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  • Writer's pictureJenny

A Study Of Two Red Heads

Updated: Nov 15, 2020


These cold wax portraits are challenging not just because well, portraits are always challenging but working with cold wax medium makes realism a bit more so. As one of my students put it, it's like painting with cheap cake frosting. It's true. It's light and fluffy and I don't know why I love it - but I do. It makes my life more of a struggle and by rights, I should hate working with it. But I'm crazy about it. 

For me the tighter I paint the harder I am on myself, the more I criticize the final piece, the more "mistakes" I see in the end.

Because when you stare at something for hours, days, weeks looking for the next thing to fix how are you supposed to stop being critical? Some artists can turn it off and be happy with the final piece and others have trouble. I'm in the middle - leaning toward trouble. (Direct quote from my high school report card)

I see my students doing it too and I struggle with what to tell them. I know it's the nature of the beast with realism painting but I wish I could magically make it not so. It gets better with time as skills increase and you learn to manage it. Not everyone's like this - be thankful if you're not!

One thing I can say about it is that it's the same with oil painting as it is with life, everything looks better after a good night's sleep. The painting will look better in the morning. Give it time and distance.

I think there's so much beauty in what's happening with this cold wax medium. I can't get detail like I can with straight oils so I find myself compensating in other ways with texture or pushing values or colors to get different effects. I'm learning a lot and it's pushing me through a bit of a block I was in.

It's funny how there are so many life lessons in oil painting. It sometimes seems like a metaphor for things I need to see in other areas of my life. 

I enjoy painting a lot more now, I don't focus as much on problem areas, this is really weird for me. I don't know why that changed when I started mixing cold wax medium in with the oils... it just did. Probably because problem areas just laugh at me - they don't always do what I had in mind but with patience sometimes I might be able to coax them into something a bit more interesting. 

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