Monday, March 26, 2012


In this post, my aim is to explain the step by step, and experience, I had painting a portrait, using mixed media of  cold wax/oils.  
I've done portraits before, but never with mixed media.  

A year ago during one of her visits, my granddaughter was watching me mix cold wax medium with oil paints.  I was showing her how the tactile texture and jewel effect that transparent colored wax, looked like bits of colored glass.   As always, during such visits, she brings into the studio her sense of play, wonderment, and her child's view of the world, which always enriches me.  I, in return,  genuinely appreciate her art work, and  always encourage her efforts  by allow her ( under my supervision) the use of my art supplies.
During that visit I was inspired to paint her portrait with an example of her art work.  The criteria were to capture her likeness, and her extrovert curiosity.  I tried to accomplish this by including her very thick free flowing hair, her direct gaze, an strong high key colors in the hope of expressing her sense of exuberance.  This portrait took several months to complete, and almost a year later went back to the studio for more fine tuning.

This is the end result of her portrait.

Girl with Crayons
30 X 24"
Cold wax / oils on canvas

I began by applying a layer of oils paint as a foundation to the canvas. 
 Next I added  with a pallet knife,  different layer of cold wax medium mixed with oil paint .  
Then I painted a copy of one of her original art work which depicts her house.   This was also  done in cold wax/ oils and oil crayons. 

Now I had to decide how large I wanted the figure to be.  So I taped a large sketch paper to the painting and did a quick drawing to give myself an idea of the scale  of the portrait.  

To capture her likeness, I first began to draw a grid on a 8"x10' photograph of her.  Next, on a larger piece of paper, I increased the grid scale, and began drawing the lines seen from each square of my small grid into the squares of  my larger grid.   In this way, I could draw a large figure from a small one.  When my drawing was finished, I cut it out of the paper.

In the area of the face I also divided the squares into diagonals.  
All these lines help me map out were the shading  begins and stopped.

This step shows were I chose to position the figure.  next I traced the contour to the painting

Once the shape was penciled in, I removed the drawing and painted the shape white with oil paint, and let it dry.

I  covered the back of my drawing with charcoal, to serve as a tracing paper, and re-positioned the drawing over the white shape, and began tracing the features, the hands and clothing of my subject.

Now begins the many layers of oil paint.  The first one(seen here)  is considered the dead layer.  This is designed to establish  the  shading. 
I  kept the two references on the canvas throughout the many of layers of colors that were added after each drying.

Now began the rough stage.
This is what I call the "ugly duckling stage"  Each of my paintings has to go through it, and not all end up intact.  Fortunately, through perseverance, and help from above, I managed to move on to the next layer.

By this stage of the painting, I thought that I was finished, and lived with it for several months.  It was even hanging in an art show last February.  
But in all honesty, I was not completely satisfied with her likeness.  More and more, I was face with the fact that sooner or later, I would have to address the issue of her likeness.

It wasn't until last week that I took it back to the studio, and with a fresh eye, manage to bring out what I  intended  to accomplish from the beginning: a portrait of Hailey that captured her likeness and her personality.

I hope that, in some ways, you've found some these steps or experience ( including the frustrations), helpful with your project with cold wax.  If you have any questions or comment, or suggestions regarding this topic, don't hesitate to send it to me, I'd love to here from you