Wax resist is a fun and very useful technique, not only in glazing pottery but in painting as well. Wax comes in many forms and varies in expense. On the cheaper end of the spectrum, there are white wax candles or white crayons, and on the pricier end there are oil pastels and beeswax.
The process is simple. You just brush or draw on the wax in the form of an image or pattern of your choosing. Brush a waterbased paint over top. And there you have it! The areas coated in wax retain the white of the paper. Depending on what kind of wax you opted to use, how thickly you applied the wax, and how thick your paint is, your results will vary. You may end up with a more textured look as opposed to pure white paper. If you desire a clean white resist area, you may want to consider masking fluid.
Masking fluid is also very useful when you want to retain a particular color you have already painted onto the paper. Wax would work also, but if you do not like the sheen you would have to remove it with an iron (place the painting between two pieces of cardstock, cardboard, or brown paper bag the iron the backside of the painting until the wax comes off) and the heat of the iron could be detrimental to your work. Masking fluid is designed so that it can be rubbed off after your painting has dried. Whether using wax or masking fluid be sure the surface to which you are applying it is dry, otherwise it will not adhere correctly.
If retaining white is not necessarily your goal, play around with the colored crayons and pastels. They will resist the paint in the same way, but will provide pigment as well.
This process can yield as intricate and complex a result as your patience will provide. Wax resist can add interest to any work, allowing you to create intriguing textures and layers of color. It can also assist in adding a sense of unity to a collage or mixed media work. Use your imagination! And, as always, if you create a piece of artwork you are willing to share, send it to us - TSAStudioArts@si.edu - and we will consider posting it to the blog!
--Sarah Kramer, Studio Arts Intern