Glasspainting complete!

Thanks to Rev Sharon Gracen and Sandy Baldwin from Trinity Episcopal for bringing such enthusiasm to my studio on Wednesday as I finalized the glasspainting. Now a new set of skills come into play as I start leading up… each of these 1,200-odd pieces of hand-painted glass need to be fixed together to create a single 10.5ft stained glass window.

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No more amateur videos for now, instead watch (or re-watch) Menfolk Part 2 to see how I remove glass from the easel, chip off beeswax, fire the kiln and walk the dog!

Above, I’ve started to assemble the first panel. I’m so happy to be here!

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Glasspainting at the easel (videos)

IMG_2609As promised,  here’s a little insight into my wet matting technique. Propylene glycol allows the glasspaint to remain wet (“open”) for much longer than a traditional mix, so I can create graduated shadows while the paint is still wet. I can also leave some areas of the glass completely clear to maintain the sparkle. Watch me apply and manipulate a wet matter in real time in this two minute video  Glass Painting at the Easel Part 1 and brush back the dry matte to remove highlights in Glasspainting at the Easel Part 2 (2.5 mins).

I am painting glass that has been previously painted, fired and fixed onto clear glass easel plates with a mixture of beeswax and rosin (how this is done). Working at the easel with my painted glass up against natural light (not on a light table) allows me to manipulate the transparency/opacity of each piece, add final shadows, and see the window as a whole.

Easel painting prep

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Today I fixed all the little pieces of painted glass back onto clear glass easel plates with a mixture of beeswax and rosin ready for final glasspainting up against the daylight. This is where I add any final shading and adjust transparency where needed.

We made two very quick videos of the process for all those stained glass technique junkies….
waxing up a panel (68 seconds) and
putting the glass back onto the easel (22 seconds)

Here’s another panel, partly laid out on a glass easel plate prior to waxing up.

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I have to end with a more interesting photo because I never know whether Facebook will choose my first or my last photo to post to my Page. If there’s anyone out there who can tell me how to control this please do!

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Another milestone…

Glasspainting on the lightbox is now complete. Hurrah! Here’s one of the last panels I finished, with the little girl in her blue dress. You can check back and see some photos of her at an earlier stage with just tracelines and one layer of matte.
Connie, ready to lead up

Watch me painting roses!

Moving ahead on the amateur video front: Painting rugosa roses in real time.

Since I do not know how to edit my movie I’m posting still photos too, starting with a camera’s eye view of my work space with cartoon in the background (full-size drawing) and dozens of pieces of partially painted glass on the light table.

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If I switch the overhead light on and turn off the light table you can see my tools, paint and transparent-bottomed tray full of glass. Notice also the real rose, plucked from my garden this afternoon, in a vase beside my glasspaint.

Next, the video….

I am adding a second layer of paint to create a soft texture and some modeling to the roses. This layer goes on top of the first layer of sumi-esque, calligraphic painting (the tracelines), painted and fired a few weeks back.

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Notice that the roses on the right have only tracelines (the Fred Flintstone phase). The roses on the left have a second layer as well.

The thimbleberry flowers can also be seen at both stages, with tracelines only on the spray at the bottom and two layers of paint on the upper spray of flowers. These will become much, much brighter before they go in the kiln though. I will brush back (remove) the unfired glasspaint to reveal highlights on the petals.

In the last photo you can see the second layer of glasspainting in detail. The larger piece of pink glass I just painted on the video is right in the middle.

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Mary to the hair salon, Joseph gets a facelift!

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The window is still 1,200 little pieces of painted glass lying on transparent bottomed trays on my light tables. It is progressing slowly and surely toward completion. My current work consists of a lot of running up and down stairs to the loft area of my studio to review my glasspainting from a distance.

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Looking down at the work from above is crucial for assessing how well the modeling is working. It also mimics a viewing angle from the inside the church.

Stained glass people of old used all sorts of tricks to do this. Looking through the wrong end of opera glasses, crucially placed mirrors, standing on a stepladder…. The camera (or even your cell phone) helps a lot too, especially if you view your work at different times of day and in different lighting conditions.

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Here’s Joseph during a facelift, and some of the steps it took to get him there.
1) the glass was masked and sandblasted to create a white area for his undershirt, then firepolished in the kiln.
2) I painted his features as a black line drawing (the ‘traceline’).
3) textured his hair and beard.
4) covered the entire piece of glass with a thin layer of smooth even brown glasspaint (the ‘matte’) and stippled it while wet to create a manly texture (!).

Now, here’s the ‘facelift’!
5a) in the first photo I’ve started to remove the matte to create highlights in his hair and brighten one side of his face.
5b) in the second photo, an hour or so later, you can see the form of his face beginning to emerge.
6) in the third photo I’ve textured Joseph’s undershirt and popped him back in place for a review. Another run upstairs to the loft!

Now, check out Mary before and after her visit to the hair salon.

Note a couple of areas where I’ve laid on mattes and not yet removed them. On the left, Mary’s stole is still dark. On the right, I’ve brushed it back to create highlights.

In the left photo, baby’s blanket has been textured and lightly matted . In the right it’s dark where I have laid on the matte and picked out just a few of the brightest areas. There’s a lot more to be removed (more brightness to be revealed). This is the classic ‘painting with light’ of stained glass.

Visually, the blanket will create a bright starry area around Jesus, the focus of the overall composition. When I’ve finished, the white and pale amber glass will be sparkly once again.

These are the same glasses used in the nativity star at the top of the window.

Painting people; first matte on flesh

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Here’s who I spent my day with today, and what I’ve been doing  – removing mattes (applied yesterday) to all the faces, hands, knees and bumps-a-daisy, from baby to grandfather.

Matting is the application of a thin layer of glasspaint with a flat squirrel hair brush that is immediately ‘badgered’ into a smooth, even coat. The glasspainters most expensive brush, a ‘badger blender‘ is hand-made from perfectly set badger hair.

Here’s a sequence showing how I gradually ‘take back’ the matte (remove the smooth unfired layer of glasspaint, tiny areas at a time) to create the modeling.


It takes great care to remove precisely what I want and achieve an even texture. The first layer of matte always looks a little clutzy and imperfect because it’s the most challenging to work with. When it’s fired on to the glass it creates a ‘toothed’ (slightly rough) texture that subsequent layers cling to. This makes it easier to achieve smoother, more precise effects.

Here’s my little north African boy. I love him!
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And finally here’s Constanza again in all her (first matted) glory!

Learn to paint figures in stained glass with Debors Coombs

Little Constanza, first matte applied and (almost) ready to fire

Roses & thimbleberries

I've finally finished all the tracing. Hurrah!

I’ve finally finished all the tracing. Hurrah!

Tracelines on the roses and thimbleberries… just finished today.

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Stained glass apple blossom for Open Studio

Almost ready for Open Studio! Everyone is welcome to come and see work-in-progress on my stained glass window for Trinity Episcopal Church in Branford CT. Today I’ve been painting branches of apple blossom onto little pieces of pale pink glass.

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How to paint delicate apple blossoms? I use an uncontrollably trembling paintbrush, then smudge the petals with my fingers.

Here you can see the first layer of glasspaint photographed on a light table. Note that there are white spaces where the lead will go when the window is fabricated. Tomorrow I will add more paint to the flowers, kiln-fire the glass for the second time, and fix the pieces onto my stained glass easel for viewing up against daylight. Come and critique my work-in-progress!