Remember that Color Line enamel glass paint that I beta-tested for Bullseye awhile back? This, apparently, is what Color Line can do in the hands of someone who knows how to use it.
(IOW, someone other than yours truly)
Here’s the story on that: Last weekend my friend Carla and I hit up the Oregon Glass Guild’s Open Studios tour, but when it ended at 4:00 we still had major glass jones, and the Bullseye Resource Center was right down the street. So we walked in, Carla did some shopping, and that’s when I spotted a small portrait of a cynical man, fired with Color Line enamels, sitting by the cash register.
The two mosaic squares with all the numbered percentages is my first sample piece. Bit of a difference, eh? 😉
Bullseye had given me a couple hundred bucks worth of Color Line enamels (red, blue, black and white) and sheet glass to test. Now, I am (a) not a painter, and (b) certainly not an enamel-on-glass painter.
And (c), the instructions supplied by the Color Line manufacturer, Swiss-based Creative Glass MHS AG, were sparse to the point of cryptic. Given that this stuff was in the hands of an enamels novice, that was about like teaching someone how to do brain surgery by saying, “Get a scalpel, find the head (hint: it’s above the eyes), and start cutting. When you see the brain, repair it and sew back up. Good luck!”
I suspect that Bullseye and other customers have requested a wee bit more info, because when I checked today I found more than before. In particular, this PDF was useful. Possibly it’s been there all along, but if so, it wasn’t very findable.
Anyway, when I saw the above portrait, Sara (Sarah?) asked if I wanted to meet the fellow who painted it (uhm…does Bullseye call its glass “Tested Compatible?”). She smiled and led me around to Dustin, putting the final touches on another, much larger portrait before slipping it into the kiln.
That’s Dustin Sherron, and his work is certainly worth. Hit up his website for an excellent series of miniature portraits. They remind me of the way portrait artists used to make a living before photography: Painting “miniatures,” or locket-sized keepsake portraits of loved ones. He also sculpts, so there’s clearly quite a bit going on here.
I’ve seen Dustin around the Bullseye Resource Center and chatted with him before, even seen some of his photography in a blogpost somewhere, yet somehow never really connected the dots until last weekend.
This isn’t the first time my powers of deductive reasoning missed the mark.* It’s not even the first time I’ve underestimated a BE Resource Center employee. The BERC folk who sell glass or teach you how to cut and fuse it are quite likely also exceptional artists in their own right. Take, for example…
Drat. Promised myself that I’d stop meandering in these posts and stick to the point. Back to the subject…
Dustin’s current project was imporessive. The lady he’s portraying is Janet, one of my favorite long-time Bullseye employees.
What impressed me about this hunk of painted glass is that, besides his obvious talent at capturing the likeness, Dustin’s brush strokes were doing a great job of capturing personality in his own voice…in unfired enamel.
Not sure how to explain that, exactly, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t show up in the a low-res web image.
It takes a fair amount of control to do that, but what was kinda blowing me away was that I wasn’t looking at brush strokes in a painting. I was looking at the interim stage of enamel on glass.
Obviously, the first step in exploiting Color Line enamels has less to do with 99% perspiration or 1% inspiration, and more to do with the part of the equation that Edison left entirely out of his aphorism: Talent.
Which lets me out. Somebody wants to invent cold-sculptable glass, Bullseye, I’m your lady.
Dustin obligingly walked me through a few of his processes; he’d read my Color Line blogpost, so we compared notes. “You did some capping of enamels, I saw, and it did really well,” he said. (Apparently people don’t recommend capping enamels, so it was interesting that in my tests capping actually seemed to intensify color.)
“The sgraffito did well, too, and I’m going to try that.”
The red equation
He, too, had experienced my issues with fugitive reds (well, “fugitive” probably isn’t the right term since that usually means a color that fades with light or over time, and here I’m talking about a color that just simply vaporizes with the application of too much heat).
Burnout, or whatever you want to call it, is pretty common in just about any media that applies heat to something red. In my tests, Color Line Red (#011) pretty much vanished completely, but I was firing at what appeared to be their recommended, full-flat-fuse firing temps.
Dustin, on the other hand, keeps his firing temperatures much lower, in the 1370-1380F range. “You just can’t take the reds much higher than that,” he said, shaking his head.
“You also need to vent the kiln to allow the binders in the enamels to burn out,” he pointed out, saying that may have been another cause of some of my issues. “The instructions they gave originally didn’t really mention that. I’ve found it makes a difference.”
The “mixability” of the enamels varies with the colors, apparently. Red is less cooperative, he’s found, but the white and black mix just like paint and he’s having great luck using them to control values.
Instead of mixing with Red, though, he uses Coral (#126), and it’s becoming the basis for fleshtones in portraits. Dustin says it overcomes the red-burns-out issue, but the coral is also a great base for flesh tones. “This color helps achieve a warm glowing skin tone.”
Pre-fired colors aren’t necessarily a good indicator of what you’re going to get once the work has been fired. “That one portrait, the first one I did, before it was fired the skin looked really green,” he said, “If you’re using a piece of glass as a palette you can fire it and use it as a color way guide, then you get an idea as to what the color mix will do.”
Janet’s portrait nearly filled the shelf–it’s on a piece of either Pimento Red or Tomato Red (I get them mixed up, having never been a Bullseye employee and therefore not subject to the look-at-this-glass-and-instantly-tell-me-its-stock-number test. So I’ll simply say it’s an opaque orange-red).
Pre-drying Color Line?
I trailed behind Dustin as he carefully carried it over to the kiln–a Paragon GL24–and set it inside. “Don’t you let the enamels dry thoroughly first before you fire?”
I’d been pretty careful about that during my tests, pre-drying being one of the few clear instructions on the Color Line website.
“Normally, yes,” said Dustin, “But typically I build the drying cycle into my schedule, so it doesn’t really matter. If you’re doing really thick applications you can just hold at 200F, like I’m doing with this portrait, for a couple of hours. It’s right below the boiling temperature of water, so that gives it plenty of time to dry.”
“So I go up at 250 to 200, hold 2 hours, then 300 up to 1000,” he explained, “Then I speed it up, maybe 600 degrees, just to 1380F, see what happens there. I don’t need to hold it too long at that process, just like 8 or 10 minutes. I’ll over-anneal because it’s getting thicker now, then a normal schedule down.”
The Resource Center was getting ready to close and these guys wanted to get home to their dinners, so I stifled the hundred or so questions I had left, thanked Dustin, and headed back around to the store section.
On the way I passed the Color Line display and saw that coral color that Dustin mentioned, maybe a lilac and a turquoise…nope. I’ve got enough to test with until I learn more.
*No, I think the first time was when I couldn’t figure out why my scuba diving partners were so erratic, one minute diving like risk-crazed dolphins, the next so lethargic I practically had to drag them into the boat. I suggested they cut back on the caffeine, to no avail.
Another teammate took pity (or possibly decided he couldn’t stand it any longer), and finally took me aside for some gentle hints. He suggested I consider (a) why their energy boosts always came right after a trip to the ship’s head (bathroom), from which they emerged, (b) with traces of white powder under their noses, (c) why nobody else would dive with them, and (d) why the rest of the dive team kept offering to get me a can of COKE before each dive, when they knew I couldn’t stand cola drinks.
Oh. Well, gosh, guys, you don’t have to hit me over the head…