Tuesday, February 5, 2013

To Wax or Not to Wax?

Today I finished two new pieces and my hands HURT. They usually hurt after using my blow torch to fuse the layers of wax on my painting, but now they hurt even more. With this new series I have been applying the layers of wax, fusing in between each layer, then taking a straight razor and scraping back the wax so that I can smooth out any bumps, but more importantly, I can add scratches into the wax.  I want to rough up the wax so that when I rub raw umber oil paint over it, then wipe it off, the paint stays in the crevices and create a warm sepia color. The painting then looks like an old, worn photograph, much like a precious photo that gets wrinkled from overuse and constant holding. I like the way that it looks...and trust me, it's one of those surfaces that you need to see in person to really appreciate. The problem is, n addition to wearing out my hands by holding a "heavy" blow torch for long periods of time, I'm also hurting them by scraping the wax, and even worse, rubbing the oil vigorously on then off the surface. For someone who has tendonitis in both wrists, elbows, and shoulders this is not a good thing.

I know we are supposed to suffer for our art, but how much suffering is too much? I am seriously starting to rethink the whole wax and oil step of my new series. Would the work still look good with the whites stark white? I like the way the wax makes everything yellowed and hazy, but it is such a pain to do. So what do you think? Do my paintings look better waxed or unwaxed?

In other news, it looks like Bizzarre Magazine in Barcelona will be doing an interview with me and featuring my work in one of their upcoming issues! I love how the internet allows people outside of my immediate area to see my work and contact me. Last year my work was in LOLA Magazine, which is distributed in Brazil. I don't think any of this would be possible ten years ago. I don't think I even had a website back then... Isn't technology wonderful?

"The View From Below" 36"x36"
This will be available at Forre Fine Art in Aspen.

"Into the Distance", 36"x36"
This will be available at Forre Fine Art in Aspen, CO.

Here are the unwaxed versions:

The blue line is missing since it was added over the wax.


  1. Jhina... are these oil paintings that you then add layers of hot encaustic to? I couldn't tell you based on looking online. But, have you considered using cold wax medium instead of hot wax? You just can't mix it with the hot wax since it has a solvent in it. It does make a beautiful velvety surface and you could get some color into the white.

  2. Yes, they are oil paintings that I add wax over, and in these cases, more oil on top of the wax. I have heard of cold wax medium but have never used it and don't know much about it. Is it added into the oil paint? Or would I use it over the paintings like I do with encaustic wax? I'm concerned that it would make my paint thick and hard to work with, although, like I said, I don't really know how the medium would work. I use really thin layers of oil to paint.

  3. Jhina, this work looks great. I do like it better with the wax and oil stick added.

    Re cold wax, you can both mix it into oil paint or you can use it plain as a coating. It is not hard but buttery soft. I prefer the kind made by Gamblin instead of Dorland.

    Re fusing encaustic, you could get a torch with a hose. Then you don't have to put your hand around anything but the hose handle. The propane canister hangs from your table. You can get a kit at Home Depot with a self-igniting nozzle and hose, then you just buy the separate canisters of propane.

    As for scraping, it's a lot easier to use loop pottery tools or a 4" wide tool with handle that holds a wide razor blade.

    Just some ideas.