Monday, March 25, 2013

Painting a realistic face using Medieval Techniques

Painting a Realistic Face Using Medieval Techniques

March  25, 2013 - drawing the cartoon and doing the black tracing

I have a request to do a realistic face.   I want to do this using medieval techniques. This will be an exciting challenge for me as I have never done a real face before.  I have drawn a sketch [cartoon] from a photo. See below. 

I am going to use a white glass for her face and neck - Spectrum SP200-91W - this is a water glass that is slightly opalescent.  It has a hint of red in it when you hold it up to the light and it has a slight wave to the surface [like water has] but it is very smooth so I should be able to do the finer detailing on the shading.  Her veil will be with a less transparent white glass.  Her dress will be with a smooth cathedral blueish glass with imperfections in it. I will use a cathedral medium amber for her hair.And lastly I will use a clear with imperfections for her crown.

I mixed the black tracing paint - Reuche Best tracing black - 57R005/gum arabic and water to a smooth consistancy

I applied the black tracing paint to the lines on  the face and the crown areas that I wanted to be highlighted.

I also decided to put some black lines in the hair to provide "shadowing".

I will fire these tonight.

Yesterday I  did the black tracing and the brown shading on the veil.

Monday, January 14, 2013

"Nimbed figure" Anglo Saxon Colored Glass Window Replica

"Nimbed figure" Anglo Saxon Colored Glass Window Replica - NOTE : This is not a painted window but it seems like it would be fun to do!


January 13, 2013 - explanation of the project, pattern, picking colors
January 14, 2013 - more on the history of the window , starting the cutting and caming
January 18, 2013 - update on the cutting and caming
January 31, 2012 - finished the cutting and the caming, patina and cementing!
February 6, 2013 - all framed and finished!

This project will be to recreate an Anglo Saxon window that has been found."Fragments of unpainted coloured glass making up this figure were excavated at the Anglo Saxon sites of Monkwearmouth and Jarrow and retain their colour and translucency despite centuries of burial. This is no double due to their high soda content typical of the highly durable glasses maufactured in the Roman Tradition": Medieval Craftsmen glass painting Sarah Brown pages 8-9

"no complete windows survive from the fith and sixth centuries, although literary evidence for them is plentiful. ...In seventh century England the craft of glazing which had died out when the Romans left and so was lost to the Anglo Saxons, was reintroduced through contact with the churches of Gaul. Eddius Stephanus'life of Bishop Wilfrid describes his church in York in about 670, glazed against the wind, rain, and the passage of birds, but allowing the light to shine within, a neat description of the practical and aesthetic roles of the new material. Bede's Historia Abbatum [History of the Abbots of Monkwearmouth and Jarrow] reveals that in 675 Abbot Benedict Biscop sent to Gaul for craftsmen both to make and to glaze the windows of his monastery church at Monkwearmouth in Northumbria." Page 8

I will be doing what is called the "nimbed figure" from Wearmouth-Jarrow quarries.  "based on the shapes of some of the Jarrow quarries, rather than any recovered lead lines, Rosemary Cramp and her colleagues were, in her words, "emboldened to think" of yet another possibility, The well known conjectured scheme of unpainted quarries assemled to produce a nimbed figure in an arched frame, was the result" Vidmus issue 42


"Glass recovered from the sites [Anglo Saxon] has shown that it consists overwhelmingly of "soda lime silica glass" The alkali, soda [a sodium compound] was mixed with sand to provide the flux to facilitate melting....Although most of the glass is techlnically uncolored [actualy often pale blue or greenish owing to iron compound in the sand used in the manufacturing process] archaeologist also found blue glass of several hues together with examples of green, yellow green, greenish amber, brownish amber, reds and two colour glasses including some with trails or streaks of red, and others with a red marble like effect." Stained glass in Anglo Saxon Vidmus issue 42

"The glass found at Wearmouth and Jarrow has been shown to be cylinder or Muff  glass" Vidmus issue 42.  This is glass blown into a cylinder than cut and flattened. Based on this I have picked out a very pale green and a light blue for the main colors.  I have also picked out a purple, amber, red and yellow based on the picture above.


When I was drawing up the pattern I was surprised at how many small pieces that there are.  However I have now read that there is a possibility that some of this glass was "salvaged from Roman Tesserae" Vidmus issue 42. This would make alot of sense!


 I have made it 13" by 7" in size.  I am still looking for information on how churches where built during the Anglo Saxon era.  However common sense tells me that the windows would have been on the smaller size.


Since the colors that I have picked are so light it is very easy to see the patterns through the glass. They would have drawn the pattern on a chalked washed board.


"By contrast with the scale of glass found on the site very few lead calmes were recovored, probably due to recycling. Some glass hjstorians have suggested that H section lead networks were an eight century refinement" Vidmus issue 42. I am going  to be using 3/16" H came

As stated in Theophilus On Divers arts - I will be starting in the middle with the head.

January 18, 2013


I have been cutting and caming this piece over the last few days.   I am becoming more and more convinced that these pieces of glass were "recycled" by the Anglo Saxons from  a ruined Roman site near Wearmouth or Jarrow.  These pieces are very small and alot of  effort would have been  needed to cut each piece

On Monday I will post more about the history of Anglo Saxon window glass and on the Monastaries at Jarrow and Wearmouth.

January 31, 2012

Finishing the cutting and caming

I finally finished the cutting and  the caming.  This was ALOT of work!  I had a hard time figuring out some of the colours at the bottom as the only picture that I have was not clear on those colors other than they were not blue or green!

I soldered the front and back with 60 tin/40 lead solder and a liquid flux. Because I have worked on it so long the came has a lot of oxidation on it. I used a flux brush with stiff bristles to clean the came before soldering.

Applying the Patina

Then I cleaned the flux off using very hot water and comet granular cleaner. Once it had dried I took a soft toothbrush and black patina and covered all of the came. You need to so this before you cement as the chemicals in the cement can react to the cement and create a mess.


Next Using a two part cement I cemented the front and back applying a whiting compound to absorb some of the moisture so that the cement will set.

Using a brush, I brushed the whiting compound over the entire piece

Using a piece of wood with a sharp point, I have started to clean the edges of the inside corners of the came - taking out the extra cement

I have done the first cleaning and need to wait a day or so to do the second cleaning of any extra cement

Thoughts on framing

Because of the time and place of the original window - Anglo Saxon - 7th century - I am figuring that It would have been installed in a grey stone in the church wall..  So off to the local home supply box store to see what they have that I can make a frame out of!!!

Making the frame

Okay, I had to go to many home improvement stores looking for grey tile....not a currently popular color.  I guess that there is not a huge call for "anglo Saxon Style grey tiles for framing ".  However I did find some finally.  I built a wooden frame for the piece and then I tiled it with the grey tiles.  I wanted the arch but these tiles were impossible to cut so I did an overlay design to get the arch.  Below is the finished window and the picture that I took my inspiration from!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Storing Manna by Jan Pollack Replica Medieval Glass Painting


January 7, 2013 - explain subject matter, start experimenting with silver staining
January 8, 2013 - more on silver stain, more on Cloisters, sketch of the window
January 9, 2013 - more on silver stain, picking out the greens
January 10, 2013 - more on silver stain,
NOTE: I will be away from this project until Jan 14th 
January 13, 2013 - more silver stain, picking colors, starting cutting, starting the black tracing/shading 
January 14, 2013 - starting the shading 
January 18, 2013 - update on the shading progress 
January 31, 2012 - Update on progress, more on silver staining 
February 7, 2013 - update on progress more on silver staining
February 8, 2013 - silver stain on the blue tunic and bucket 
February 12, 2013 - Blizzard of "13, more silver stain, soldering, patina, cementing


After a wonderful trip to the Cloisters  Museum and Garden in New York City - this past weekend -

I have decided what my third medieval glass painting project will be.  I saw a stained glass panel from the church cemetery of Saint Salvator Munich Germany

There are actually two panels and below is the description and history of the panels as posted at the museum.

This is the panel that I will be replicating.  It is basically 20 inches by 20 inches

This will be a challenging and exciting piece to do!   It is complex and it also uses a paint called silver stain.  I have never used silver stain so I am looking forward to experimenting with it.


"Silver stain first appeared in the middle of the fourteenth century. It allowed artists to apply a yellow transparent color called silver stain on a clear or light colored glass, thus creating an opportunity to have two colors on one piece of glass. This method simplified cutting and glazing....silver stain is a pigment composed of silver nitrate [nitrated silver] and gamboge gum[orange to brown gum resin extracted from the Southeast Asian trees]." Art of Glass painting -  Elskus page 97

I will go more into the history of silver stain, however I want to get started with my first experiment with it.  I will be using the commercially available Reusche Amber silver stain.  Because the gum  [binding agent] is already included in the form of the gamboge gum, I only have to add water.  See below for a picture of the raw material and the material with water added.  I was a little surprised to see a discoloration - brown/blackish in color - in the paint after mixing.

I than applied the silver stain to clear modern window glass for my initial experimenting.  I have done two "slides" of color.  I will be doing several experiments using these two pieces of glass. I used an applicator brush and then a thick matting sable brush.

I put the pieces into my kiln and fired to 1200 degrees.  Tomorrow I will take them out and see what they look like!

January 8, 2013


I opened up my kiln and this is what I saw:

Fortunately I had heard that you need to wash off the gamboge gum.  I tried washing it off with my fingers and was  not coming off but my hands were turning a lovely shade of red!  I tried a green scrubbie, like the kind that you would use to scrub a dirty dish.....a little came off but not much....I finally decided to take some steel wool that I had [grade # 000].  That finally got off the reddish backing so that the pieces could show the amber color through them. 

 My thoughts on how these pieces fired.

     1) I think that I put the stain on too thickly. I have been treating it like a pigment, not a stain. A stain would be much more watery.
     2)  I have did not apply evenly as can be seen in the bottom piece above.  The amber coloring is varying in shade.  This would be good if I did it on purpose, but I was trying to make a solid amber coloring.

W.R. Lethaby's book The Artistic Crafts Series of Technical Handbooks states " yellow stain, or silver stain as some call it, is made in varoius ways from silver - chloride, sulphate and nitrate.  The stain is laid on exactly like pigment, but at the back of the glass, It does not work very smoothly, and some painters like to mix it with Venice turpentine instead of water to get rid of this defect; whichever you use, keep a separate set of tools and a separate palette for it, and always keep them clean and the stain fresh mixed. Also you should not fire it with so strong a head, and therefore, of course you should never fire pigment and stain in the same batch in the kiln; otherwise the stain will probably go much hotter in colour than you wish, or will get muddy, or will " metal" as painters call it - thatt is , get a  burnt sienna look instead of a clear yellow" page 129

My next experiment will be to put both pieces back into the kiln.The larger one with a second coat of stain the first one as is.  The smaller piece below shows a shadow that occurred when I took the picture. But it is a clear amber in color at this point with no more stain on it. I want to see if repeated firing impacts the color of the stain so I know when I should be applying it to the glass. I mixed fresh stain but still got that discolouration.

I have fired to 1200 degrees and will wait until many hours from now to open up the kiln and see what has happened.

NOTE:  I have seen several warnings about how caustic the silver stain is.  I can attest to this.  When I dripped a drop on my kitchen counter, I really did not think much of it.  I went to clean it up about 5 minutes later and it was already staining my counter and I can not get the mark out!

Below is an example from the Gathering Manna original of an area that I believe was made with silver stain.  The areas of the basket and faces were  done with silver stain as you have the yellow and another color on those pieces without a lead line.  That means that it is one piece, not two pieces put together.


This is an incredible museum.  If you enjoy any type of medieval art - glass, tapestry, embroider, metal or wood work!  It has a wonderfully collection of all of these types of items.  The brochure says that it is "devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe".  I want to say a special thanks to the woman guard who was in the room where the Manna stained glass is displayed.  I won't list a name but a big "thank you!".  And I will be back in the spring to see your gardens!


Back in medieval times they would have made a white chalk type of paste and smeared it on a wooden board.  Then they would have taken a tool with lead  - pencil/stick -and drawn their pattern for the window on that.  Because the blackboard chalk that we have in modern times is not actually chalk, but is gypsum, I can not replicate that process. Therefore I have made my pattern on a white piece of paper and taped it to a piece of plywood.  You should note that I have also drawn in some of the "trace" line templates so that when I put the cut pieces of glass over the pattern I can draw these lines on the glass.

January 9, 2013


I took the pieces out of the kiln.  The results were the following:  The piece that had no more stain added and was just fired stayed the same color.  The piece that had stain added and was refired turn darker and smoother in color.  They would have had an amber colored glass that was not silver stained. Such as the the area of the boot.  Below are two pictures of the pieces with the second firing.

I will use the lighter silver stain, which is one firing of the modern silver stain for the areas of hair, basket and heraldry at the top.


This glass appears to be a milky slight clear glass.  I do have a slightly milky clear type of glass that I could use for the sides and the other whitish areas.  However I think that it would be too milky to allow the silver stain to come through it for the banner at the top.  See pictures of the original glass below for the areas that I am talking about.

I am going to try silver stain on the clear/whitish that I have and I am going to try silver stain on a clear with alot of defects - bubbles/lines in it - that is "cloudy"
I will post the results tomorrow.


After studying blown up pictures of the green, I have decided that they are actually the same color but with shading, including using the black trace color to fill in areas. I have attached a picture from the Manna glass showing the  green that is along the bottom.It is also along the side.  I will use a green cathedral glass.

January 10, 2013

Well this is not going very well.  I put the silver stain on a frosted clear and two whitish pieces.  The results are not what I wanted.  I need to have a "white" face by "yellow [silverstain] hair on one piece.  Below shows the pieces that I did before and then after - the side the stain is on and the backside. I have noticed that on the whitish ones - the red of the stain does not want to come off and there tends to be an irridescent finish to the piece.

I currently have a pure white piece in the kiln with the silver stain on it.

NOTE: I will not be working on this piece until Jan 14.

January 13, 2013


Still having issues trying to figure out the silver stain. Below is the solid white piece after staining. At least this one has "yellow" on it.  I tired firing slower and it came out more red in color.  I contacted a website in the UK about how to do this process and they use several different oils instead of vinegar or the water that I am using as a mixer.  However I have not found references that confirm that oils would have been used in the middle ages, so I will continue to work with water.  I might try vinegar.


I have decided on an amber glass for boots and the tunic.  I do not believe these pieces to be silver stained.  Although I could come up with the amber color using silver stain over clear glass as shown above.

I have picked out a whispy white glass for the ground under their feet and for part of the curtain on the side.  It has streaks of white and clear mixed in.  I do not have the glass that is shown that is a murky white with transparent areas.  It is hard to tell if this color results from age or if it how the glass was actually made.


I have started the cutting by placing the white over pattern and tracing it as they would have done in the middle ages

I have cut and done the black tracing on some of the amber pieces.  I have also experimented with the black tracing  paint on the deeper green color that I am using.  I did not have very good results with using black tracing on the dark colours of my first project - the Red Rose -- I have figured out that I simply did not make the lines dark enough or bold enough. See below for the amber and green prior to firing. I am using Reusche best tracing black, gum arabic and water. I used a number two brush to put the tracing paint on.

January 14, 2013


I have started doing the shading with Bistre brown - Reusche , gum arabic and water..  I have applied it with a thick brush and then smoothing it with a badger hair brush.

Below is one of the amber shirts, some of the purple and some of the green with the brown shading done but not fired.

Below are some of the white pieces that have been shaded and fired in the kiln.

NOTE: over the next few days I will be doing the painting and firing of pieces and will not be updating the blog until I start doing the caming.

January 18, 2

I have made some progress on the cutting, trace lining, and shading.  I am cutting the pieces a little bit bigger than needed as depending on how many firings and at what temperature I fire at, the pieces will start rounding and loose a little mass.  When I start putting the came around the pieces, I will use my grozers to trim them down.  This tool is a pair of plyers that you use to 'nibble" small amounts of glass off the piece and has basically been the same since the middle ages.  I have put a picture of the pieces as of tonight below.  Over the weekend I will be doing more experimenting with silver stain as I need to start working on silver stained pieces.  I will also be working on the next shading  firing.  On this second shading I will be looking to make the rougher looking shading more gradual and smoother.

More on Monday January 21!

January 31, 2012

Update on cutting/painting

I have made progress on the cutting, black tracing and painting.  There is one area that I have had to change from the original.  On the bottom there are three yellow rosettes set into the green glass.  Two of those rosettes do not have a came line.  This means that the original artisan took a green piece of glass and cut two holes in middle of it. and then put the yellow pieces in.  You can see this very clearly on the original.  I do have a theory on how they might have done this.  If they heated up the glass to about liquid , than they could have used a metal tool to poke through the glass to make the hole - a type of mandrel - and removed it when the glass cooled down.  I was not able to do this so I added a came line to get the same look but did not use the same technique.  Please see picture below for the original and then for my cut pieces.

More on Silver Staining

This has become very frustrating  I am now reading alot about how some of the finishes on "modern" glass do not  allow the silver stain to react properly to it.  I have seen the silver stain wash completely off after firing proofing that some glass won't allow the stain to work. 

I have settled on using a fusable opaque white glass for the faces, hair and baskets.  I did a trial piece of the white  pouch with yellow highlights to see how it would go.  I did the black trace lines and fired it and then the brown matting and fired it.  Then applied the silver stain on the frontside and fired it.  It is noted that usually the silver stain was applied on the back side however if the glass was opaque than they put it on the side with the painting.  After firing, I washed the reddish backing of the silver stain and the area under it was yellowish...not the striking yellow that I would have liked but yellow all the same.  See the sequence of pictures below

I have done the black tracing and the brown matting on the face and basket of the lower figure

I am going to take the plunge and paint on the silver stain and fire it and see what happens!!

Now to fire them and see how they come out!

February 7, 2013

More on Silver Stain

I am still having a very hard time with the silver stain on white opaque glass.  No two batches seem to come out the same and I still am getting more red than yellow after firing!

Unfortunately the firing above again was more reddish than yellow.

So I did another one. See results below on the new pieces that I made

Again more red than yellow on the opaque white - the face and basket but the sword tip which is on a white that has some clear is actually mostly yellow.  I have done more research on silver stain and it really seems that alot of modern glass is not compatible with silver stain and water. I am also wondering if the stain is reactting to the brown shading that I have done on these pcs as the red coloring is mostly on the area that the brown shading is.

I need to get this panel built for a contest February 16th so I have decided to use the least red of the face and the basket. 

Update on progress

I have done the corner with the yellow rosettes inset in the greenery; but making a new came line. The first picture below is the original piece the second is my piece

I have put in the "reddish" face

I have built up the piece as far as the blue tunic and yellow basket

More on silver stain

I will now attempt to do the green trim on the blue tunic with silver stain.  The tunic is all one piece but the bottom has green trim from silver stain applied on the back.  Below is the picture from the original to show you this.

I  have experimented using the silver stain with the glass that I have used for the tunic and have achieved a greenish color.

Below is the tunic piece before shading.  I will be applying the silver stain to the backside opposite the shading because the piece is transparent so the shading should not impact the coloring

I do not know what the letters stand for on his tunic but will do some research to try to figure it out.

I will also be doing  the yellow on the basket. Below is the original and then my basket with the shading but no stain yet. Again I will be applying the stain to the backside as this is transparent glass.

February 8, 2013

Silver staining of blue tunic and bucket

The bucket came out of the kiln and I washed off the silver stain. results below

I also did silver stain on the edge of the blue tunic to turn it green and to do the green highlights on the sword

We have a blizzard watch right now where I live on Cape Cod Massachusetts - so I should be stranded at home tomorrow.  I am hoping to finish the setting of the glass pcs into the came tomorrow and maybe the cementing of it.

February 12, 2013

Blizzard of '13

Okay....on Friday  February 8th -- a blizzard blew into New England and clobbered Cape Cod....yes I was stranded at home...however the electricity went out at 8pm on Friday night.  This makes it impossible to do most of my glasswork.  Not to mention that it got down to about 30F in my house...very cold...fingers don't work at that temperature!

Finally on Sunday night at about of my friends brought a generator over for me to use....the "real" electricity came back 3 hours later...figures!

Fortunately I had been doing many firings each day.  So I was about set on Monday to work on putting it together.  I need this piece done for a contest on Saturday the 16th.

More on Silver stain

I fired more faces - I still get a red hue but I am going to use them

I also did the clear banner at the top.  Silver stain takes well to the clear.  You put the black tracing lines on the front and fire.  Then you paint the silver stain on the backside and fire that. See below to see how they came out.

Since Monday AM I have been working steadily to get the pieces into the came.  I finally finished and below is the piece ready to be soldered.

I soldered the front:

Then soldered the back:

I cleaned the pice and then applied Patina.  This tuns the came to a black color.  I have not found any documentation that this was used in period but it gives the piece an "older " look.  Overtime the came will oxidize and turn black on its own.

Now the piece is ready for cementing.  I mixed the two part cement and applied it to the front:

Than I took a cement brush and pushed the cement under the came to make a good seal

A powder called whiting is used to start absorbing moisture and help to set the cement

The whiting is brushed off and I used a bamboo stick to start removing the excess cement around the came and glass pieces

I repeated this process on the backside.

Finally the finished product ready to be framed!