Silhouettes and Stained Glass Painting: A Perfect Team

When someone visits us to learn, we always start with silhouettes. It’s never yet mattered how experienced they were, silhouettes always make a good place from which to start.

The reason is, silhouettes require all kinds of skills which the beginner can exercise in a beginning kind of way, whilst the experienced glass painter can push them to their limits.

See, when you paint silhouettes, you deepen your understanding of many different consistencies of paint – light, dry paint for undercoating: then slightly darker paint for tracing and strengthening: finally, thick “melted chocolate” paint for flooding.

So the point is: silhouettes are great training. And if you teach glass painting, you should really think about how to get your students doing them. If on the other hand you paint glass “for yourself”, silhouettes make great practice.

But that’s not the whole point. Which is the topic I want to introduce today. Just briefly, mind …

It’s Saturday mid-day, the sun is shining, and our local 16th century pub is hosting a beer festival in its garden …

The point is, silhouettes make great designs. It’s easy to see why. Yes, stained glass painting is all about colour and transmitted light. But maybe more than that, it’s about light and dark.

Combine colour with light and dark, and you have a winning team.

That’s why, at Williams & Byrne, we regularly use silhouettes in the panels we make.

If you’ve know us for some time, you’ll remember this window we made for the crime novelist Kate Charles and her dauntingly intellectual husband Rory:

Detail from Kate Charles' stained glass window

Silhouettes of Kate and Rory in their personal stained glass window

And just recently we were approached by the man whose job it is to oversee the computer systems on which our secret agents lodge their tax returns …

Yes, our clients are interesting to talk to!

He wanted five small bird panels.

Here’s David’s black-and-white sketch for one about ravens:

Stained glass ravens

Stained glass ravens

And now see how, with a bit of colour, the design bursts into life:

Colour sketch for stained glass ravens

David’s colour sketch for stained glass ravens

All five panels are finished now.

They look like jewels.

We’ll fit them next week and then you’ll see what I mean.

In the meantime, just give some thought to how you can use silhouettes in your own work: whether you’re starting out or looking for new and exhilarating ideas, I promise you: silhouettes will serve you well.

Stephen ByrneP.S. If you’re not getting our free email newsletter, you’re missing out on lots of tips and techniques: get them here.