Medium Moment: Cold Wax + Stand Oil


While at Jerry's Artarama I picked up a pint of cold wax from a shelf of countless other oil painting mediums and thought - really? Does this work? Will this be the one?

Finding the right oil painting medium is a gear obsession. Much like a guitarist goes searching for guitars and pedals to find the perfect sound, painters go on quests for the ultimate painting medium. There are hundreds of formulas to choose from, all of which Picasso would have killed to have.

Previously my formula for oil painting was stand oil and impasto medium. The impasto would thicken paint, and stand oil would give it a bit more time. Why impasto medium? Because it doubles the volume of paint. Adding 1 part blue to 1 part impasto doubles the amount of blue that you have. For anyone making big work or unflat work, this is key, since oil paint can be expensive. 

Why stand oil? It was a natural counter to the impasto medium. The impasto medium worried me since it was meant to dry quickly. Impasto + stand oil would net all the volume I wanted, plus some time. 

This worked out all right, but it wasn't perfect. Whatever drying time was bought by the stand oil wasn't significant. The paintings with this formula would dry to an unworkable stage very quickly. It wouldn't have been smart to touch them after two hours.  

I switched out impasto for beeswax, or cold wax, just after hearing about the workability and thickening aspects of wax. It doubles paint volume, and, it doesn't dry uber-fast. 

Unlike impasto, beeswax will dry with a matte finish. It's as lustrous as a block of pumice, as mutable as play dough. The stand oil helps make this wax-based formulas a bit more luminous., yet not glaringly shiny. 

What was nice about a heavy beeswax and stand oil formula was I could return two days later to a large painting and rework the fields that needed help.

The interior of a can of cold wax. Spread thin it isn't white, rather, it is colorless. 

The interior of a can of cold wax. Spread thin it isn't white, rather, it is colorless. 

Here is a video that captures the consistency of wax and stand oil 

Cold wax and stand oil mixture on canvas

Cold wax and stand oil mixture on canvas

What I like most about beeswax over impasto: no glare, no obnoxious shine. Taking photos of my impasto-medium-based paintings turns into a riddle of light and creative angling just to get the glare to go away. Beeswax fixes this problem. There isn't a shred of gleam in the painting above - all of the colors are allowed to show through in the photo without glare. 

It's important to note that one of my formulas while testing out beeswax failed miserably.  3 parts Beeswax + 1 part stand oil + 1 part galkyd created some kind of terrible lumpy, watery mixture that I just couldn't smooth out despite five uninterrupted minutes of scraping at it with a knife. I think it was mostly the galkyd, and that I used too much of it. The failed formula is still sitting out on my painting balcony. I secretly hope that it will magically go away. 

Liquin impasto medium is still good, I just can't figure out how to slow it down. It's great in a way that it forces you to make good decisions quickly. 

Hello, World!


I'm waiting to see if the stand oil and cold wax mix will create any huge disasters like wrinkling or cracking, but with my paintings containing only massive layerings and no thin sheets of breakable wax,  I doubt it will be an issue. 

My overall goal with cold wax and stand oil is to get back to paintings like this acrylic work, only with less shine and more color variation. 


I'll keep you all posted as I make progress. To keep up with the latest, follow me on twitter or instagram @beckyjewell