So today I decided I’d every once in a while to share recipes and techniques to all you art makers out there. A lot of these I obtained when I was still in art college by various art instructors and fellow colleagues. This particular recipe came from a former art instructor of mine while studying at NSCAD. I tend to paint impasto, (fairly thickly, using a lot of paint), so this recipe comes fairly handy for those who want to build density to their oil paint, texture to the overal aesthetic of their oil paintings, as well as creating a lovely matte finish. If you’re familiar with the artist Wayne Thiebaud and love the buttercream frosting appeal of his paintings, you’ll appreciate this recipe. I especially love it for how economical it is, as you can stretch-out the use of your oil paint by mixing-in cold wax medium.
Okay. Now I’ve said enough. Hopefully I’ve sold you on it. You’ll love it I promise (Note: I’ve put alterisks next to certain products that might need further explanation of what they are, in case you’ve never heard of them).
Cold Wax Medium: (for oil paint only)
1 part wax (beeswax, *purified beeswax or *microcrystalline wax)
1 part linseed oil
2 parts solvent ( I use Taltine; a low-odour solvent that can be easily found at any art supply store) but you can also use any solvent such as mineral spirits, or even rectified turpentine.
Note: varying the amounts of solvent and linseed oil will result in a harder or softer medium. The more liquid means it will be softer. I tend to make this harder, as it can always be diluted with additional solvent/oil during the paint mixing process in the studio.
Melt wax in a double boiler (or simply two non-rusted tin cans – one larger filled with water, and one smaller that will loosley fit inside (for the wax solution). The cans can go directly on the heating element.
Heat the wax in the double boiler until it becomes liquid. Add the solvent and oil (make sure you have a window open, or some kind of ventillation). The liquids will be cooler then the hot wax, so adding them will bring the overal temperature down, resulting in some of the wax to re-solidify in the liquid mixture. Continue to heat the mixture until it is completely liquified and clear. Once you acheive this, give it a quick stir and then pour in a glass jar or plastic container to cool and solidify. Once it is cooled, it is ready to use. The mixture should last for a
decade or so, forever, if stored in a cool, dry place and properly sealed.
If the paste is too hard, you can re-heat it and add more solvent/oil. Using more oil will result in longer drying time.
*If using normal beeswax, note that your medium will have a slight yellow hue. I find this doesn’t really effect my palette, I just don’t recommend mixing it with white or very light colours. If this bothers you overall, you can leave it in a window to bleach in the sun, or use purified beewax, which is a little more expensive, as it has been pre-bleached. Likewise with Microcrystalline, as it is petroleum-based and therefore, (like its name), is lovely and clear with no hue. The reason I use normal old beeswax is because (other then the fact that I LOVE the smell), I try my best to keep my painting practice as green as possible, and therefore, using beeswax is not only more natural, but healthier to use. I get much less (literal) head-aches using beeswax then with microcrystalline, as it emits less odour and less chemicals to the air.
I prefer a less contemporary palette, as I use a lot of retro images for my paintings, so beeswax is a plus, as it gives that lovely yellowish hue of a 1960’s polaroid photograph. Everybody is different, so as you experiment, you’ll find the type of wax and consistency you’re comfortable with using.