Preparing to Paint Edith Kramer – That’s too much paint!

“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:

  1. The surface of the cast is not clean enough.
  2. The surface of the cast is too shiny, which prevents the paint from properly adhering.
  3. The oil paints are reacting with the brushes.
  4. 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.


Anxious about the future? So am I!

Feeling a little suffocated by anxiety and excitement about the future? Time to find solutions. In this illustration I was getting overwhelmed by my itchy sweater, and my solution was to draw it!

Exciting news!

I have been exploring the job market for a role that I could apply to that would give me the opportunity to use my experience with creativity and passion for care together to help people. After applying to one of the advertisements, I was shortlisted for an interview! It was incredibly motivating to speak to people who work in the healthcare industry and to have the opportunity to introduce myself to them.

While this has increased my enthusiasm for entering this field and developing a career in art therapy, it showed me that I have some anxieties about the future. They are mainly centred around the fact that I do not have as much clinical experience as I would like to have. While I have been working at a care home as a Receptionist since 2017, and before volunteered as a Teaching Assistant at a Polish Language School, I think I would need some support in the workplace with medical terminology.

This makes me anxious as to whether I would be able to find future jobs in the wellbeing sector, as there are always other candidates who would have had more experience in the field than me. Why should the employers choose me?

During the interview, I wanted to settle the interviewers’ hesitance on my experience by acknowledging this limitation, while showing that I am already working on developing my technical knowledge. I really enjoy learning about the connection between creativity and wellbeing through peer-reviewed journals, and published books written by past pioneers of art therapy such as Edith Kramer, and contemporary practitioners. I also have yearly training from my workplace in safeguarding vulnerable adults, and the ‘Mind the Gap’ programme which has been wonderful at teaching me the challenges of dementia.

At the same time, I have also been looking at further training opportunities I could get involved with to develop my knowledge of the mental health field. I have found a Mental Health First Aid training course that I would really love to do one day. The course costs £300 per person, so I am going to save up and plan to book a place on the course within the next 6 months.

There are also further courses I could get involved with, through the Future Learn website to get more of an understanding on mental health or save up further and complete an accredited course through the Open University. Eventually, I am really motivated to complete a postgraduate degree in Art Therapy.

Mental Health First Aid Training
Open University offers different accreditation from certificates, to diplomas, and degrees.

Moreover, I could also network with local hospitals, to enquire whether their Occupational Therapists or Art Therapists might be available to answer some questions for me, and perhaps even allow me to shadow them for a day!

Lastly, I could also get involved with volunteering opportunities with local and nationwide charities, such as the Mind charity, to gain further experience and become more confident in my skills. I am anxious of making a mistake in the future during care, which is why I am so passionate about becoming more confident in myself, and the best way to do that in my opinion is to increase my knowledge and gain some first-hand experience.

Some of my other worries, involved more practical issues. For instance, I still don’t have a driving license! While I have a test booked for July, I am frustrated that I am finding it less accessible to travel for job opportunities.

Furthermore, I am also wondering whether my passion for getting involved with work and people, will make it more difficult for me to keep developing my identity as an artist due to less time or motivation. I think it is important to keep working on your relationship with creativity if you are using this medium to connect with and facilitate the wellbeing of others.

I will work on setting up a structure for myself after graduation to make sure I do not let my tasks and responsibilities take charge of me. I value my organisational abilities and will capitalise on these to provide myself with a structure I will be able to rely in times of stress, making sure I also make time for exploring my artist identity and fluidity.

In a nutshell, I am anxiously-excited to get started!