We had a great workshop last week, just three students, all with prior experience. Sandra Harris is knowledgeable in fusing and kiln-working and wanted to add glasspainting to her already broad repertoire of decorative techniques. Midge Scanlon and Karen Deets are both accomplished professionals who have operated their stained glass businesses for several decades. Midge works almost exclusively to commission and is an accomplished stained glass painter. She signed up for the workshop in the hope of finding a personal, more medieval style of figure painting. Karen wanted to learn glasspainting techniques that would complement her existing copperfoiled stained glass and expand the unique character of her work.
Five-day workshops begin on Sunday evening with dinner, introductions and slides. During this first session I take an inventory of each student’s experience and techniques, plus their goals for the week. Students are invited to show examples of their own work and/or artwork in any medium that inspires them. Past students have included animators, mosaic artists, painters, printmakers and stained glass people. There are no restrictions or prerequisites for my workshops, just a willingness to learn and the courage to explore unfamiliar artistic territory.
Last week’s first Powerpoint presentation was created for the AGG conference in Ashville NC. It documents the making of 12 raccons for an astronaut, a stained glass window for an Airstream space satellite and explains the separate stages of my painting process and how I translated a collage of magazine illustrations into stained glass. The window, designed by NY artist Michael Oatman, is just a small part of his art installation “All Utopias Fell” at MASS MoCA. The following afternoon we visited the museum to see the window in situ.
On the Monday morning I started with specific instructions for mixing and thinning glasspaints with propylene glycol. All students were able to sign their name fluently in glasspaint with a fine pen by 10am. This is the test for successful preparation of glasspaint using my propylene glycol mixture. After this came exercises to develop greater ease and fluency with the medium using pen, brush and other applicators to create tracelines. The work was in the kiln by lunchtime.
After lunch I gave a demonstration of texture application techniques and everyone moved straight into second applications over the just-fired tracelines (I have a super-fast Hoaf Speedburn kiln). The rest of the week’s instruction included more demos; a Powerpoint that covered all four key aspects of stained glass design; sessions on kilns/firing and reinforcement bars (specifically requested); ongoing reviews; and work on individual projects.
My painting demos included the manipulation of wet painted textures; a ‘fur, feather and hair clinic’; cross-hatching into dry matte; flower and foliage techniques; creating textures that appear to recede; and wet matting techniques. This last item was of special interest and inspired the group to rearrange my customary sequence of “trace, texture matte” to suit their personal styles and objectives.
Karen confidently applied trace and texture in one fell swoop, adding strength to the ‘traceline’ component while the paint was still wet. On the second firing she added finer texture in the background to make the scene appear to recede into the distance. She applied and manipulated a wet matte only minimally, so as to maintain the transparency and sparkle of the glass.
Sandra learned that she wanted only the merest, most delicate traceline in her first firing, with bold blacks applied later as part of her texture stage. This made it easier for her to exploit the expressive mark-making abilities of the tools she chose. By week’s end she had figured out how to paint freestyle in a way that works beautifully with the coloured frits and confetti she uses in her work.
Midge worked out how to achieve a bold, expressive quality to her tracelines pretty quickly, then went on to tackle her main objective: painting faces to match. I worked one-on-one with her, explaining methods for extracting the visual information required to make stained glass portraits, and breaking it down into stages. Frustration, perseverence, and a supportive environment all played a part as Midge discovered a style and method that felt right for her. This involved laying a fine (almost invisible) matte over her tracelines to create a ‘toothed’ surface, then applying bold wet modeled mattes in a strong, confident manner.
Even though Jason Middlebrook’s plank was in progress throughout, cluttering up my studio, at the week’s end it was pretty much “Mission Accomplished” all round. Excellent work and a really enjoyable week.