Artists are always searching for new materials and different ways of representing their feelings, their thoughts and ideas. The medium of cold wax provides a gateway into a world of experimental techniques and creative possibilities. The key ingredients are inexpensive and are relatively simple to combine using an old pan and a griddle. I use a basic recipe of 3 parts turpentine and 1 part beeswax. If I need a softer, more fluid medium I add more turpentine to the mix.
This painting is a mixed media work on a 40 x 40 cm canvas and I have used paper collage and card to establish different relief levels within the painting. The cold wax is a versatile medium and will act as an adhesive layer besides providing opportunities to apply heavy impasto. The rapid drying times speed up the working process and allow swift changes. By varying the oil paint and medium ratio, opacity and translucency can adjusted. Sgraffito techniques can also be used.
This work is an evocation of the Cambridgeshire Fenlands. This is an unforgiving, flat landscape, gouged and crisscrossed by rivers and dykes. It owes its existence to the draining of the Fens by Dutch engineers over 400 years ago and makes no claim to sentimental notions of a pastoral idyll. It is, however, honest, direct, immediate and without pretence… this is genuine beauty, artless charm and magnificence.
This highly textured painting on a solid oak block has just been sold to a collector in Scotland. Oak has a very dense grain and provides a resilient surface for the cold wax process. A variety of tools can be used with confidence to create a range of natural textures and fine surface markings. Multiple layers of wax have been used to generate the illusion of depth and translucency.
I have just been working on a commission based on one of my recent New Forest paintings. It has taken over two months from start to completion and I am genuinely pleased with final outcome. For those of you who have worked on a commission before you will know that they can sometimes be problematic. I think it is extremely important to be clear about the nature of the painting process and to communicate this through discussion with the other party.
Each painting is inevitably unique and few artists would be able to recreate an existing painting or exact copy unless the style owed more to photographic realism and/or geometric precision. You will see from the close up details that this painting has been developed through the application of successive layers of oil paint and cold wax medium. The raised surface and tactile nature of the work embodies the textural qualities of the subject matter.
I spent a number of days walking amongst the trees and gathering information for a series of paintings through drawing and photography; I absorbed the sights and sounds of the trees in the forest and found a way to recreate something of that experience in paint.
I am interested in surfaces and textures and the way materials can be combined to create tactile qualities. Cold wax can be applied in thin layers or heavy impasto. It can be scored, scoured and burnished like a rich stoneware ceramic glaze; it can left dry, broken, fragmented and uneven. I have included up a number of close up photographs to give some indication of the extremely rich and highly textured surface of the painting; you can also begin to see in the reflections, the depth and lustre contained in the burnished wax.
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They took all the trees
Put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
’Til it’s gone…
Joni Mitchell, from “Big Yellow Taxi,” lyrics written circa 1967–68