Simon Bland

A Blog About Oil Painting

Tidal flats at Discovery Park beach by Simon BlandTidal flats. 12x12, oil and cold wax on panel. 2017

Cold wax medium often produces mixed results for me. Sometimes I've used it like regular oil paint and loved it, other times it has caused me to overwork paintings that should have been easy. One thing I do like about it: it's great for producing abstract effects, particularly when light is involved.

What is it?

Cold wax medium is melted beeswax that has been mixed with a solvent. It usually has some alkyd medium added to it to make it stronger and more flexible. You use it with oil paints.

How Do I Use It?

Mix it up with oil paint just like you would any other medium. The solvent evaporates from the medium and it dries to a hard, matte finish. It is best to use when painting on panels as cold wax doesn't have the same flexibility as pure oil paint.

When the solvent evaporates the residual paint layer is waxy and can be scraped and worked very easily.

How Much Do I Use?

You can use as much as you like. The fat over lean rule doesn't apply to cold wax paintings. That means you can do thin layers over thick layers. You can even apply the medium without any paint mixed with it.

Why Would I want To Try It?

It's a different painting experience. The paint can be applied thick or thin, and pushed around as it dries. It feels very different to regular oil paint: it's much less slick. That means you can work it with things other than brushes. The painting I've show above was mostly done with a kitchen spatula (one of the silicone ones).

 I've written previously on how to make your own mediums, including wax medium.

A still life painting by Simon Bland45. 8x10, oil on linen panel. 2017

This is a direct painting, done without any kind of block-in. Painted as an exercise, my original goal was to create it with a few distinct strokes of a painting knife.

To start I mapped out the different facets of the subject on a separate piece of paper. I broke it down into regions of similar color and value, giving each one a number (there were 45 of them in the end).

As the work progressed I had to keep refining the initial model. Although I got most of the colors mixed right on the palette, I needed to make corrections in a couple of areas. In particular, I had to make the lightest values lighter.

The palette was ultramarine, alizarin, bright red, cad yellow medium and raw umber.

Early Evening on the Cliffs -  a painting by artist Simon Bland

Early Evening on the Cliffs (WIP). 9x12, oil on linen panel. 2016/2017

This painting was started last year when the effects of the summer drought showed in the dry grasses. The original version is here.

I've made a lot of revisions to this work since then. I pushed and pulled the foliage around. I added texture. I pushed the trees into the far distance. Yet the painting always lacked something, and the image failed to coalesce around a single idea.

In this version I moved the center of interest to the left side and away from the center. The fix was trivial, but it was just enough to get the painting on the right path.

I also added a suggestion of a fence line to either side of the center of interest. You may have noticed that I'm very fond of fence posts in landscape paintings. They provide a great sense of scale for very little effort.