Live from the Studio – Day #4

Oil: the case against … and the case for

It’s the fourth day of this intensive technique-focused glass painting course for our five long-haul students – four colleagues from different states of the USA, and one from Kuwait. (For the 90-second video intro, please see here.)

Yesterday and today: oil.

The case against oil: it’s smelly, and it’s messy. You need extra palettes and extra brushes. Students need to learn how, once the oil has seeped down and been absorbed by the unfired water-based paint beneath, the paint itself becomes fragile. And another thing: it’s a good idea to adjust the firing schedule so the volatile fumes can burn off and escape.

All in all it’s rather inconvenient. Hmmmm – no wonder it isn’t taught in college or class. Too much nuisance.

So, the case for oil is what, I wonder …

But how much do I really need to say?

Can’t I just – show you the evidence?

Exhibit 1

Unfired water-based paint

Unfired water-based paint

Exhibit 1 – that’s all done without any firing. That’s all done with water-based paints. It’s painted back and front. And I also need to say: our client wants it to look old (not new). But (to repeat) the main thing for the glass painter is: no firing yet. None whatsoever.

And then, just two minutes later:

Exhibit 2

Oil wash and oil half-tones

Oil wash and oil half-tones on top of unfired water-based paint

So here with exhibit 2 you see what happens with just a few minutes work: I’ve covered the whole surface of the unfired glass with a light wash of oil-based paint, then added some oil-based shadows.

And a brief one minute after that:

Exhibit 3

Blended oil shadows on top of unfired water-based paint

Blended oil shadows on top of unfired water-based paint

Compare exhibits 2 and 3: you see what happens when I blend the oil-based shadows.

Compare exhibits 1 and 3: you see what oil can do for you. And all this in just one firing.

No, oil isn’t taught in college or class.

But then, as Errin Bossanyi says, a “craftsman can only be taught in the workshop of a master”.

Yes, in a workshop.

Because that’s where you get real-life questions and problems.

Plus real-life answers.

But then I’m biased. (It’s how we teach you here.)

And you?

All the best,


P.S. If you think I’ve got a poor view of academic (as opposed to studio-based) teaching, just consider what E. Liddall Armitage says about art schools:

“The only possible excuse for art schools is that they may possibly have some national value as therapeutic institutions – but this is a matter for the British Medical Association to decide” (Stained Glass, Leonard Hill Books Limited, London, 1960, p. 165)

A damning comment indeed.

P.P.S. For weekly tips and techniques, join here, because if you don’t then you’ll miss out – it’s free, it’s also very useful, especially when times get difficult: see here.