Honest Abe, Two Squids and A Way Out

Well, this week I’m learning reverse painting techniques as outlined in Jim Kervin’s book about Bronwen Heilman. Reverse painting is a technique where you paint a backwards version of a desired image on a piece of glass, fire it and then apply the glass painted side down to a cylindrical bead. This book is an excellent guide for reverse painting and a bunch of other techniques. Every bit of information you need to paint on glass is right there. My problem is that I am a picture-looker more than a careful reader. I think I’m reading carefully but I’m not because I’m too busy thinking about what I want to do. Basically, I have to screw up first before I go back, carefully read the instructions and get it right. That’s just how I learn.

So I think it’s going to take a while, learning this painting thing. Right now I’m focused on wrapping a large piece of sheet glass with a black outlined drawing on it around a bead without it or the bead breaking. I’m not paying much attention to background, I just want to see my little drawing on the bead. (I’m still waiting for UPS to deliver my colored paints, too, so there isn’t much I can do but draw in black and white.)

Many things about this process are blowing my mind. First and foremost is the amount of detail you can render in your drawing and the ease with which you can do this. Before I bought the Kervin book I did not know it was possible to use an ink pen (similar to a fountain pen with a fine point) containing glass paint to draw on glass. I always thought you had to use brushes and since I don’t particularly care for the results I get with brushes I never really wanted to paint on glass. But if I can use a pen I can reproduce whatever I can on paper on glass. That opens up a whole new area of weird images on beads. I can’t stop thinking about it.

The labor intensiveness of this process is another thing that is hard to grasp. Right now my black outline pictures aren’t taking too much time because they only have to be fired once before they’re applied to the bead. Full color paintings like the ones Heilman makes are painted in layers and have to be fired four or more times before applying them to the bead. It does not get any more labor intensive than that…unless you’re also fabricating your own silver bead caps for the beads, which she also does.

So, anyway…it’s been 5 days since my life changed when I realized that you can draw on glass with a pen. Since that time I’ve finished three beads, two of which broke. I also made a bunch of little glass paintings that are waiting for color. Here’s a picture of the first bead I made. It’s the one that did not break.

honest abe glass bead cathy lybarger

It’s Abe Lincoln in a tiny car! Of course it is. I’ll tell you all about my choice of subject matter in another post ’cause that’s a whole story in itself. The second bead I made is hideous so I’m skipping to the third. The white core on this one broke and partially healed. I think it’s stable so I’m wearing it.

squid bead cathy lybarger

It’s squids! Since this one has two paint layers, white over black, the glass square had to be fired twice before I risked it’s life wrapping it around the bead. The were numerous other pitfalls besides getting the square of glass (about 2×2″) around this bead. Such as…my white bullseye glass has been getting extremely dirty for no apparent reason. Also, there’s a lot of sludgy stuff around the edges of the glass square. You’re supposed to be able to skim that scum off once you get good enough at this that you’re not absorbed with thoughts about your painting breaking when you’re putting it on the bead. I’m thinking that switching to a darker background might be easier so I’m going to give that a whirl. Stay tuned.

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9 Responses to “Honest Abe, Two Squids and A Way Out”

  1. jcherrell Says:

    Wow! Awesome beads, Cathy!!!!!!!! Flipping fantastic, I say!!!

  2. cathylybarger Says:

    Hey, thanks JC! Can’t wait to get my colors this week. Painting some fish to go with my squids. Yahoo!

  3. tracybeads Says:

    You did a great job Cathy, I love the squid bead.

  4. kabsconcepts Says:

    A Big ol’ WOW from me too!! I have been dying to learn to do painted beads. I have to find a class somewhere!! The beads turned out fantastic!!

  5. darleenmb Says:

    WOW! Those are great! I especially like the squid bead. You go girl 😉

  6. cathylybarger Says:

    Thanks, everybody!
    Next post I’ll take a pic of this nifty little tool I bought. It’s called a Fluid Writer pen. It looks like a teeny weeny brass funnel. It looks like it would be hard to hang onto but it isn’t. It’s very easy to use and you can do a lot with just black paint, clove oil and this pen thing. It’s amazing what a nice, even line it makes.
    Also, if you are remotely interested in glass painting you should buy that Kervin book on Bronwen Heilmen. There are instructions in it for painting directly on beads which is considerably less of a process than doing the reverse painting thing. In direct painting you can mature the paint in the flame (as opposed to having a seperate kiln). It isn’t easy to do but it opens up possibilities for people who do not have all the equipment to try painting on beads.

  7. jean Says:

    holy cazongas! that’s a great bead!

  8. cathylybarger Says:

    Thanks Jean! THe squid bead is huge–it’s making my neck tired wearing it.

  9. lydiamuell Says:

    Cathy, these beads are awesome! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like them. Very cool technique!


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