Friday 23 September 2011

Decorating Pots: Brushwork Practise

Recently I’ve been experimenting and practising my brushwork for use on my ceramics. Anyone looking at my pottery might notice that I don’t really use much decoration; I mostly use one or two simple ‘all-over’ glazes on a pot and that’s it. Even my raku pieces are made in this way. But I’ve been thinking about developing some additional decoration on my pots using combinations of slips and/or oxides. Of course there are lots of ways of applying oxides (they can be dripped on or sponged on for instance) but brushwork is one area I want to explore.

I mentioned in a previous post that I’d bought some new brushes (click here). I’ve been using these to create large, flat marks on some of my pots. The photo above is an example of this on a new vase. This pot has been hand-thrown in stoneware clay and brushed with a white slip beneath a clear glaze. Then iron oxide was brushed on using the smallest of the wide brushes and allowed to drip naturally. The pot was then reduction fired in a gas kiln. As you can see, the iron oxide has created a beautiful deep metallic red/brown mark. (This pot is for sale in my Folksy Shop!)

I also have some Chinese-style potter’s brushes made in bamboo – which you can see above. These are perfect for decorating with oxides or slips. This style of brushwork is something new to me however, so instead of wasting any expensive oxides or fired pots I thought I’d do some practise first! So I used some watered-down acrylic paint on absorbent handmade paper to try out some shapes. Of course paint on paper doesn’t flow in quite the same way as oxides on clay: for one thing oxides absorb instantly onto glazes and the flow of the brush is different too. But it really helped to experiment and get an idea of the shapes and marks that are possible. I also practised some brush marks onto the side of a finished vase – just to get the hang of decorating around a three-dimensional shape.

Overall it was fun to do and a really interesting exercise. You can always learn so much more from doing instead of just looking at pictures! At the moment though it’s still too early to tell whether this is something I will fully pursue or not in my own work. It may end up being something I tried a few times, but wasn’t for me: who knows!

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Landscape Painting: Suffolk

Back in February this year I took a trip to Suffolk to visit family. I was brought up in Suffolk so it’s a landscape I’m very familiar with. During my visit I spent some time walking in the countryside taking photographs to use as future reference and inspiration for painting. I decided I’d better use some of this material before winter comes around again! So in the last few days I’ve been working on a new painting inspired by the winter scenery in Suffolk.

I’ve chosen a square format again for this landscape painting and as usual I’m using acrylics on canvas. As you can see from the pictures above I don’t do much preparation. I’ve never really been one for making lots of sketches and plans – I tend to visualize a scene in my head and then go straight to canvas. All I did for this painting was make a very simple sketch in a small notebook to outline the basic composition. This I referred to while I was working to remind me of the plan in my head.

For the colour scheme I chose a limited palette. I’ve also written down which tubes I’ve used to keep a record for future reference. This winter palette is a mix of smoky blue/greys for the distant trees and the road in the foreground, with a very pale washed-out sky. I’ve also chosen a deep purple/brown to imitate the colours found in neatly cropped hedgerows – a feature so typical of modern Suffolk farmland. In contrast I’ve used a vivid, luminous green to highlight the field. I’m hoping this suggests the early growth of a crop and how electric the colour can seem in the midst of winter. A tiny part of me feels I’ve exaggerated this colour just a smidge – but I quite like that!

Anyway, here’s a photo of the finished painting. My experience of looking at it reminds me instantly of the fields and farmland ‘back home’ – this particular field is just 200 yards from my old house! So I’m pleased with the result. The canvas is quite small so I’m thinking I might continue this theme based on Suffolk landscapes on a larger scale: to give myself more room to express those huge open spaces.