I put the wax on yesterday and buffed this morning. It gave a nice low, even lustre. I used a natural bristle shoe brush and lots of force to bring up the shine.
The values all stayed intact, with no rich darks, but lots of airy lights. It's clearly a trade off, but it works perfectly if your painting is high key and about colour and layers. It would also need to be on a rigid support to take the pressure of the buffing. So a useful finish under specific circumstances.

Teri said...

Oh excellent, Ingrid! Thanks so much for your report!

Ryan said...

Ingrid, first of, great painting style you have. I've only just come across your blog and you've a wealth of information on here. Well done and thanks.

Secondly, I've been looking at both Gamblins cold pressed wax and Neo Megilp for nice smooth mediums with some solid control. Do you still use them these days? Or are you primarily happy with 50-50 linseed and oms?

I feel like an alkyd like Neo Megilp would provide that extra strength with the included resin / binder.

Ingrid Christensen said...

Hi Ryan,
I keep coming back to the basic oil and OMS 50/50 mix. I like neo megilp, though, and I do think alkyd films are amazingly strong. But the more I add to the paint film, the more thought I have to give to the process to make sure I'm making a sound piece. I do, however, frequently use some alkyd white in the lower layers, at least. It helps speed the dry time and, if using fast matte white, keeps it lean.

Happy painting!