I obtained some more soft pastels over Christmas, as well as a 36 colour set of Mont Marte H2O watermixable oils. I’ve been practising with both mediums this past week – doing two versions of the same scene, one using soft pastel and the other with oils, to see how well I can get a good result. One thing that’s becoming obvious is I have a far better grasp of it with soft pastels than I do with oils!
One of the comparison studies I did today, involved the use of a reworked pastel study. I took the earlier pastel practise piece and rubbed the surface pigment off as much as i could, leaving a kind of underpainted base to work on, to which I added some white …
I then completed a moody landscape from a photo I took a few years ago.
I’m really pleased with how this turned out. I have done an oil version of this same scene, which is drying at the moment. I’m not happy with that at all but I’ll do some more work on it tomorrow and maybe I can get it right, then will post on here to show the difference between the two techniques – soft pastel on Pastelmat and watersoluble oils on Arches oil paper.
I’m busy trying my very best to do art every day at the moment, it doesn’t always end up being anything I can display on here but I’m working, that’s the main thing. in any event, I am busy with these two pieces at the moment, they are both about 50cm x 40cm on repurposed stretched canvas (that was a process in and of itself let me tell you!).
I have used acrylics, pastels, inks, alcohol, red tissue paper collage. The tissue paper was used by OCA (Uni for Creative Arts) to package up my coursework manual. I knew i’d find a good use for it one day.
I am finding myself drawn to cold wax paintings as well as encaustic painting techniques – I think I am more ‘in love’ with the idea of encaustic work, as it seems that the depth of colour obtained in some of the works I’ve seen lately online, is really spectacular. While I was looking into cold wax techniques, I bought a small tub of what I thought was cold wax to use as a painting medium. It is cold wax but used primarily for batik work, which I didn’t realise until I started trying it out a few months ago (with no success whatsoever) It looks like this …
I suppose this is yet another reason why buying art equipment from Amazon or eBay is sometimes not the best solution. I should have gone to … (no, not Specsavers but maybe Jacksons or SAA).
Anyway, to cut a long story short. As I left B&Q on Saturday morning (we’d gone to get some plants, as the nurseries are now open), I stopped at their ‘off-cut’ bin and grabbed a couple of pieces of wood. I thought it might be useful to use these bits of scrap wood to try out both encaustic and cold wax work, as I’ve tried tiles and paper and I think wood is the best support for both types of wax painting. I chose a piece of (I think) veneered wood, not sure ‘cos my knowledge of wood is rather non-existent. But it seemed like a good enough size to try out the cold wax medium and oils.
I started off squiggling with charcoal vine stick and then applying yellow oil to the surface, just to see if it would actually go onto the board without smearing off straight away. I didn’t prime the board. Then I thought I should edge it with some tape, so that at the end I’d have a neat finish to the ‘painting’, however it turned out. I used a glass palette (it’s an old photo frame that I’ve reinforced the edges of with tape, so I don’t cut myself).
Then I dolloped a sizeable amount of the wax medium onto the palette and started playing about with the colours, applying to the board and just messing about. I didn’t have a plan or composition, I was just having fun with the texture.
For the most part, I used a plastic palette knife to apply the paint, which is both easy and hard, depending on how thick the paint is, or how smooth you want it to be.
Whilst I was enjoying plastering on the paint, I was not happy with the bumpy clumpy finish. So, I got out my craft iron. Well, it’s oil paint and medium, a bit of heat should smooth it out, right?
The iron smooshed up the paint, making it smooth in some areas and then when I lifted the iron I got a vein like texture (in the front of the image above) – similar to how encaustic paint works on paper when heated with an iron. I thought that was quite cool but decided to put the iron away, else I’d end up burning the whole thing. I waited for it all to dry and noticed that certain parts of the paint had dried to a dull matt finish. I tried polishing with a tissue but that didn’t do anything. I then decided to apply a coat of the cold wax to fill in the grooves (even out the lumpiness) and see if it would create a surface lustre.
I left it overnight and then buffed it up with a soft cloth and kitchen towel, it did come up to a soft sheen.
The finished landscape reminds me of a day, a few years ago, when I was out in the sun roaming around with my family. We were hiking in the Southern Drakensberg. Weird how that memory rose to the surface in this little painting.
If I’m going to develop cold wax painting anymore, I need to get the right wax – Gamblin or Dorland and also a primer/gesso to use on the board before starting the painting.
Cold Wax vs Encaustic – the big debate I’m having right now with myself.
I know that I am more inclined towards encaustic wax work and feel that this is the medium best suited to how I work. I want the layers, not the clomping thick impasto effect that I’ve ended up with in this cold wax exercise.
Cold wax is easier to set up, safer to work with and I basically have all I need to get going – besides the correct wax.
Encaustic equipment is expensive, there is specific stuff that needs to be bought:
I already have a kitchen appliance that was bought to keep food warm but hardly used, which might work to keep tins of encaustic paint and medium warm. If it doesn’t then, I’ve seen an electric griddle with thermostate (very important) for about £30, which isn’t too bad.
I have seen tins at our local homeware shop that could be used to hold encaustic medium and they have lids.
I’m not keen on getting a butane torch, ‘cos I’m a klutz sometimes and worry I would end up setting fire to the house. I wonder if i can justs get away with using a craft heat gun? I would also need a small fire extinguisher.
Ampersand boards are the professional choice for encaustic work. R&F have a starter set that includes sample boards to try, as well as wax and paints. However, I quite like the idea of reclaiming scrap wood from B&Q and doing my bit for recycling.
Encaustic medium is pricey, so are the paints but it looks like they are used sparingly and the layers built up slowly, which is what I’m going for. Also, things can be embedded in the layers – like leaves, fabric, papers etc. etc.
I have plenty of hair brushes, so wouldn’t have to go out and buy more to start off with.
Maybe before I invest in the encaustic studio equipment, I should first get the correct cold wax and have a few more practises with that – perhaps with more knowledge and the correct equipment, I can get a smooth, layered, translucent effect on a board with cold wax?
Acrylics, Inks, collage, gels, gold foil on acrylic canvas board/panel.
Close ups of texture:
I’ve been in a bit of the creative doldrums since I returned from South Africa, artistically speaking. Pottering about with clay hasn’t really helped, it’s just made me work small and that’s not what I’m about. I decided yesterday that I needed to put all the clay away and get back to er ‘making art’ … lest I forget how.
Again, I’m working small, so I wasn’t feeling very confident. I started working with tissue and forming the texture, the ground … I wasn’t really sure where I was going other than I wanted the little panel to express a feeling of wide open space and emotional depth. Then I got to thinking about the other evening when my daughter and I were travelling home from doing our shopping. It’s almost harvest time here and the wheat and barley in the fields is very high, golden brown and thick. In this vast expanse of golden beige, there he was just popping his head out of the grasses to have a look around. So he became the inspiration for this final bit of rather naive collage.
I hope to be able to get going with a very large canvas I have sitting around downstairs next week, it’s calling to me.