Ancient art form lures newcomers
Valley Art offers free chance to find out why cold wax is a hot medium
Valley Art Gallery in Forest Grove is offering a free class on an ancient, unusual artistic medium that is growing in popularity: cold wax.
Ive been working with wax for five years, said artist and instructor Jeanne Levy, but Ive only been working with cold wax for a few months. It doesnt produce as many dangerous fumes and its just a lot less hazardous to work with.
Ancient Romans used the medium to create portraits centuries ago, Levy said.
Its fun because its very colorful and youre working with a substance you can do all sorts of things to. You can press different things into it, you can scrape it away and redo the whole thing if you want.
Because of those advantages, most of Levys cold wax pieces are abstract, playing off the ability to layer colors and create unusual textures. Using the edge of a plastering tool, she can carve shapes and figures into the wax that will show whatever layer is below it.
Ive been painting on plywood for a substrate, she said. You need something hard that wont buckle and crack the wax. But you can just keep adding layers, as many as you like. Then you can go back and uncover whatever you want with a palate knife.
The preparation for working with cold wax begins with a simple science project. A white, purified beeswax is mixed with a hard, crystalized wax at about 120 degrees Farenheit. Solvent is then added, which keeps the wax from hardening as it cools. The final mixture is stored in a sealed glass jar to prevent the solvent from evaporating.
The artist can then transfer small amounts of the mixture onto a palate where it is mixed with oil paint to add color. Then its ready to paint onto plywood or some other substrate, after which the solvent evaporates, leaving a hard, colorful wax that can be shaped, scraped, or scrapped entirely.
A lot of current artists are using it now, Levy said. Being an ancient form, it has been falling in and out of popularity for centuries.
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