Archive for January, 2012


Beeswax Paste Made With Borax

January 31, 2012

This is a demonstration of how to make a wax paste using beeswax, borax, and water. It makes a creamy medium that can be mixed into oil and casein paints to change their behavior.

In this photo you see a bag of bleached white beeswax pellets and a box of borax powder. In the jar is the end result of the combination of these two ingredients heated in a little bit of distilled water.

Process of making beeswax paste:
1> 4 ounces of beeswax pellets (measured by weight)
2> 4 teaspoons borax powder
3> 4 tablespoons distilled water
Yields @ 4 ounces beeswax paste
Melt the wax in a jar with a double boiler at 160° F, or in this case I used a baby bottle warmer.
In a separate jar combine the borax and water and heat that to 160° F also.
Slowly pour the diluted borax into the melted wax while stirring vigorously.
Let this cool to room temperature before sealing the jar (or else water may condense inside.)

The melted wax will turn an opaque white almost instantly when you add the borax. It will stay this color and never harden inside the jar. This chemical reaction, by the way, is referred to as saponification. The softened wax will act as a sort of emulsifier with oil and the water content of the paste. I’ve had my paste mixtures last for many months this way and possibly indefinitely, although; I’ve seen recommendations to add a preservative just in case.

Okay, by now you may be thinking that this is all very interesting, but what’s the use of it? Well, in one example, you may have come across some oil paints that are a bit too stiff to squeeze out of the tube, and do not have that common “buttery” feel that most paints have. You could either dilute the paint with an appropriate solvent, or add more oil. Those methods work fine for some uses, but they will make the paint either leaner or fatter, which is not necessarily desirable for your base paint. If you mix in this wax paste you can make the stiff paints more buttery without making them diluted or more oily.

For example, this tube of Grumbacher brand cobalt blue oil paint is so stiff in the tube that I’m afraid I might bust the seams squeezing it out. When mixed with a small amount of the wax paste it becomes easier to use.

Notice how the mixture at first looks much brighter. In this image you can see a small swatch of the paste by itself on the grey paper. Next to that is a swatch of the cobalt blue paint without the paste, and next to that a swatch of the two mixed together. At first the paint looks brighter and more saturated, but a few minutes later it has returned to the paint’s original shade. So after you’ve mixed this on your palette just let it sit there for a few minutes before using it. After this mixture has been exposed to the air for awhile it will start to stiffen up, so you’ll need to refresh it with more paint and paste.

Another interesting use of this paste is to combine it with caseins. It can increase the volume of the paint in a manner you couldn’t safely achieve with paint alone. It also has an interesting texture that works well for representing rough stones and the like. Here’s a detail of a painting I made using casein and wax. I hope you can see some of the texture in the darker area that was applied with a paint knife.

Other combinations to try are the additions of an oil like linseed into the paste and/or resins like damar. The oil will make the paste creamier and damar will make for a shorter stroke and improve adhesion. Shellac is another item that can be mixed into the paste and behaves like damar. Turpentine or mineral spirits can also be used in place of borax, but I’ve found that after a short while the wax returns to its hardened state. You could add those solvents to the wax paste made with borax, but there’s no particular reason to.


Drawing: Carla’s Comforter

January 29, 2012

My friend Carla likes the poses that let her take a long nap. I’m happy to oblige.

Pencil drawing on 11 x 14″ paper.


Drawing Exercises

January 27, 2012

Drawing exercises of exercises. Both are 11 x 14″ in pencil.


Drawing Done: Woman Sitting on a Stool

January 23, 2012

I hesitate to say it’s finished, but here’s where I’m stopping, at least for now. I’m tired of fighting this Yupo film surface. It’s worth going back to, but I’ll need to let her sit awhile longer.


Drawing Update: Woman Sitting on a Stool

January 21, 2012

Here’s the latest version of the new drawing with a close up detail.

Although I’ve made drawings on Yupo film before they were line drawings and not this carefully shaded. This is proving to be a bit more challenging than I expected. It’s difficult to get softly blended tones with graphite. All of this has been drawn with a 5H lead. Well, I’ll continue to plow through and see how it turns out.


New Drawing Started: Woman Sitting on a Stool

January 18, 2012

I’ve started a new drawing and have gotten most of the background laid in. It’s based on a photo from my archives of a model sitting on a tall wooden stool. I’m using Yupo film as the drawing surface, following my previous post where I gave a review of this material. It’s 11 x 14 inches. Not much to see right now but this is what I’ve been up to for the last couple of days.

I’m showing it at this early stage mostly unfinished to give a representation of the process I’ve used. The bottom right side shows how I made first one row of lines that were then doubled in another pass. I then went back over it once again to add some more shading. I’ll likely refine it more to make it smoother after I get the figure drawn in. The first pass of lines helped keep the shading even and straight, which was the look I envisioned.


Yupo Sheets Reviewed for Drawing

January 12, 2012

I’ve discussed the Yupo product before as a painting surface, and now would like to show some test results I’ve made to use it for drawings. Yupo is a synthetic “paper” sheet that is 100% polypropylene. If you’ve ever used frosted (matte) drafting film then you’ll find this has an identical feel. In fact, it comes in a translucent form like traditional drafting film, but also in an opaque white surface that looks more like regular paper. It’s available in various sizes and weights, from 50# up to 144#. The weight I used for this demonstration is 74#. Yupo is available in pads or single sheets. I’ve also seen the opaque option in large rolls 5ft high x 10 yards long. It performs well as a drawing surface in most situations, but it does have a few disadvantages.

Various inks perform differently on this surface. Due to the lack of absorption into this material, all inks take longer to dry than they would on regular paper. As such you should use special care not to touch the inked areas for quite awhile after making any marks. Sumi-e ink beads up just like watercolor paint does. That’s not necessarily bad, just an effect to be aware of. Once it dries, sumi-e actually adheres to it rather well. Acrylic ink, such as the FW or Liquitex brand, adheres the best and will not easily scrape away with a knife blade or smear. If you thin it with water then they bead up like sumi-e. Shellac inks adhere almost as well, but can scrape away somewhat.

Ink markers give mixed results; although, they all draw rather well. The Prismacolor layout markers performed the best. Because of the slow drying rate colors were easy to blend into each other, which can be good or bad depending on what you’re expecting. Once it dries you can go back over them in tinted layers as you would on regular paper, but it makes for a slower process. One big problem with all the other markers I tested is that even a day later after the ink dried I was able to smear the marks very easily. The ink just sits on the surface and doesn’t grab hold to the surface that well. That won’t be a terrible condition as long as the final work is protected behind glass or Plexiglas, and just be careful when handling it. Markers with hard tips also dig into the ink as you make the mark, shoveling it to the side. You may find you get better results with soft felt tips or brush pens. Flexible steel nibs on dip pens, by the way, don’t have that problem depending on how flexible they are.

Dry media:
Soft powdery materials like charcoal or soft pastels do not work very well on Yupo. The marks just slide around and cannot build up a decent dark value; although, they will tone the surface to some degree.

This surface likes graphite pencils. The more graphite content the tool has the better it performs. The feel under the tool is very smooth. Dark HB leads, the Sanford Ebony, or Derwent Onyx pencils glide across the surface nicely; although, it’s hard to tell much difference between them. Even the hard H leads draw well; in fact, they tend to leave a darker mark here than they would on regular paper, so if you use a 5H for light lines you may need a softer touch or harder lead. Pencils that have a high charcoal content like the Wolff brand cannot get up to a very dark shade, but curiously the Derwent Pastel pencil did a better job if not as dark as it would be on paper.

The one problem with graphite on Yupo is it won’t erase well. Erasing first causes the marks to smear before erasing no matter which type of eraser I tried. An electric eraser might remove marks better but would also smear. If your drawing method involves erasing, such as to lighten marks or removing lines, this surface will disappoint you.

Of the other mediums I tested, wax pencils performed well on this material. Prismacolors went down very smoothly and could build up a nice dark shade. Some wax crayons, like the Neocolor brand, did well but cheap Crayola crayons did not do quite as well. None of the watercolor pencils I tried would draw well at all. The Derwent Aqua-Tone pencils were almost acceptable but could not build up a dark value. The oil based Walnut Hollow brand pencils drew very well, but the Faber Castell Polychromos brand did not. China “grease” pencils drew well as did litho crayons. Oil pastels drew very well on Yupo.

The main benefit to Yupo that appeals to me is being available in large sizes. A 5 foot drawing surface is a nice option to have, or even the 24 x 40 inch sheets that are larger than what you can easily find for regular paper stock. Bear in mind that while this surface won’t tear, it can be cut, and also easily creased. You also don’t want any oily fingerprints on the surface so it’s a good idea to wash it first before drawing on it and avoid touching the surface.

The drawing media you choose, among those I mentioned above, will give you good results in most cases with a few considerations to watch out for.