Friday, 28 August 2015


FOREST LIGHT with Gamvar

FOREST LIGHT - Before Gamvar/Cold Wax
I love the soft translucent look of Encaustic, but I don't want the smell and smoke associated with the hot wax method. Also I'm a clutz, so I anticipate that i would burn myself regularly on the hot tools. So, I'm searching for a technique that gives the look of Encausitc without challenges.

I have also been exploring the qualities of Gamvar museum quality varnish, which is matt through to high gloss when mixed with Gamsol and/or cold wax. I surmized that if cold wax was applied as a final coat without Gamvar, it would give a finish similar to Encaustic. 

So I Googled it and I came across a blog by Mitchell Albala which gives some interesting tips and comments.

Gamvar: Gamblin’s Easy-to-Use Picture Varnish for Oil Painters

TIP - Mitchell is an oil painter, but, Gamvar can be used on many other surfaces including acrylics.

The blog gives contact details for Scott Gellatly, the tech at Gamblin, who makes himself available to answer complex questions about Gamvar.

The answer to my musing was that Gamvar should be applied first, to create a barrier between the painting and the environment and cold wax may then be applied on top. Applying wax over dry Gamvar may offer more control than mixing them together where you need to wait for the varnish to dry before seeing the effect. I decided to try it out on a painting as you see above.

Gamvar alone adds richness to the painting and makes the colours glow as seen in the first image. You can see from the second image that the painting was dull without Gamvar. I like the high gloss, which also adds translucency and takes the painting closer to the look of an aged oil painting.

I then applied cold wax and waited for it to dry overnight. The effect was difficult to photograph, but it was similar to Encaustic without the effect of peering through deep texture. The painting reverted to the look of the second image with a little more pop to the colours.

Once dry, I buffed the wax, which also proved difficult to photograph, but basically it added shine to the raised parts of the impasto and left the lower parts foggy. It enhanced the jewel tones and added interest. I quite liked this effect, but it was quite laborious. I may add another layer or two of cold wax with drying and buffing in between, to see if I can get the look closer to pure Encaustic.

In the future I will used cold wax mixed in with oil paint for texture. Have you tried cold wax? Do you have any interesting techniques you could share? Please comment below.