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Lesson 3-a

Painting a Palmetto Plate with Heraldic Design

Gael Stirler


click to see close-up of Palmetto PlateThe palmetto pattern is a common Mediterranian motif. It represents a frond of a palm tree or a fan of palm fronds seen from a distance. This pattern has been in constant use as a decorative border from ancient Egyptian times to the present. Italians were especially fond of it. There are many different variations. The example in the lesson repeats palmetto/palmetto/palmetto. The palmetto pattern on the plate repeats palmetto/two-horn cornucopia/palmetto/two-horn cornucopia, etc. The scrolls at the bottom of the palmetto can vary as well. Look to classic architecture and books on Medieval ornament for ideas. I based this lesson on this bowl from the National Gallery of Art by the Workshop of Maestro Giorgio Andreoli 1525/1528 A.D.

Try painting the palmetto pattern in different colors and different variations on a sampler tile before painting the plate. Try it with a Deep Rose or Dark Butternut background instead of Cobalt Blue or leave the background white. You can follow this color scheme or choose one of your variations for this project.

Begin with a greenware plate about 10" in diameter with a small rim. Trim all edges and burrs and make sure that its surface is smooth. Have it fired to bisque. Make sure your hands are clean and free of oil before handling the bisque. Wipe off the dust with a coffee filter or other oil-free, lint-free cloth. Apply three coats of Opaque White Satin Glaze letting the glaze dry between coats for a couple hours.

When completely dry mark the outer border (A) about 3/4 inch from the edge using a compass or a banding wheel and a pencil. This edge will be painted in saffron and tangerine. Leave 1/4 inch white space and mark the top edge of the palmetto border(b). Make a guideline(C) about 1 and 1/2 inches from (B) for the top of the trunks. Do not paint this line since it is only going to be used as a guide. Make another circle(D) 3/4 inch from the guideline(C) for the bottom of the palmetto trunks. Make another circle(E) 1/8 to 1/4 inch in from that to define the edge of the center section where the heraldry will be painted.

Divide the circle by six using a protractor (30 degrees). Divide each section again to give you 12 sections total. If you are going to do the two-horn cornucopia variation, use only 8 sections (45 degrees). Here are two circles divided evenly into 12 sections and 16 sections that you can print and cut out to use.


Lesson 3 Palmetto Border

Step 1 Step 1: Divide the border into 12 equal sections and draw guidelines with a pencil. Draw a horizontal guideline 3/4 inch from the bottom of the border.
Step 2 Step 2: With a pale color like yellow or taupe paint a halo to define the shape of the palmetto. Keep the shape symmetrical on both sides of the center lines and don't make the halos too wide or they will encroach on each other. Try to keep all of the halos the same size and shape. If you have a lot of room between halos, you can put cornucopias between the palmettos.
Step 3 Step 3: With Tangerine Orange and a large round brush paint seven dots on the halo. Then add tails to the dots that connect them to the center in the manner depicted. Repeat for all the motifs. When they are dry add a second coat of Butternut over the Tangerine to give it depth and intensity.
Step 4 Step 4: Paint a capital "T" under each palmetto for the tree trunk with Bright Caribean or other turquoise color. Round the edges to make it look more like a golf tee.
Step 5 Step 5: With a pencil draw small circles for guidelines under the palmetto on either side of the trunk.
Step 6 Step 6: With the same turquoise color put a dot in the center of each circle. Put a second coat of turquoise on the trunk and the dots when dry. With Butternut on a small brush paint slanting lines between each circle. Alternate between left and right slanting lines. Can you spot the mistake I made on my plate?
Step 7 Step 7: Paint the curls on the ends of each slant staying inside your guidelines and ending on the big dot. Add a leaf to each curl as shown.
Step 8 Step 8: Paint a connector linking the curls together around the trunks with two coats of Butternut. Add dots between the palmettos in Butternut, too. Outline the entire design in cobalt blue or black.
Step 9 Step 9: With Deep Scarlett add hatch marks to each palm frond and connector. You can stop at this point if you want a white background.
Step 10 Step 10: Fill in the background with Duncan Envisions Cobalt Blue Glaze. Use a small brush to get into the small areas around the curls and the fronds. Use a larger brush for the open areas. When dry add a generous second coat for a deep even blue background.

You can stop here and have the plate fired without any heraldry in the center if you like that look. For a really stunning platter go to the next part of the lesson.


Go to Lesson 3-b: Heraldy and landscape | Return to Lesson 2: Tiles

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© 2002-2004Gael Stirler, Inc. 1-520-721-8346
Unless otherwise noted all art is the work of Gael Stirler.
AKA Mistress Dairine mor o' hUigin, OL

This page was last updated Monday, 16-Mar-2009 15:36:22 CDT