Glass Painting, Part Two

Last time I talked a bit about how we can add dimension to our pieces by including some stainer color shadowing, shading and highlighting to some of our pattern pieces. Today I’d like to go into a bit more detail and expand on our glass painting options.

I wrote a bit about the use of stainer colors as we were focusing on highlights, shading and shadowing. Expanding a little today we can include two other forms of medium: silver stains and transparent enamels.

Silver stain is a pigment-like substance which actually changes the nature of the glass its being applied to. It’s matted or brushed onto the reverse side of the glass and then brushed away after firing, leaving the glass permanently recolored a somewhat limited variety of pretty ambers, yellows or oranges. The stained color you see isn’t a layer of pigment, after firing it actually becomes part of the glass, similar to what happens when you patina a copper foiled or leaded piece. It’s thought that the term “stained glass” originally comes from the silver-staining of glass.

Finally, transparent enamels provide a welcome addition to our color palette. Bright, colorful and layerable, transparent enamels provide color options and flexibility which had been previously unattainable. Subtle changes in hue and/or shade  plus varying degrees of vibrance or saturation can be accomplished through the use of transparent enamels.

Regardless of the medium, the basic processes are the same – outline, matte and remove. Layer by layer, color by color. Techniques can be developed, skills can be honed but the processes themselves are straightforward and easy to learn. Glass painting is a particularly satisfying  artform, and one we don’t see nearly enough of.

I want to wrap up today with one final little bit. It’s about color. I think what artists were able to do during the formative years of glass painting is simply astounding.  I hope you find the next couple of paragraphs interesting.

Glass painting is an old artform. Really old. I think that might be part of its appeal. Why I mention the age of the artform is that way back then the artists had a limited color pallet to select from. Pigments were originally created by grinding up the colored minerals found in the earth. Most of the minerals were fairly dark. Lighter colors, as in found in flower blossoms wouldn’t hold up on the glass – they would fade. Over time we’ve figured out how to better define and capture colors and then apply them to the things we enjoy, like glass. Notice the color wheel to the left. Regardless of the color or value you select, it will shade darker as you move toward the center of the wheel, and lighter as you move outward. It’s kind of like looking at a timeline or history of color – older (darker) colors bunched together toward the center and brighter, more vibrant colors radiating out as you move through time.

You might find the history of color fascinating. For those of you interested in more, please let me refer you to what’s probably recognized as  the seminal work in the field: From the Gutenberg Project – The Creation of Color in Eighteenth Century Europe by Sarah Lowengard. A couple of breezier (but still very good) articles include The Wonderful Color Wheel found at PrintMag and the History of the Color Wheel found at Colour Lovers.

Glass painting in it’s earliest form and the discovery and development of sturdy, stable colored pigments are intertwined; perhaps an interesting technique you may like to explore in the near future.