Paint Fearlessly! Exploring Cold Wax Medium

by Lisa Larrabee

Oil & Cold Wax 
12" x 16"
artist Lisa Larrabee

I always try to challenge myself with each new painting.  Still, there is always the thought at the back of my mind that reminds me that I don't want to screw it up.  I decided that I needed to create a painting where I could play and try out ideas with without the fear of failing.  I picked up an old painting demo that I wasn't attached to and jumped in.

The purpose of this demo was to block in the values in simple basic shapes.  I loved the light on the portrait, but I had no plan to develop the painting.  It was the perfect piece to play with.

I borrowed some color inspiration from Monet and began massing in colors -some with a brush and some with a pallet knife.  Because the previous layer was dry, I had no fear of losing the form.  When I covered too much, I wiped or scraped paint off to reveal the basic shapes underneath.

At this stage, I was really happy with how loose and bold it felt.  I stopped because I was afraid that I would get tighter and fussier if I kept working on it.  I set it aside so that I could consider what, if anything, I wanted to do to it.

I have found a lot of inspiration lately in abstracted paintings.  I am drawn to pieces with textures and rich layered colors that begin to feel like atmospheric landscapes.  I noticed that many of the paintings are encaustic paintings or use a cold wax medium.  I don't like the fumes from the encaustic process, so I decided to experiment with Gamblin cold wax medium.  At first, I was worried that I would ruin the painting I had started, but I then I reminded myself that I created this piece to be fearless and take some risks.

The cold wax is an interesting medium.  The texture is a thick paste, but it was easy to mix into the paint on my pallet.  I was careful not to mix more than 50/50 wax to paint.  I applied the mixture with both a pallet knife and brush.  I was able to skim across the surface and create textures unlike any I have created with paint alone or mixed with a gel-like medium.  The paint had a matte, cloudy translucency that I was able to scrape, push and blend.  I was able to create the soft hazy color transitions that I love while also building up an interesting surface.  I really enjoyed working with the cold wax medium and I have continued to experiment with it.

I had a wonderful experience and I would like to offer some advice. Try something new and don't be afraid to fail spectacularly.  Take risks and be fearless with your art.  It's fun.  It's freeing.  You can learn more with one risky failure than a dozen or more safe pieces.  In the end, it's just paint.  You can paint over it, but what you learn will stay with you.  Good luck!

~ Lisa