Last time we discussed using cold wax medium to prepare boards for encaustic. The next step is to make cold wax paint. In Encaustic Materials and Methods, Frances Pratt notes dozens of variations on the basic recipe, with some artists using different combinations of varnish and stand oil to cold wax, but let’s keep it simple.
Cold wax paint using oil paint from a tube:
- Spoon a desired quantity of cold wax paint into a mixing container;
- Squeeze a little tube oil into the paste and mix with a spoon or craft stick until the color is correct.
Cold wax paint using dry pigment:
- Place a teaspoon of dry pigment in a small mixing container (one of those metal trays from art supply stores that looks like round muffin tins works great for this).
- Add half a teaspoon or so of linseed oil and mix with a spoon or craft stick. Some pigments blend easily while some remain kind of gritty. Use the hard edge of a craft stick to grind the oil into the pigment.
- Spoon a desired quantity of cold wax paste into a second mixing container and add your pigment mixture. Add more pigment to correct the color.
Note: Dry pigments are basically dust and get everywhere. While some are made from natural substances, many more are developed through industrial processes using nasty chemicals. Please consider all dry pigments hazardous and ALWAYS use a face mask and gloves. Once the pigment is mixed with linseed oil, it’s as safe as oil paint. Which is to say, keep your gloves on. Oil paint isn’t all that safe either.
So far so good, right? Now it gets complicated. This paint doesn’t harden up like hot wax. In fact it acts a lot like oil paint, staying wet for hours. You are waiting for the mineral spirits to gas off and the linseed oil to dry and harden. When I first started using cold wax, I had to adjust my expectations. I wasn’t getting instant results the way I was used to with hot wax paint. In fact sometimes I had to wait a whole week for the paint to cure.
You can’t exactly call this stuff encaustic if it acts like oil paint, so what is it good for? Well, you can paint with it. When it hardens, it feels just like encaustic wax and it can be fused to additional encaustic layers. The good part about cold wax is that you can keep it on the brush much longer than hot wax and do some very painterly things with it.
If you are so inclined, you can also heat the paint with your heat gun to force the gas to evaporate a little faster. DON’T USE A TORCH—it will set the mineral spirits on fire. I kid you not.
Here’s a piece I finished this weekend that is part of my faux Richter experience: