Glass Art with Julia Kellaway / Sketching & Painting On Glass

So it is time for me to move on to painting.

When I emerge from the workshop with my design a mass of shiny different coloured glass, it reminds me of a kaleidoscope I had when I was young. It is my not quite blank canvas awaiting the detail I envisaged in my original drawing, which at this point, seems a distant memory!

I work from sketches and photographs for ideas and have a small pocket camera that I take everywhere with me. To the casual observer my photos can seem a bit pointless – what on earth did she want to take a picture of THAT for? But I find that even the most insignificant thing can be inspiring, and keep snapping away. So when you see what will hopefully be my exhibition panel, yes I did take the pictures of those horses and foals on Bodmin moor.

Before I returned to stained glass, many, many years after taking an adult education evening course, I painted on canvas and paper.  I still do, but just not very often, and when I do, I prefer using something with a bit of substance, like acrylics or plant-based oils. It suits my style – messy! Using thin paint like watercolours worries me for some reason, so if I use them, I make the paint as dry as possible.

Imagine then, my dismay then, when on my stained glass painting course, I discovered the consistency of glass paint is something similar to watercolours! Here I am prepared to confess that my initial efforts were a bit primitive and I began to wonder if I hadn’t wandered onto the wrong course by mistake. However, after some effort, I got my act together and by the end of my time began to enjoy myself immensely.

Also somewhat worrisome was my discovery that glass paint comes in powder form, contains some nasty things, including lead, and carries a weighty health warning to boot. But I didn’t let that little nugget put me off either. So when I mix my paint, I do so with care, and when I begin, I put on some gloves. As a rule I detest wearing gloves while working, but when dealing with glass paint, patinas and polish, I make an exception. Please don’t let this put you off, as, once fired, the paint is safe to handle – not food safe, think decorative instead.

Paint thoroughly mixed up, I assemble my tools.  I flip a switch and my light-box splutters to life, a small amount of paint goes onto a glass slab, and each piece of glass is cleaned thoroughly. The light box is there for any tracing that needs to be done, and to illuminate the glass while working, and the paint needs to be re-mixed before each application as it separates easily, hence the glass slab. I fill my brush and draw a line to test the consistency. I am ready to begin.

As to method, traditionally, glass paint is fired twice, once to fix the fine line work, and then again after texture and form have been applied. The reason for this is that it dries quickly and an image can spoil if worked after a certain point. However, I favour a single firing, which means that I when I begin, I work quickly on the whole piece of glass, tracing lines and adding stippling and texture as I go. I find this makes my painting more fluid and suits the natural subject matter I prefer.

I become so engrossed in my work that I only take a break when I begin to feel tired, or another cuppa beckons. At the end of the day, I derive great satisfaction from closing the kin lid over a fully loaded shelf of painted glass, setting the timer and pressing the ‘On’ button. Then I’m off to walk the dog, and afterwards settle down with a well-earned glass of wine.

I wake the next morning with a sense of anticipation, waiting for the moment when I open the kiln and find out whether my efforts have been a success.