Bit o’ Honey ~ the little things that please

The little things that please . . .

Fun with Lines

with 5 comments


“The hand is the window on to the mind.” Immanuel Kant, from Richard Sennet’s book, “The Craftsman”.

“Play is the beginning of knowledge.”  George Dorsey



Wanting to step back from glass after finishing my last project and needing to bring a fresh approach to the medium, I decided to dabble with the left over watercolors I used to create the many mock-ups for my Tree of Life images.  

Save for childhood forays in tempera, I’ve never been a painter.  Painting always seemed so unbound to me, so wild.  The stuff seemed to have an oozing, dripping life of its own.  Frankly, I found it intimidating.  There were too many choices with painting, too much white paper to contend with, too many ways to apply the paint, too many chances for things to turn to an ugly mess.  Not to mention the plethora of brushes.  While stained glass can be a frustrating in its rigidity and inability to blend, I’ve learned to appreciate the restrictions it imposes and the ever-present black lines that serve to join each piece of glass.  But painting?

Fortunately, the watercolors I made for my last project introduced me to the idea that I might use painting to explore design ideas for glass.  So on a rainy Sunday afternoon, unable to face the mess still waiting to be expunged from my studio, I took out the paints and commenced to play.

I began with the simplest of lines using two different brush widths, the only two I had, just to get a feel for things.


I never grow tired of green.


I found the activity to be surprisingly meditative and intimate, much like writing a letter.




I quickly slipped into my modus operandi and began simplifying the lines even further.





And further still . . .




Until I was left with a single line.



I found the mood of this line appealing.  It struck me as somewhat calligraphic.  



I was then reminded of the gorgeous nameplate on a Tiffany window from 1887 that I recently helped restore.  Here’s a close-up photo of the nameplate in reflected light:


The leadwork is mindboggling.  To accommodate the letters, the craftsman cut the glass in the most challenging of ways, in some cases working with pea-sized glass.  Note the little scroll details in the curves of the 6’s.  Astounding.  This image is not far that from its actual size.  Truly the work of a master.  Set against natural light this delicious lavender glass becomes a phenomenal, firey wonder:


R and I have not stopped going ga-ga over this window.  


It would be easy for me to go on and on about the glass, but Iet me return to the lines in this nameplate.  Most interesting are how the black lines serve as an integral part of the design itself and not merely a structural element to the window.  Though more compact and blockier than my watercolor lines, they too look calligraphic, not so unlike the work below:


See what I mean?


While I experiment with color and shape using paints, I’m also trying to find a way of giving the black lines more significance in my designs.  I’m not sure where this exploration is going, but I plan to continue this watercolor play in hopes of bringing a new dimension into my work.  

At the very least I’m producing my own line of original greeting cards . . .





Written by Janie

September 18, 2008 at 8:09 am

5 Responses

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  1. I, too, often think I can brush on some lines and create a picture worth a thousand words. Who says someone wouldn’t be selling something similar at the next gallery you visit? Looks like you’re getting somewhere.

    Vivian Newkirk

    September 19, 2008 at 1:10 am

  2. What an interesting post—I love all of the connections. Beautiful lines. Whenever I pick up paint, I tend to go too far–it’s hard to know where to stop. But paint can be mesmerizing. I find the white page even more mesmerizing. After taking a design class last Spring with a wonderful teacher who talked a lot about the quality of intentional white space, I find myself even more in love with leaving lots of white space in my designs and making it an integral part of the work. Perhaps the lines in stained glass have a similar purpose to white space in other artwork? I’m still wrapping my mind around that thought–I’m not sure if I agree with it. But, it is always wonderful to use everything intentionally.


    September 20, 2008 at 7:42 am

  3. I thought about you as I was doing this exercise – the simplicity of your paintings and the way you use words and lines. I do love the white space. There’s no hiding the intention of your marks. I think the lead line is often secondary to the glass in a window, so I’m trying to turn that idea around and make them as important a design element as the shapes and color of glass. So yes, I think your point is right on – that every component of your chosen medium has a impact in the outcome.

    Bit o' Honey

    September 20, 2008 at 12:59 pm

  4. Fabulous watercolor lines — save those puppies so I can buy a couple.

    Georgia O’Keeffe has a remarkable one-stroke piece called “Winter Road”. I found an image of it on this blog posting; very much like what you have:


    September 22, 2008 at 5:49 am

  5. Lovely image.
    The challenge for me is translating the spirit of these ideas into glass.

    Bit o' Honey

    September 22, 2008 at 6:05 am

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