The best learning for an artist is to actually get stuck in there and have a go! It is great that we can learn so much from seeing other people’s work, watching their processes in demos, or reading books about techniques and materials but, at the end of the day, the real learning for you is you getting your hands dirty and to see how it feels for you!
I recently attended, with a friend, a 2 day workshop on painting with cold wax and oil. It was brilliantly led by Paula Dunn who is based in Saltaire. Check out her web site at www.pauladunnartist.com – her work is fabulous. Over the two days she was very generous with her knowledge and materials, demonstrating a number of different techniques using the cold wax to give us plenty of know-how to work with. But she also allowed a good deal of time and encouraged us to play and experiment ourselves to see how it felt having a go and to explore what happened when we tried various things.
There were some techniques where I felt a bit clumsy and uncertain and others where I quickly got the hang of it and was producing some good results. It was interesting to feel what it was like mixing the cold wax with ordinary oils and the water soluble oils I use, to see how it ‘stiffened’ the paint and how that affected applying and manipulating it. In the skillful hands of someone like Paula the results are stunning, but the group also managed to produce an impressive gallery board between us!
Reflecting on it I came away feeling certain that I would not be incorporating cold wax into my work just now, but wouldn’t rule it out in the future. But I did find thinking about what I was doing and some of the affects achieved helped me to consider a few steps I want to take in my current processes with my work. So, whilst I may not be taking up cold wax with oil painting right now, the workshop experience was not wasted, rather it has added to my knowledge of myself, how I prefer to work and want to express myself in my art.
This painting of a dull grey autumn day over Dovestones started out as a bit of an experiment with how much water I could actually use with the Cobra (water miscible) oils in the first layer. It wasn’t a great experience to be honest and I didn’t enjoy trying to make it work. But all was not lost, and once the very first layer was dry I could then start to work into it more with the scumbling and blending techniques I have used so far.
Doing the cold wax pieces reinforced for me that I want to work more at the blending, scumbling and layering process to see what I can achieve, and this subject matter is ideal for this because I want to focus on the sky and the reflections of the light in the water rather than the shapes in the land. There is still a long way to go yet, and it might not work as a finished painting but I am not bothered about that because I know that I will be learning so much in the process.