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Mixed Media: Figure Painting Using Wax Resist

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Wax and Watercolor
How to create a mixed media and wax resist figure painting

Mixed media figure painting created using wax resist, pen, and watercolor wash.

Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

The figure painting shown in the photo is a mixed media painting created using pen, watercolor wash, and wax resist. Wax resist is a great way to retain highlights in a painting as you don't have to carefully paint round the highlights, but can paint energetically over the whole sheet of paper, knowing that the wax will preserve the highlights. (For an explanation of how wax resist works, read Mixed Media: Wax Resist.)

Materials Used In This Painting:
• A pencil
• An eraser
• A sheet of hot-pressed watercolor paper
• A waterproof black pen, 0.7mm
• Two watercolors, cadmium orange (hue) and Payne's grey
• A no. 12 (wide) brush
• A white crayon (for wax resist)
• A copy of Anatomy for the Artist by Sarah Simblet for reference photos

How This Painting Was Made:

Step One: I looked through Anatomy for the Artist for pose that appealed. Using a pencil, I then lightly sketched a figure in the same pose, using the photo to check proportions and that I had the angles of the various parts of the body about right.

Step Two: I then exchanged the pencil for a pen and, looking at the photograph and using my pencil sketch as a guide, quickly laid down the pen lines you see. I then used an eraser to remove all the pencil lines (this isn't a necessity, I just prefer not to have any pencil lines on the final painting).

Step Three: Again looking at the photograph, I then used a white wax crayon to 'colour in' the highlights I would want preserved when I applied the watercolor wash. Where I wanted to keep an area absolutely free of paint, such as on the shoulder blade, I made sure to press hard with the wax crayon and went over the area more than once to apply a thorough layer of wax. Where the highlights were more subtle, such as on the thigh, I didn't press as hard with the crayon.

Step Four: I mixed up a generous quantity of the two watercolors I would be using (cadmium orange hue and Payne's grey) as I didn't want to have to stop to mix some more. Using a no. 12 (wide) brush, I first applied the orange and then, before it had dried, the Payne's grey for some shadow and to anchor the figure to the ground. (If you cover up the grey at the base of the painting, you'll see how the figure then floats in space.)

Tips:
• Your initial pencil drawing must be working (or 'correct') before you proceed to the pen and wash. You can't fix 'mistakes' later on with this technique.
• Resist the temptation to use the paint to add the detail, it's the relative simplicity of the pen and wash combination that's so appealing. For this reason, I'd also limit the colours you're using to one or two.
• The pen you use must contain waterproof ink, or the lines will smudge when you apply the wash.
• Do some samples with a crayon and wash to know how much wax to apply to get the highlight result you want.

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