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Saturday, October 5, 2013

How to Reverse Glass Paint

Risa StarGazer - Reverse Glass Painting

Seven years ago, while instructing at a glass academy, I was introduced to glass painting and fell in love with the technique. The rich jewel enamel paints glowed under the clear glass, creating a magical effect I am still currently exploring as my style continues to evolve.

The history of glass painting goes back hundreds of years to China and India. In mid century America and europe, tiny portraits of dogs, people, landscapes were often reverse painted on glass or carved clear quartz (intaglio) and worn as brooches, depicting the culture, people and times of the country.

Today in 'modern times' I am often asked how I do the ancient fine art of reverse glass painting. People think it's hard - but not really :) Like everything else, it just takes practice.
Glass or clear plexiglass can be used. Acrylic paints or enamel paints are good for this.
Often seen as "Acrylic reverse painting" if the acrylics are used and often with plexiglass.
I love the look of glass, so prefer enamels. They tend to be more durable.

Here is a short "How To" for those curious about the reverse glass painting technique which I use for rich, jewel colored glass paintings. At first glance painting backwards seems daunting, but actually it's easier to get into the rhythm than expected.

Materials you will need:
One piece of glass or clear plexiglass
Peebo enamel paints or Folk Art enamel paints (Dick Blick, Michaels, Jo-Ann carry these)
Few small round brushes ranging small, medium, large.
One liner brush for details
One larger square (chisel) brush for painting larger areas.

Step One: Make your drawing of your subject, keeping the first few projects simple to build your skills and technique. Use white paper and remember that any writing needs to be mirror imaged. Easy to do by writing on tracing paper and flipping it over to a backwards view.
Keep in mind that the finished painting will be the Opposite of your drawing.

Step 1

Step2: Start by painting in all the small details that will be in front. Eyes, leaves, stars. 
Remember you are going Front to Back - details first. Tape your drawing to the back side of the glass with clear tape at the top so you can flip the drawing to check your painting progress.
Clean the painting surface well to remove all traces of oil, grease, dirt. Try not to touch the glass because the oil from fingers/skin will leave a residue the paints don't like to adhere to.

Step 2

Step 3:  Keep painting and flip over to check your progress or have a mirror  behind to see the painting from the right side. Sometimes I prop a mirror behind the easel to see the right side quickly.

Step 4: Now that the painting is almost done the sky background is added last.  This is where you triple check any changes that need to be made. Once the background is applied it is very difficult to change or correct - next to impossible in most cases.  Small Changes Before the background can be made by carefully scraping with razor blades. Some areas of broad color are very difficult to rematch and are best left alone. I use colored paper to help establish form, color, contrast and composition adjustments.
Step 4

Step 5: Apply the background, in this case night sky. Pay careful attention to the direction of the brush strokes. Every brush stroke is visible in glass painting. Flipping it upside down was helpful for this little painting. The paints are semi-transparent, so it takes 2 - 3 coats for Each Element (leaves, bird, grass etc.) Some may want to be left with one coat to layer colors or special effects.

Step 5

Finished! The sky is several coats of Ultramarine blue and Dioxide Purple. I call this folky little style my StarGazer style and enjoy playing with it for the glass paintings.  Now try out this unique painting style and enjoy! In another post I will share some of the exquisite historical reverse glass paintings as well as modern reverse painting.

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