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.

colorline1-testpanelresultI was a bit blown away by it, especially given my experiences with Color Line. Not only that, it was done by a Bullseye RC employee, his first real sample piece.

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 seeing. 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 of talent stuffed into one man.

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 impressive: 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 an oil 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 what Edison forgot in that aphorism: Talent.

Uhm… since I have the drawing ability of a rock, I guess glass enamels and I will never be friends. Now, if somebody wants to invent cold-sculptable glass, Bullseye, I’m your lady.

bullseye-dustin-janetcloseupDustin 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, mildly impressed.

Apparently people don’t recommend capping enamels, so he thought 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. The color vanishes, or turns brownish (we call that, “going liver-y”), or goes opaque, or fades to a dull mauvey-pinky color reminiscent of a sick dog’s gums. Red is such a difficult color in glass that glass companies’ fortunes were made if they could produce that intense, glowing, transparent red.

Heck, I can’t even keep red HAIR color for more than a week.

In my tests, Color Line Red (#011) pretty much vanished completely. I was firing at what appeared to be the manufacturer’s 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 mention that. I’ve found it makes a difference.”

bullseye-dustin-paintmixing“I did some color way testing,” he added, “I did yellow and blue, got a green, mixed it with white to get values, and was very happy with the results.”

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.”

bullseye-dustin-small portraitPre-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., thinking I caught him in an enameling faux pas. “Hey, don’t you let the enamels dry thoroughly first before you fire?”

That was one thing the Color Line website HAD been clear on: Pre-dry your enamels before they get anywhere near a kiln. So I’d been pretty careful about that during my tests.

“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.”

“I go up at 250 to 200, hold 2 hours, then 300dph up to 1000,” he explained, “Then I speed it up, maybe 600 degrees, just to 1380F, and 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 my hundred or so remaining questions, thanked Dustin profusely, 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 about enameling.


*No, I think the first time someone mentioned my unawareness was when I mentioned to my scuba diving team how odd it was that a couple of our divers were so erratic. One minute they were plumbing the depths like risk-crazed dolphins, the next so lethargic I practically had to drag them into the boat. I’d suggested they cut back on the caffeine, and they just giggled. Giggled?

The divemaster took pity on me (or possibly decided he couldn’t stand it any longer), and took me into the hold for a “talk.” “Have you ever,” he said gently, “noticed that (a) their energy boosts always come right they exist the head (bathroom), (b) with traces of white powder under their noses, (c) which is why nobody but you will dive with them, and (d) why your teammates keep asking if you want a can of COKE when you propose going on a dive with them, when everyone knows that you can’t stand colas? Are you familiar with something called cocaine?” 

Oh. Well, gosh, guys, you don’t have to hit me over the head…