Good morning. We’re going to talk about cold wax paint this week—a subject that one would think I’d already exhausted. I’ve written how cold wax paint can be used in encaustic work, it can be treated like encaustic materials, and yet it is not encaustic because it is cold wax paint. I even gave a recipe using mineral spirits as a solvent to make cold wax medium.
Minerals spirits can make a wonderful, mayonnaise-like substance when mixed with wax. Cold wax medium made with mineral spirits can be used to prepare boards and panels in a way that keeps most pin holes and bubbles from ever happening. That alone is an awesome achievement.
But mineral spirits and beeswax do not make good paint. In addition to the drying time (about two weeks), the layers of paint are chalky. Run your hand across a dry piece and your fingers come away with paint on them. It’s not stable.
Let me just say that words cannot describe what it’s like to realize your paint isn’t doing the one thing paint is supposed to do—stick to things. Talk about your dark night of the soul.
But trying to secure paint to my work is what sent me in search of glazes, so it hasn’t been all bad. In reading about glaze I came across the work of Fred Conway in Francis Pratt’s little book, Encaustic Materials and Methods. Fred used damar varnish to dissolve beeswax. In the recipe I give for Glaze Week, the proportions are ¾ damar varnish to ¼ wax. But Fred also used much more wax-heavy recipes—his 1/3 damar varnish to 2/3 wax created what he called a “thick glaze.”
I settled on ½ damar varnish to ½ beeswax. I mixed the two in a glass jar and within minutes the wax started to transform to jelly. I sealed the jar and set it aside for a week. After that time what I had was this incredibly luscious, translucent medium.
Here at The Hive, you know my mantra is if you aren’t rich, act cheap. I am no way going to pay $11 for a 4 ounce jar of varnish when I can get a 1lb bag of rough damar crystal for $10 and make my own. It’s so easy everyone should do it. Here is a great recipe for damar varnish from Wet Canvas. Pay attention to the safety tips, and just think what it will be like to have quarts of this liquid gold in your studio.
Next time, pretty colors in cold wax paint.