COLD WAX MEDIUM by Rebecca Crowell


Techniques, Concepts & Conversations
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A debut book demonstrates the artistic use of cold wax. 

The manipulation of cold wax as an artistic tool is hardly new: its employment dates back 4,000 years to ancient Egypt, with a resurgence occurring in the 18th century. But Crowell and McLaughlin, both artists with extensive involvement with cold wax as a medium, noticed increased interest in it recently and, as a result, the need for an informational resource. First and foremost, the volume is a reference guide, providing a wide expanse of knowledge regarding cold wax, covering the various techniques available for its use and its properties, the relevant tools and materials, and its applications for different artistic media, including painting, sculpture, collages, and landscapes. There’s also a discussion of how to set up a new studio and a list of resources for supplies and products. A portion of the book is more wide-ranging; besides a brief history of cold wax, the authors also furnish an examination of a full “visual language” as a precondition for making works and a meditation on the process of discovering one’s “personal voice” as an artist. Additionally, there are several short interviews with artists reflecting on cold wax as well as art and creation in general. Not only are the various techniques explored in these pages well-illustrated, readers will also find color photographs of works from over 100 artists. 

The authors’ guide is almost impossibly comprehensive—they manage to treat the proper lighting of an atelier, the utilization of cradled panels, and glazing all in one volume. The writing is helpfully lucid and refreshingly shorn of the kind of pretentious, postmodern jargon one expects to discover in a work about contemporary art. While there are extended ruminations on the nature of art and expression, this is principally a how-to book, and the collective experience of two veterans really shines through in the sections providing step-by-step accounts of techniques. The intended audience seems to include both beginners and more seasoned professionals: those who have never set up their own studios before and those on the hunt for specialized tools. The parts that stray from the chief subject for the sake of discourses on creativity tend to be overly broad, especially in contrast to the largely practical lessons otherwise delivered, and read like unnecessary digressions: “We must find the best means of expression for what we hold inside. This requires inner work.” Nevertheless, this is both a timely and timeless volume, and it’s hard to imagine that its scope and quality will be exceeded anytime soon. In addition, the photographic reproductions of art are visually gorgeous, making the offering an attractive coffee-table book, as enjoyable to peruse as it is instructionally valuable. 

A thorough and beautifully produced guide to an ever popular medium. 

Publisher: Squeegee Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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