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Lesson 5

Practicing Your Designs on Paper

Gael Stirler

click to see close-up of Jessica Plate
Jessica Plate

Geometric Borders:

Before painting a complicated geometric border like this one on the Jessica Plate I like to try out several designs to see which ones look good together and to decide on a color scheme. I find that it is also helpful to practice the designs on a piece paper to work out the proportions and hand movements. You can create a batch of samplers for future referance this way, too.

Sun in Splendor

For the first project, a Sun in Splendor, begin by taping a piece of paper (I use cheap, sketchpad paper) to your banding wheel and cut off the excess paper. Using india ink and a thin banding brush, paint two lines 1/6th of an inch apart, leave a wide border, then paint two more narrow lines. Since this is just practice, don't worry if your circles aren't perfect. Just practice banding for a while until you feel confident and then put a fresh piece of paper on the wheel and start over.

When you have your bands done it is time to divide the border into equal parts and draw a grid in pencil. Handy tool: Here are two circles divided evenly into 12 sections and 16 sections that you can print and cut out to use. For the sun I used 12 sections. Lay the paper protractor on top of the paper on the wheel (or on your plate when you are working on a piece of pottery) and center it within the border. Mark the ends of each spoke lightly with a No. 2 pencil and extend the line out to the edge of the border. Next rotate the protractor until the spokes are halfway between the lines you just drew. Using the protractor as a guide, draw a line in each section to divide it in half so that you wind up with 24 sections. Now band a pencil line in the center of your border. This will create a grid to build your design on. For some other borders you will need 2 or 3 pencil bands but the sun design only takes one.
Step 1 Step 1: We are going to begin our first "S" curve. Paint a curved line from point A to point B on the grid. The shape of the curve should be similar to a quarter circle.
Step 2 Step 2: Draw a more deeply curved line from point B to C on the outer edge of the border. This curve should be like a shallow half circle. Put a dot for point E centered between B and F.
Step 3 Step 3: Paint an "S"-shaped curved line from point D through point E then gracefully curve back and finish at point C. Make flames in the same manner all around the border
Step 4 Step 4: Paint a curved line from point F to point C. Continue all the way around the border finishing each flame.
Step 5 Step 5: Beginning at point E, paint a curved line through point F and end at point G which is about the middle of the A-B line.
Step 6 Step 6:"Suns in Splendor" usually had both curved and straight flames. I believe it was to indicate the balance of feminine and masculine engery. To make the straight flames, paint a dot in the middle of the grid at point H. Paint straight lines from point F to H and from B to H. Sometimes I paint narrower straight flames, about half this width.
Step 7 Step 7: Paint the background. When I paint plates, I use 3 coats of Cobalt Blue, Navy Blue or Black for the background so it is very dark and opaque. When I paint the second coat of glaze on the background I have have difficulty telling if I have completely covered the area or not. So here is what I do. I paint the first coat in a glaze color like Navy which looks blue in its raw state. Then I paint the second coat in Cobalt Blue because it appears lavender in its raw state but fires to an intense dark blue. I let that dry and finish the last coat with Navy Blue. Since you will be doing a practice border, you only need to paint the background with one coat of india ink or watercolors.
Step 8 Step 8:Thin the india ink to a gray with a little water and paint shadows on the flames to give them some dimension. Test your thin ink on a piece of paper towel before applying it to the border to make sure that it is gray first.
Step 9 Step 9: Now you have finished the basic sun. This is a good place to stop and make a few photocopies. Test out several color schemes using crayons, colored pencils or wartercolor. Try different designs in the center.
Step 10 Step 10: If you want to do a Sun in Splendor, paint a face like this one in the center.

Painting pottery The technique for painting this design on prepared bisque is similar. Instead of india ink you will use Zaffer (cobalt oxide powder) mixed with water to an inky consistancy. It will be black in its raw state and intense blue after the kiln. If you prefer, you can use black glaze but it is harder to work with and is very easy to smudge.

Homework: Now you have the basics of making borders on a grid. Look at this detail of the border of the Jessica Plate. See if you can breakdown the design of the outer border into easy steps and repeat them on a grid. There are three borders in the design. I will cover the others in the following lessons.

Go to Lesson 6: More Geometric Borders. | Go back to Lesson 4: Ship Bowl Worksheets . | Visit Gallery 1.

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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 15:37:47 CDT