When You Hold the Bridge and When You Don’t

Last week when I was teaching a very promising beginner, I was reminded of this useful point.

Namely, it’s easy to take a rule (“Do it like this …”) and generalize it to an incorrect situation.

Here’s an example.

It concerns how you use your painting bridge.

When you hold the bridge …

The rule is, you need to hold your bridge with one hand to keep it steady.

And the reason is, if the bridge topples over, the potential damage to your painting is very serious. Because you can easily ruin a morning’s work …



So it’s easy to think you hold your bridge in all situations.

But – you shouldn’t.

Rather, you mainly hold it only when you’re tracing:

Stained glass painting: when you trace, you hold the bridge

When you trace, you hold the bridge

When you don’t …

Thus, when you’re highlighting, you hold the glass (not the bridge).

You can see this makes good sense.

When you highlight, you use a hard object and you apply a lot of pressure:

Stained glass painting: when you highlight, you hold the glass

When you highlight, you hold the glass

Therefore it makes sense to hold the glass, or else it may move (that’s the big risk here).

But when you trace, you’re working with a soft-haired brush, and, though you apply pressure to the glass, the brush’s tips aren’t likely to grab and move the glass. And so, in this situation, the most likely thing to go wrong (and also the most serious if it does) is, the bridge falls over because you’ve leant down too hard on one side.

Now I mention this specific point about

  • Holding the bridge when tracing


  • Holding the glass when highlighting

because it happened here last week.

Yes, I coached the beginner on his tracing.

He listened carefully and copied me exactly.

Then when I returned 20 minutes later, I saw he was highlighting exactly as he’d learned to trace: holding the bridge when he should have been holding the glass.

This happens to me, it possibly happens to you. It all comes down to thinking clearly about the tools you’re using.

Even when a rule applies 99 times out of 100, you still need always to think for yourself and decide whether, in front of you right now, is that 100th case where the rule does not apply.

Like here with the example of how to use your bridge. It’s important to double-check our habits, or consider whether we’re using rules as they were meant (because life’s too short to always read the small print).


Stephen Byrne

2 thoughts on “When You Hold the Bridge and When You Don’t

  1. Hello, Stephen,

    I hope all’s well. This is a very useful post, also because it brought back memories of those days two years ago when we were on the course with you and David.

    All the best

  2. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have put into writing this site: I am hoping to check out the same high-grade blog posts from you in the future as well. (In fact, your creative writing abilities have also inspired me to get my own website now.)

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