Today a selection of topics. Two of them are provocative (me and my big mouth). So let’s start where the seas are calm.
1. Lead Lines
Our previous post on stained glass silhouettes provoked the question, Where are the lead lines?
Which is a good question because with all that gorgeous flooding, the lead lines are hard to see.
Take this initial sketch for the stained glass ravens:
Here’s the finished glass:
For which the cut lines are as follows:
It can get confusing (in a nice way) because we used a lot of streaky glass, and this gave us the potential for a lot of variation within any single piece of glass. Like here with the panel of curlews – which is about as wide as your computer screen in real life:
So here’s the cut line:
That’s the thing about stained glass silhouettes: bold design, good glass plus careful silhouetting – it’s a winning combination.
Which brings us to the next topic.
A colleague writes:
I’ve been working my way through the silhouette examples in Part 1, and I’ve learned a lot about glass painting.
But I have a persistent problem. Within the body of the flooded areas I can readily achieve the “millpond” stillness you refer to. And when it’s fired, the body of the flood comes out smooth, uniformly opaque and without any cracks/blisters.
My problem is where the wet flood washes up against dry paint i.e. the trace lines, or perhaps another piece of flooding that is already dry.
The paint is non-uniform in these places, and when it fires a crack often opens up along the boundary between the flood and the dry paint.
Let’s tackle the two problems – trace lines, and another piece of flooding that’s already dry – in turn.
Now you know we focus on technique. The reason is, this gives us something quantifiable to talk about with you. It also gives you something measurable and reproducible to copy if you wish to.
But … but … but! The big “but” is, there are usually many ways of doing things. And sometimes the way you do things in order to learn will not always be the best way for you to do them when you’re an expert.
So the first thing I want to say here is, when you flood, it isn’t written in blood that you must have trace lines within which you flood.
Far from it.
Right now in the studio we’re painting lots of dragon-infested columns to decorate the tycoon’s stained glass panels. The dragons are flooded – they’re silhouettes. But we haven’t traced and strengthened them first. They’re going in directly. The reason is, they’re small – each one about the length of one finger – and they’d become too fussy if we traced them first. Without tracing, they’re more immediate and lively.
I’ll post a photo as soon as I can and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
The point always is: learn the techniques, adjust them as needed, do what works best.
And in the case of silhouettes, there’s no law which says you can’t flood a shape directly using nothing but the design beneath the glass to guide you.
But … when you do trace first, two quick points:
- It is good technique to conceal the trace lines beneath the flooding,
- … which means the trace lines mustn’t be too thick – just a gentle boundary, not a 12-foot high, rabbit-proof fence.
Then, with good flooding, your silhouette won’t blister or crack where it covers your trace line.
Another piece of flooding that’s already dry
The fact is, you can’t avoid a seam if you flood wet paint against another piece of flooding that’s already dry.
And this is where you can maybe think differently about how you flood.
Let me explain.
Say you want to flood a design like this:
When someone’s learning, of course they’ll start at the top, then work their way around, until they return to where they started:
But once you’ve got the hang of flooding, you’ll see it’s perfectly possible to work around both sides at once, a little at a time, until both sides meet up with one another at the bottom:
It’s the same whatever design you paint: don’t leave anything to chance:
Figure out how you’re going to approach it before you start.
That way, if it does wrong, you know what to change.
And if it goes right, it’ll be the best you can do. Which is exactly what we want for you.
Nice and peaceful so far. Now it’s time to take the gloves off.
Another colleague writes about some lovely 19th century stained glass windows that some idiot “restored” about 15 years ago:
It looks like somebody used normal enamel paint and other stuff to try and imitate the picture pieces.
Then they covered the complete window with some kind of clear resin about 1-2mm thick. The lead is not covered – only each and every piece of glass.
But with the sun and weather, the resin started peeling a few years back. It curls along the edges, then drops to the floor.
The problem is that the resin takes with it the top layer of the glass and the paint …
You won’t be surprised to hear that there are very limited funds to cover the cost of the urgent work that’s needed.
Now maybe there’s a solvent which can lift the remaining resin without also corroding the paint beneath … I don’t know.
What I do know is, it’s a tough world, and I want our studio to survive so that we can continue doing really good work.
Which means, if we were approached to do this work, we’d either do it as an act of charity or we’d walk away.
Most likely we’d walk away, because we work very hard for our living, and therefore we must limit the amount of free work we do because otherwise we’d go bust. Very quickly.
Every week we get at least three calls, asking us to drive 100 miles – petrol costs a lot in the UK – and give a free quote or survey, or tender for a project against a couple of undercutting, talentless, unqualified incompetents …
And so often we hear the weasel words, “We want it done well but we just don’t have the money: can you help?”
Now, we’ve learned when to help, and when not to. Someone might think we’re hard-hearted. I reckon we’re just being professional.
No ticket, no laundry.
Which means – exactly – we do have time to give to you, to help you paint stained glass as best you can. (It’s because we don’t spend time on other things, like driving 100 miles to tender against a couple of undercutting, talentless, unqualified incompetents … – you get the idea?)
But what do you think about this question?
I don’t mean about how to remove the resin (but if you’ve tips or suggestions, please send them in).
I mean about how to judge when to “put yourself out” to help? When is something a lost cause, say because you would get lost if you held out your hand to help? It’s a tough one …
4. Art (maybe)
In another secret place (only for newsletter subsribers), I recently insisted (as I do – I have a big mouth!) that glass painting is a craft, not an art.
And one colleague said they reckoned it was an art.
And I know what they mean.
All the same …
Here’s my first point. If it’s an art, doesn’t that mean we’re “artists”? But surely that’s for posterity to judge. (Anyway as I always say, I’m just a copier, I’m very happy doing that. Just put a design in front of me to trace and shade – heaven!).
Next point: we’re not comfortable with value-laden words like “artist” because we reckon (and I’d be interested to know your view) such words can tend to be manipulative.
Our own view is that good, honest work speaks for itself and doesn’t need fancy marketing (or piffle and puff). Which is why we call ourselves “designers, painters and restorers of glass”. Yes, we do it to the best of our ability. That’s because the thing about our clients is, they want the best job that can be done – whether it’s art or not is neither here nor there.
In the same way you’d have no time for someone who styled themselves a “master electrician”, we don’t quite see how stained glass painters need to say that what they do is “art”.
But what do you think? How do you see yourself? How do you describe yourself to other people?
Lastly, modern art … conceptualism, post-modernism, artist’s statements which tell people what to think about the think they’re meant to be looking at (but aren’t, because instead they’re reading a piece of self-indulgent waffle) …
If that’s art, we don’t want to be a part of it:
We don’t want to be a drop of pure white milk in a basinful of sewage.
These three points lead us, on balance, to say glass painting is a craft, rather than an art.
But words and ideas are sometimes slippery things. This is certainly something to talk about if it makes us do better work.
So how do you see it?
Plus – sorry, I almost forgot to mention it – an artist’s statement.
My fourth point therefore is: the young have been corrupted. They have been denied the joys of a four-year (or whatever) apprenticeship – true, on admittedly low (monetary) pay, but with magnificent reward to their soul and character. The cult of immediacy elevates “art” above “craft”.
Which is why I reckon the word “craft” still retains a real sense of devotion and hard work.
C’mon, guys, it’s not just because I’m 52 – I do have a point here!