Stained glass tracing – one problem is, the design can “make” you rush
A big problem you’ve maybe met is how, with the design in front of you, you want to rush and hurry and get your tracing finished.
And yet …
And yet with everything you do with kiln-fired glass painting …
- Highlighting and softening –
… yes, even cleaning the glass before you start: everything has its own pace which you must recognize and respond to.
Of course, experienced glass painters work faster than newcomers (like David sped through his undercoats in the video he made you last time).
But – if (that is) they still enjoy their work (and by no means all of them do: what a loss this is) – even fast-working and experienced glass painters respect the necessary rhythm of things.
Indeed, there are two perils of rushing.
First, you can make a mistake.
Second, the work becomes a chore, a burden – a means to an end, and rather heartless.
Which is no good – no good at all.
Particularly tracing – we instinctively want to see the outline
Yes, tracing is a good example because we fixate so much on forming the outline:
Thank goodness: the contour lines are all in place – everyone can see what it is now! – I can relax!
I know this feeling well.
And it’s completely wrong.
Maybe the design has just eight lines. Maybe it has 749 … the number doesn’t matter: if you take them all at the correct pace, you’ll get them right, and you’ll also enjoy them for their own sake as opposed to simply rushing through with them.
On the other hand, when you rush tracing, then all kinds of things go wrong.
Like when you rush a curve, your brush can change shape or skid.
And when you rush a straight line, your paint won’t flow. (Yes! Often it’s because you’re moving too fast – you’re using your brush and glass paint as if it were a felt-tipped pen.)
To get it right – which doesn’t mean you go at a snail’s pace: it just means you don’t rush, is all – you have to move across from our twenty-first century world and adopt a very different way of doing things.
For example, each time you load and shape your brush, your thoughts are focused on the line or two in front of you: only on them: and you absolutely gather your attention and make sure you do everything you must to get them right. Just those one or two strokes.
And then you move on – to the next one or two strokes.
In a sense, your ambitions are very modest, and that’s exactly what helps you succeed. You see, all it is is “just” one good line, and then another, and then another, just one at a time, each one in its own time.
Unlike our 21st century
And why do I say this is so different from our twenty-first century world?
Well, when I was down in London the other week, I had someone “talking” to me while they were also texting on their phone.
Glass painting by contrast – OK, crafts are: one thing at a time, and mindfully.
Like I said: that way you’ll do it right, and also enjoy the journey.
Now let me finish by telling you a story. You’ll see the connection in no time at all …
A rush-hour performance
In Washington DC at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 58 minutes. He was a busker, a street musician, right?
During that time, maybe 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
And what exactly happened?
You’re a glass painter – an honorary outsider, as it were! – so if you don’t already know, well, you can probably guess.
After 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule. About 4 minutes later the violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw money into his hat and walked on without stopping. At 6 minutes, a young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
10 minutes in, a 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.Some clue there surely …
At 45 minutes, the musician was still playing beautifully. Six people stopped and listened for a short while. And maybe 20 gave him money and continued walking.
After 1 hour, the violinist finished playing. There was hardly any appreciation … just one or two people at the very end who had sensed they were witnessing something special.
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played some of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, he’d sold-out a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.
This is true. It was an experiment. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.
Myself, when I first read about this a while back, I wondered: if we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made, well, I’m not so very different (even if I wish I were).
Which means I too must be missing so many other things as I rush through life. I’m sure I do – yes, all in the foolish rush to “get things done”.
And that’s what made me think of glass painting and not hurrying what you do.
That’s my point here.
OK, my students often think I’m crazy, I can live with that (for a couple of hours)
You know, when I’m teaching, it often takes a while for my students to stop thinking I’m weird. You see, I might spend three minutes tidying my palette and mixing my paint even though there are perhaps “only” four or five brush-strokes to paint.
And sometimes, when a student’s painting and I’m watching, sometimes I cry out: “Goodness me, your palette looks gorgeous – look at it: isn’t it beautiful? Can you see how completely perfect it is for what you want to do?” And they look at me as if I’m … well, like I said: they maybe think me strange because they haven’t yet got the confidence or experience to know exactly what they’re aiming for. (Which is why they’re spending time with me and David.)
Yes, to start with, my students often think me mad. But – after a couple of hours – they see my point. It all starts to “sink in”. And then …
Then they’re like the few commuters who stopped and listened. They too fall in love with scenes like this one here:
And, if you don’t yet have this confidence, that’s also what I also want for you.
Take this on trust until you see if from your own experience: don’t rush the tracing, the strengthening, the softening and shading, the highlighting – don’t even rush the cleaning and the undercoating: set aside the twenty-first century world.
Don’t “rush to work”.
The whole point – yes, when you’re in the midst of it, it is the whole point: nothing else matters, even if you’re being paid – the whole point is the process of making something as it should be made.
Only then will it be fit for the rest of its time, whatever becomes of us the maker, the parent.
Makes sense to you?
And in that spirit of attentiveness, be sure to call back for our next three posts.
Together, we’ll look back on many of the tips and techniques we’ve shared with you this last year.
Happy glass painting.
P.S. You can read the original Post article right here. It’s a couple of years old but still relevant.