The Beastly Lion of Wolsey Towers

Episode #4


Your video for today begins with a shocking palette; it’s the kind of mess I’d never normally suggest you leave.

In my defence, there’s not much gum Arabic in this particular batch of paint, so it hadn’t dried that hard at all. Also, it wasn’t long since I’d last used it – just an hour or so (not overnight). And that’s why, as you see, it doesn’t take me long to get my paint and palette exactly as I want them.

It’s always a question of knowing the consequences of things you do. I reckoned I could get away with it. And I was right.

Stained glass palette

Your palette – please: don’t you leave it in a state like this …

The right tool for the job

Now – as you’ll see – a useful point is how I have a brush whose main job in life is moistening the palette. That’s its job. That’s what it does all day. It’s like a small hake, about an inch across.

OK, I sometimes use it to lay down band of tone. But by and large I use it just for moistening it my palette – you know, ordering and organising it.

The point is, this is a messy, brutal job, and I’d rather keep my main hake (the bigger one) for other tasks (like laying down washes).

The right took for the right job

So, once I’ve used my small hake to moisten the whole surface of the palette, you’ll see how I use my palette knife for the heavy work: mixing and grinding and scraping up that dried paint which I know shouldn’t be there.

Don’t waste a brush on work like this.

That’s key: use the palette knife for what it’s good for – heavy-duty work.

But the thing is with tools, we pick them up, start working, get involved with the job-in-hand, and forget to change them when we should.

That’s why I want to mention this and bring it to your attention.

And then?

And then a test, of course.

Test properly – don’t just go through the motions …

The next step in this film is flooding – I’m going to fill in the outline of the lion, and I don’t want wet paint dripping where it shouldn’t. I also want to know the paint will flow. So from one point of view, you might reckon these goals are contradictory: I’m after paint which flows that also will not drip. Sure, it’s tricky. That’s exactly why I need to test it: to make certain it’s runny but not too runny, to make sure I’ll be able to push it around and spread it out even though it still gives the kind of coverage I want.

Stained glass painting - flooding - know what you're testing for

Testing: know what you’re testing for …

And when I test the paint, you’ll see something that’s absolutely fundamental. It’s obvious. But so many people forget about it. It’s this. When I test the paint, I use it on the test patch exactly as I plan to use it on the lion. Too many people I’ve seen just go through the motions.

If you’re going to do a test – and we test everything – you have to take it seriously.

It’s not enough just to paint some lines – any old lines.

So you have to position your bridge and hold your brush exactly as you intend to, then bring your brush down and move it exactly as you plan to.

And if it doesn’t work, well, that’s wonderful, because you’ve saved yourself an expensive mistake. But the only way to be sure it’s going to work is to practice everything – everything – as you plan to do it.

This is a dress rehearsal. In a moment, you’ll need to go on stage.

That’s why you have to take it seriously and do everything as you intend to when it’s for real. Now’s your last chance.


And that’s why you’ll see me flood my paint in a way you’ve probably not seen me do before. It’s very quick, very casual (but not so casual I make a mess of things).

Reason is, I don’t want this flooding to be absolutely dense and even.

Remember this panel is meant to look old and battered. (Just wait till later episodes when you see me rub it down with sandpaper …)

Flooding - for this piece, I do it quickly ...

Flooding – for this piece, I do it quickly

So I will be very happy if my flooding is a little bit uneven, as if the weather has worn away some paint.

Mixing, always mixing

At about 7 minutes in, there’s a section where the film moves between what happens on the lion and what happens on the palette.

Now the point I want you to understand is, what you see happening on the palette is more or less what happens each time I load my brush. Each time. I mix the paint each time.

Stained glass flooding - mix your paint each time you load your brush

Flooding – mix your paint each time you load your brush

Reason is, I don’t want the paint to blister in the kiln. I mix it each time because that’s the only way I can be sure the gum and water and pigment are evenly distributed throughout my paint.

Say the gum were to end up all in one place because it wasn’t properly mixed, so other paint had scarcely any gum: that would cause blistering, because the surface tension of the paint would be uneven.

I want the flooding to look old; I don’t want it to look awful.

At the end – shame on me! – I leave my palette as you shouldn’t. This is because I’m human: I wanted to stop for a coffee and had a lot more flooding to get on straight afterwards.

Second thing: I also used a porcelain enamel ramekin.

OK, what’s wrong with that? Nothing much. Except now we much prefer clear glass ones.

Do you see why?

It’s because that way you know what’s going on inside it. It’s something we’ll return to soon, especially since the summer and warm sunshine will soon be upon us here …

Part 4



David Williams of Williams & Byrne, the glass painters

2 thoughts on “The Beastly Lion of Wolsey Towers

  1. Very clever, creative and practical! Shooting is clear, and organized. Even the music is wonderful. When do you find the time to do all this?!

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