So I’ve been working through the new designs David prepared for our workshop at Bryn Athyn this coming June.
My George III is coming on just fine for now …
The techniques so far:
Undercoat, copy-trace, wash & soften, strengthen, flood, highlight & soften.
Glycol for further shadows.
Everything worked out fine and just as I expected here.
But not so for my Piper.
This is one topic people really write to me a lot about. Yes, blistering, fritting, bubbling in the kiln.
Thankfully, long gone are the days when everyone assumed it was always caused by painting over unfired paint.
Our own times are more enlightened. Now it’s widely accepted that you can paint many layers, and sometimes also thickly, and fire your glass just once – with scarcely a care in the world.
Three things in particular help successful flooding:
- Well-mixed glass paint, which you re-mix each time you load your brush
- Spread your paint quickly, spread your paint thinly, move on and never ever go back
- Fire slowly
But now look at this, which didn’t work:
I’m glad to show this to you because I’m perfectly relaxed about confessing my mistakes.
And I certainly went wrong here.
One, I did something which subsequently caused blistering. (Careless me.) Namely: I defined the area-for-flooding with lines which were much too thick.
My ‘wall’, my ‘boundary’ was far too substantial.
You see blistering is also caused when areas of paint don’t join well with one another.
Then in the kiln they fight it out – and one side or the other must back off.
Which happened here.
You have been warned.
Two, my second mistake: I was too much on auto-pilot.
Think for a moment about my lines which marked off the area I planned to flood.
The point is, there’s nothing wrong with them. (Look at the same lines around the horn: they’re lovely, though I do say so myself.)
Also, there’s nothing wrong with my flooding.
But … put the two together, and no matter how perfect your technique, things go wrong.
So my second mistake was …
With glass painting, when you trace a line, you need always to consider what you intend to do afterwards.
The line is good or bad to the extent that it supports your aim for it.
Yes. Fit for purpose. Whatever the purpose is.
You see, a mistake which beginners always make is to look at their lines and curse.
A proficient, confident glass painter on the other hand may certainly damn a line. But then it’s not because of what they see. It’s because they know it won’t let them do what they want to do.
My mistake was: I built up all my lines to the same depth, regardless of what was going on right next to them.
So I copy-traced the main lines. Then I strengthened them exactly. And then I thickened them.
Yes, I thickened all of them.
If I hadn’t flooded, everything would have been just fine.
But I did flood and of course things blistered.
Nothing wrong with my trace lines in themselves. It’s just I shouldn’t have done what I did around those areas where I later chose to flood.
But am I down-hearted?
Not a bit.
This was a test piece after all.
And your attitude to a test piece must be: if it succeeds or fails, it succeeds.
Because you learn something.
Because a bigger error never sees the light of day.
Here, not just me giving a demonstration at Bryn Athyn, but maybe also you’ve seen something useful here:
Is this trace line good / bad (in itself)?
Will this line let me do what I want to do?
Essential point about your test piece
Now you’ve read this far so I’m going to give you a really valuable piece of advice.
Before I start a piece, I practise the key elements.
Like with this lion here (who’ll also come to Bryn Athyn with us):
As you see …
… my test piece is just part of the image.
So like I said I take a small piece of glass and practise the key elements. The tricky ones. The eyes. The mouth. The hair.
But here’s the point.
Don’t assume it’s easy to identify the key elements.
Because it isn’t.
That’s what the Piper shows me.
Outlining is easy, flooding is easy …
So it’s just as well my test piece for the Piper in fact contained the outlining and flooding together – not just the eyes and mouth and nose (the ‘tricky’ bits).
So now I’m off to do a second test piece for my winged lion.
A test piece which combines all the key elements – not just the ones I naively think will prove most difficult.