Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Stained Glass:
Last week's post about the 2013 bookplate got me thinking about sharing my experiences working with stained glass, both in real life and illustrated. As I mentioned last week, I've cut glass for my own projects before (many of which I cut in an under-the-stairs cupboard in my post college apartment to keep the glass debris out of my living space) and knowing how glass cuts certainly has aided me when wanting to draw stained glass correctly or make my own patterns. This experience is some of that type that I advise all creatives to pursue: Something out of your direct trade or comfort zone that, in the end, will make you better at your trade for having branched out (even if you fail at it). Working at Materials Unlimited (the Architectural Antique store I was employed by when I started Mouse Guard) helped me a great deal in that regard too. Not only did it push my knowledge at craft and how things were made (and therefore ways things must and must not be repaired) but also a visual vocabulary of aesthetics & design through several centuries and regions....but I'm digressing...back to my feeble attempts at glasswork.

Real Stained Glass Work:
In college I inherited a great deal of stained glass scraps from a very large window that was removed from my childhood church. The window was taken out in the 60's but the fragments were stored & saved, and parted out. Among the pieces were two round still assembled windows with some disrepair. I wanted to learn how to repair them, so as gifts for family, I started making my own designs out of the other scraps. I bought more glass to get the right colors and textures for my projects, but made sure that almost every new project had some pieces of the church glass in it too. (to the right: a sewing sparrow for my Mother)

I started, rather boldly, with portraits of family members. I used pictures of them and photoshop to try and break their features into simple shapes. Along the way, I had to make changes, cutting what was one piece in my design into two, because the original shape was too complicated to cut by hand from a single piece. Once each piece for the design is cut (scored & carefully cracked is a better way of describing it) they are all edged with an adhesive foil tape. The foil edged pieces are re-assembled like a non-locking jigsaw puzzle, and then soldered together. (below are the portraits of my Father, Mother, and Paternal Grandparents). 

After doing a these (and a few more) flat image projects, and not feeling ready to tackle the round windows in need to mending (which also use a lead came in between the glass instead of foil), I started doing more free-form glass pieces. I had a rough pattern for the pieces, but didn't always adhere to it, knowing I'd have to make modifications for the overall form not to be flat. I made a few types of leaf suncatchers (seen below). The first shown is made up of many 5 piece maple-looking leaves and soldered together into a tumbling mass. The second piece shown is a large single leaf where the veins of the leaf are formed by the solder joints and every piece in between was a different color of glass. On that piece it also meant that every joint was an opportunity to have the shape bend in a 3rd dimension.

I have still never gotten around to repairing my round windows (they happily sit on the dining room window ledges...but I have used their design & color scheme in several pieces since...

Illustrating Stained Glass:
This spot illustration (done for the Mouse Guard RPG hardcover rulebook) is of one of my round church windows. I've also used this design in Jasper Bunny's front door in my children's book Snowy Valentine. In this instance, I didn't have to know much about how glass cut, or what shapes were possible, or what colors would look best, because I was simply copying the design...but having seen that window every day with light pouring through it made me feel much more confident about how to render the color.
I've created some window illustrations on my own and others I've used existing windows as jumping off points, modifying what I needed to make the glass special about the subject.

Season chapter header in the Mouse Guard RPG
The outer edges are based on real windows with new center patterns designed by me for each season

Muppet Snow White cover for BOOM!
This window was a photo edit of an existing window to make a round design

From Winter 1152 Epilogue.
A window based on Jane Irwin's pinup from issue 6

 FCBD 2011 cover
Modified existing design to include painted & fired areas representing the three items from the story: talon sword, shell shield, & snake venom

page from Black Axe #5
For this room, I designed eleven past matriarch windows using an arch design from a historic window, but modifying the majority of each window for the matriarch's figure & symbolism

Jim Henson's The Storyteller pinup
The window serves as a story cue in itself to a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale called The Tinderbox

I use stained glass in these covers, pages, and pinups, not just because it looks cool, but because of what else it adds. Stained glass windows evoke a sense of history, of mood and atmosphere, they help me tell a story and add a weight to the importance of the setting. If the glass is more than design and has a subject matter, you know that within the story it appears in, that subject is important...otherwise no one in the fictional world would have taken the time to make a window commemorating it. 

Watercolor Wednesday: Here is another look at last week's Watercolor Wednesday pieces. First up is a crow in shabby clothing. Have I ever mentioned I like talking animals as subjects?
While painting this guy I thought of depression era folks who just carried on and made due with very very little. I came up with a little reason for his checked scarf (it also serves as a way for him to carry his meager lunch) and the two talks of wheat in his hat (his last two bites of food, always saved atop his cap for his son & wife)

The other painting from last week was an apple. Just because. 

2013 Appearances: 
Emerald City: March 1-3
Fabletown Con: March 22-24
C2E2: April 26-28
Spectrum Live: May 17-19
Heroes Con: June 7-9
San Diego Comic Con: July 17-21
*more 2013 dates coming*

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