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Mastering Cold Wax Painting: Tips for Adding Intricate Detail

silverdale 'Eaves Wood' A Landscape Painting by Peter artis trees forest texture panoramic cold wax oil painting fenland wood undergrowth tree forested
'Eaves Wood' A Landscape Painting by Peter Corr (Detail)

Detail in cold wax paintings

This painting is based on several walks through 'Eaves Wood' near Silverdale in Lancashire. I have used a combination of sketches and photographs to create this scene. I have included an extract from the National Trust on ancient woodland in Arnside and Silverdale.

'Parts of Eaves Wood are semi-ancient woodland, meaning they have stood for over 400 years. The small-leaved limes in Eaves Wood are a group of limes which are believed to be several hundred years old and the collection has all grown from the same tree. Limes can drop a branch which will then regrow from the ground into another tree, making them something of a phoenix of the woodland world'.

'The variety within Eaves Wood is part of what makes it such a unique area. Mature yew trees create a real darkness and atmosphere with their twisted trunks and gnarled roots, but other areas where new hazel or ash coppice is growing up can feel lighter and full of life. In spring, the coppiced areas of hazel that have been cut to their bases and then allowed to grow again are a haven for primroses and violets. Meanwhile, the lighter glades have a sprinkling of bluebells and wood anemones.

'Eaves Wood' A Landscape Painting by Peter Corr texture cold wax peter corr petercorrart painting in oil
'Eaves Wood' A Landscape Painting by Peter Corr (Detail)

Recycling - The Starting Point

I have been working on an unfinished painting for a few days now, and even though it's not yet complete, you can already see some of the key characteristics. To enhance the feeling of being in a forest landscape, surrounded by trees and undergrowth, I decided to use a panoramic canvas. For the first layer, I applied a heavy impasto with a brayer and added shards of dried cold wax that I had collected from previous paintings. I highly recommend keeping scrapings or shavings from your previous work to use in new paintings. This will quickly create rich and authentic textural qualities that integrate fully with the fresh cold wax medium. The German artist Anselm Kiefer regularly employs this strategy in many of his large-scale paintings. It also minimizes waste and adds to your recycling credentials.

Tools & Equipment

Although I don't typically use brushes in my work, I have used several different methods to apply cold wax in this particular painting. The linear details, tree trunks, and branches were created using cold wax diluted with turpentine and linseed oil, using a combination of hog hair and sable brushes. Additional fine lines and detail were created by scoring and etching through lighter layers to the darker ones below. Areas of the forest floor and the leaves of the trees were suggested using a scumbling or dry brush technique, applied with palette knives and crumpled foil. As always, there is a rhythmic to and froing between dark and light areas, objects and ground.

'Eaves Wood' A Landscape Painting by Peter Corr artwork cold wax technique blog  art process forest trees green
'Eaves Wood' A Landscape Painting by Peter Corr 100 x 50 x 4 cm

How do you know when to stop adding details?

As an artist, it is important to consider the appropriate level of detail for a particular work. Although including intricate fine detail can be impressive, it does not automatically make a painting successful. The Photo Realist movement has produced some outstanding paintings, but there are downsides to this approach. Paintings are a form of communication and should be able to transmit a wide range of ideas and emotions. If the focus is solely on technical accomplishment, the painting may lose its power to communicate meaning. As this work is still in progress, I have many decisions to make, and the direction it takes will depend on how I balance technical skill with emotional impact. However, the important lesson to learn is that cold wax is eminently capable of portraying fine detail.

2 comentarios

Great job! I would really like to see your work in real life, not just on a screen. Please add any information about opportunities for open studio or exhibitions - especially around July time 🕰️. Thanks a bunch!! T🌻

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Pete Corr
Pete Corr
01 feb
Contestando a

Hi Tracy,

Thank you for your comment, it is very much appreciated. I will be exhibiting at the Fresh Art Fair in Cheltenham this April. I will be publishing more details in the next few weeks. I will also be exhibiting in September at the Manchester Art Fair and Edinburgh in November. All these dates will be on my website and I will update everyone interested via email. Selections of my current work are also on display at the Darryl Nantais Gallery in Linton and the Hayden Gallery in Marlow. Best Wishes, Peter

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