“Use little paint! Use less paint than you think.”
Is the mantra I have been repeating to myself while learning to paint Edith Kramer. Wax has inherent translucent properties that are crucial to its effectiveness in realistic representations in models. Therefore, during this stage, I had to work hard to add depth and life to Kramer, without losing this unique feature.
Wade Waxworks offered me the opportunity to first practise painting on wax. There, I made the most amateur mistake possible – I painted with too much paint (see below.)
My second attempt was more successful. The key to painting on wax is to dry brush oil paint onto the surface, taking the time to slowly build up the layers so that the translucency is not lost. There are also certain colours that are almost always used:
– Cadmium red (with a little violet if necessary for darker areas). Commonly used for ear areas.
– Flesh or Pale Rose Blush
– Buff titanium
– Burnt umber (great for freckles!)
– Olive green
– Naples yellow (for highlighting)
I have also looked at portrait painting on the traditional canvas, which has helped me understand how colour can insinuate anatomy. For instance, you can use highlights to ‘pick up structures’ but these must end once the latter does. Also, colours such as ‘cadmiums with black/cobalt blue/ultramarine and umber make good shadows.’ Areas of the face where there is thicker flesh are often painted with warmer colours, while where the bone is closer to the skin, cooler. Lastly, green undertones are more common on the face than I thought!
Before moving onto the final painting, I also practised on extra casts. During this stage, I have noticed that the paint started to crumble on top of the surface. Please see below photo for an example of the crumbling when I first painted at Wade Waxworks. I believe this crumbling on my casts can be due to several reasons:
- The surface of the cast is not clean enough.
- The surface of the cast is too shiny, which prevents the paint from properly adhering.
- The oil paints are reacting with the brushes.
- Too much paint!
The first point prompted me to look into conservation of wax, which gave me some tips on preparing a wax surface. Murrel, V. points out that due to the inherent ‘waxiness’ of the material, it tends to get dirty. (1971, pg. 97). Often, conservation workers in museums use aqueous washing composed of ‘distilled water with 2% Lissapol’ which is ‘brushed over the surface with a soft sable’ (1971, pg. 100). I will follow this process on the final cast before painting, allowing the surface to dry completely beforehand.
Additionally, I altered the surface of the cast through additional carving and brushing, in order to reduce the shine and help the paint adhere better. I filled any holes left by the casting process, paying attention to the temperature of the wax I used as filling – Murrel notes how ‘all tools used in cutting and finishing wax should be warmed’ (1971, pg. 102) but not too much, as there can be a colour difference in heated and colder wax.
I will also try sable brushes instead of synthetic ones.
I believe these points combined will result in a better paint finish on my model, which I will review in my last blog post at the end of the project.