This is a detail from one of a north-facing pair of lancets we’ve just completed.
The theme for these two lancets – “At the going down of the sun …”.
(Opposite them, south-facing, a second pair, whose theme is “… and in the morning || We will remember them”. You can find the full poem here.)
And I want now to take time-out from the work I’m doing on some new designs to talk you through the techniques I used to make the poppies.
Maybe then, you too can use these same steps in the work you do.
Simple steps, rich results
Now, if you’ve been following this blog, everything – individually – will be familiar to you.
Simple steps, rich results.
So this is the approach I chose. Two layers of glass (not one) – that’s important.
Layer #1 is sometimes streaky gold-pink like this:Or sometimes I used flashed gold-pink on white. Whichever: this is the outside layer (the weather-side).
Layer #2 is flashed red on white. This is the inside layer.
You cut both bits of glass to size, then sandblast them to modulate the colour, then fire-polish to make then smooth again. Here you see etched gold-pink on white and etched flashed red on white:Set aside layer #1 for now. Layer #2 you paint like this:
- A light undercoat and blend;
- Lightly trace the main outline of the poppies;
- Wash and soften the trace-lines to turn them into gentle shadows;
- Work the highlights;
- Now apply a light glycol wash and blend;
- Next, glycol half-tones, then blend to soften them;
- Finally, some glycol lines, which reinstate the initial trace-lines you made just after the undercoat.
And fire your layer #2 a second time.
Next, very important: seize control of the gold-pink by silver-staining it with oil, then fire it. (Gold-pink is magnificent, but it really does need taming.) Sometimes I also stained the streaky gold-pink (but it was less in need of it).
Last of all, adjust layer #2 by spraying it with rose enamel, then fire it a third time. And that’s it: finished.
Before cementing, be sure to copper-foil both layers together to seal their edges: this stops cement from “mushrooming” between your layers of glass.
Point #1: each step on its own is very simple
Do you see:
And all along, each step on its own is very simple
Point #2: simple, and often not attractive
I mean those words I’ve typed: at each stage, what I see is often not attractive.
For example, look at that etched and fire-polished glass above: hideous as it is. Garish, crude, vulgar. I could continue …
And that is precisely why – unless they take time to run tests and prepare a prototype which builds their confidence – most people are likely to give up half-way: because, on their light-box, what they see is unappealing, ugly, messy.Of course it’s messy.
It’s a draft, it’s work-in-progress, it’s not yet finished.
To the contrary: very often, along the way, you’ll have nothing but your own conviction to carry you through.
Most of all, you need your imagination, which you must forever seek to strengthen.
Point #3: this also helps with people
None of us are “finished” – we’re all of us rather like a messy piece of painting on the light-box.
But great teachers – I hope everyone of you has known at least one – have the imagination to see through the untidiness we mindlessly present them with. They are right to do so.
And here’s the thing: the activity of glass painting can strengthen this wonderful ability in you. (I hope this thought will come to you next time you paint on glass.)You see, it’s not just about mastering the tricky, ever-drying paint, or the fiddly pointed tracing brush.
The bigger picture is … well, that’s for each one of us to say for ourselves.
I just assure you there is a bigger picture here.
And, as often happens, when ugly unfinished bits of painted glass stare up at me from my light-box, I find it helpful to remember this. So maybe it will guide you too.
The sun goes down:And then it rises.
Question for you
Can you see ways in your own work to assemble simple and familiar steps in different ways, making something new and rich?
Any questions about the techniques I used?
All thoughts and contributions welcome: just use the Comment box below.