Perimeters and Placeholders (painting drapery)

I want my tracelines (the first layer of glasspainting) to be lively and energetic, with a sumi-like calligraphic quality. They must also be solid black in places, to hold their own against the leadlines.

I flip between laying out entire areas of the window to visualize how it looks as a complete picture and taking it apart to work on individual pieces or sections. Notice in my last post that I painted the faces separately using very precise drawings as my reference. A few days ago I started working on the drapery which needs to be painted as interconnected pieces. Here’s Mary’s drapery, painted directly over the cartoon with a long fine-pointed squirrel hair quill and hand-made rubber combs.


Leadlines are essential. They provide visual strength for a stained glass window, and they hold it together. But they’re pretty clumsy, without any of the delicacy or finesse of a painted line. Generally speaking, I want them to disappear. I want the viewer to become engaged with the story portrayed, not the method of construction.

To this end, some pieces of glass have very little paint on them at this stage, but what is there is important. Oftentimes, it defines the edge of an object (leaf, hand or riverbank perhaps) because the leadline itself is too crude to do this.

In places where there is no traceline bordering the edge of the glass there will be shading (texture and/or matting) instead. Again, I’m working on individual pieces whilst holding an image of the whole picture in my mind.


In some cases, tracelines serve as a guide for subsequent layers of paint, like placeholders. These allow me to create a fresh interpretation of my cartoon, a translation rather than a copy, with all the bits in the right places. Notice the very fine squiggly lines parallel to the hem of Mary’s shawl. These show me where the decorative border will go. There’s also a very fine fringe at the bottom edges of the fabric (where glass meets lead) to indicate the direction.


The last thing I did today was to apply pattern to Mary’s dress. I will be brushing away areas that will later become highlights (it’s not yet fired) and adding shadows in other areas in subsequent layers. This is the ‘texture’ stage of my glasspainting sequence.


3 thoughts on “Perimeters and Placeholders (painting drapery)

  1. Thank you so much for your wonderfully informative posts and videos. I have recently begun to experiment with paint and sandblasting to extend my creative expression in glass, and your work and explication are very helpful guides. I have just begun, too, to explore the social media, and have been delighted to find a number of extremely talented people, such as yourself, sharing so generously their knowledge and wisdom. Please know that your efforts are much appreciated. The information you share inspires me as an artist, and your generosity in sharing inspires me as a person!

  2. We are all in joyous anticipation of the installation of this extraordinary work of art. What a wonderful addition it will be to our church and our town. You are a treasure, Deborah! Peace and Blessing to you, Rev. Sharon

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