Have You Ever Looked At Your Work And Wanted To Rub It Off And Start Again?

But maybe you should hold your nerve

Everyone’s work sometimes looks a mess. But what matters is what it looks like at the end. For example, the other day, Stephen caught me “softening” some trace-lines, and he was struck by something he saw me do. (Softening is where you lay down a wash or matt on top of unfired trace-lines, then blend gently while the wash is wet. This turns the trace-lines into gorgeous shadows.)

Stained glass painting: before the highlights

What he saw me do was: he saw me carry on – even though what was on the light-box looked absolutely awful.

“It’s a mess!” – Or is it?

So here’s your video. To see the mess – to see the resolution to the mess – just hit the Play button. Give the video time to load: it’s worth it, because Stephen’s got a point here:

1. If the video isn’t showing, first hit refresh.

2. If that doesn’t work, you can watch it here. You can even download and save it.

3. Click “HD” to watch in high definition (sharper picture, larger file size).

Yes, Stephen makes a very good point: seeing in your mind where you are going.

Any questions?

Me, I’m already back at my light-box. But while you’re here, if you’ve got questions or comments, please leave them below.

Please re-post

And actually this will be really helpful to us and other glass painters: if you find this information helpful, please do include a link to this page on Facebook, or send it out on Twitter.

Thank you in advance!

David Williams of Williams & Byrne, the glass painters

P.S. Lots more on highlighting in these downloads here.

18 thoughts on “Have You Ever Looked At Your Work And Wanted To Rub It Off And Start Again?

  1. Can’t get a picture. Little line runs along bottom, but no sound or picture. I’m not much good with computers, but maybe you have an idea? Love your posts and videos. Geoff

    • Oh what a shame. Everything is certainly working fine our side. Will you please scroll up to beneath the video. You’ll see a numbered list. Click the link for number 2.

  2. I always seem to come away from your videos with renewed confidence and energy- thank you so much for the clarity (and shadows) of your work in glass, and for the clarity and thoughtfulness of your teaching and communication. You are both treasures!


  3. I had my first paying stained glass painting job. It was to reproduce an old simple design. I have a renewed respect for what you do to make things look old! After several attempts I got it. He said it was perfect!

    This summer I’m taking a class with Joe Cavalieri at Urban Glass in Brooklyn. I’ll get to try sandblasting and silkscreening. Plus the fun of exploring in New York City!

    I hope your summer is enjoyable!!

    Best wishes,


  4. This is a wonderful video and I love Stephen’s passion! You are so right about remembering the “big picture” and that how the entire window appears is, in the end, the most important thing. Thank you for sharing.

  5. OMG that was such a powerful video and message, Stephen. I guess I really needed to hear this because it’s made a huge emotional impact on me.

    Off to my lightbox!

    Thank you.

  6. I want to jump in because we’ve also had a number of fascinating emails, which no one but me and David can see.

    One colleague wrote: “I will trust myself more”.

    This is an excellent point. Here’s why.

    Trusting oneself is sometimes a good sign of self-discipline (not complacency).

    We are entitled to trust ourselves when we resolve to sustain our attention on and devotion to the task in hand. Yes: trusting oneself can sometimes be hard work – harder even than not trusting oneself.

    And that is the point: it is sometimes too easy to rub off and “return to base-camp”.

    True, sometimes that is what we must do: it would be dishonest to deny the evidence of my own eyes when something truly has gone wrong.

    But sometimes I just see the evidence wrongly, which shakes my confidence, and I must learn to hold firm here and push on.

  7. What a wonderful instructional video – and so well presented. Thank you so much for all your help. I did notice that David used his ring finger to soften those highlights. This will resonate with the ladies, because the ring finger is the one that applies the least pressure. Ladies will (or should) use their ring finger to blend their eyeshadow, as this applies the most gentle pressure to the eyelid. So it makes perfect sense to use it when blending highlights. Loved this video!

  8. Such beautiful and effective tonal gradations! I have a question – was a primary wash laid down before the initial trace lines, or were the trace lines applied directly on the raw glass?

    Your videos and tutorials are always an inspiration and a revelation: thank you so much for being so generous with your knowledge.

    • Re. your good question, “Was an initial wash laid down before the initial trace lines, or were the trace lines applied directly on the raw glass?”

      I didn’t use an initial wash (an undercoat). I traced directly onto raw (clean) glass. As you see, it still softens.

      Just having one wash means: it doesn’t get too dark too soon.

      Consider this: if I had (also) used an undercoat, then, by the time I came to soften the highlights, there would have been two washes: they would have put up more resistance than I wished to softening with my fingers.

      Do you see how this all connects now? How the glass painter picks and chooses and adjusts particular sequences of techniques?

      Also, as Stephen mentions, I go on to shade with glycol.

      Now glycol shadows (as the new video series explains) usually benefit from an initial glycol wash. The initial wash assists with blending. But this initial wash also darkens things a little. Which is another reason – in this particular case, for this particular set of windows – for abandoning the initial wash (the undercoat).

      Make sense?

      • Yes, I see, that makes perfect sense.

        Here is another totally un-related question. Pardon the clumsy segue!

        Does silver nitrate stain go bad? That is, are its effects diminished with the passage of time? I’ve not been having great success with mine lately, and I wonder if it oxidizes or otherwise becomes corrupt? Or maybe I’m just not getting repeatable results because I fail to make copious notes, or there may simply be too many variables influencing the outcome. I don’t use it all that often, so I am not frequently replenishing my supply with fresh product.

        • Interesting topic. Your question is, Does silver stain / silver nitrate go off?

          And now I will do a seque of my own, because the first thing David and I want is for people to become confident in their own judgement. So I will get the ball rolling and return to the topic in a separate post.

          Given your question – and also: given that we are not working under laboratory conditions – is it possible to design a simple test which would confirm / disprove the working hypothesis that “silver stain does not go off”?

          So it’s a simple test we want here.

          We’ve a punishing schedule in the studio, so I’ll continue in a few days’ time.

  9. I had just taken from my kiln a “Green Man” made of fused glass with additional green frit. I had decided to add shading brown paint for the outline of the branches. After applying the paint, it looked a complete mess, so I removed the lot. (That was a week ago!)

    I have just watched this video and had an epiphany: I shall now redo using the techniques shown.

    (Minor complaint could you not have posted this aweek ago!)

    Keep up the great work.

  10. There is a delightfully euphoric feeling I get when I discover something new about glass painting (or taking paint away). As if my soul just baked brownies and I can smell them cooling. Maybe I should have had lunch before sitting down to the video.

    Thank you for the video, the timing was impeccable. I had made a mistake last night on a face I am working on, but I think with this method, I can still make it something amazing. I am looking forward to experimenting with mistakes.

  11. This is really fascinating! I would never be thinking of an approach like this to be a “mess”. As you emphasize: imagination remains a big challenge!

Comments are closed.