TECHNIQUES IN CHINA PAINTING
BY MARCI BLATTENBERGER
The information on this page consists of excerpts from the booklet "New Ideas for Small Boxes", by Marci Blattenberger. The information is reprinted here with the permission of Marci Blattenberger. (Thank you, Marci)
The Directory of Articles, below, is provided so you can "jump" directly to a subject of your interest. If you haven't seen this page before, you may want to just read sequentially down the page, going from one article on the various techniques to the next.
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|Directory of Articles|
|Intro Page from New Ideas for Small Boxes Booklet|
|Base for Gold|
|Heart Shaped Cat Box|
|Easy WipeOut Kitty|
|Salted Luster Technique Explained|
|Turquoise Box (Salted Luster Technique|
|Small Rectangular Box (Using Salted Luster Technique|
|Black and Gold Luster box with Yellow Roses (Uses the Salted Luster Technique)|
|Heart Box with Barn and Yellow Roses|
|Heart (with Gold Flowered Band)|
|Round Box - Iris with Brass Embellishment|
|Dichroic Glass and Other Glass Jewels - Including Stained Glass Pieces and Beads|
|Black and White Cat Box with Luster, Raised Gold and Dichroic Glass and the tiny Tooth Fairy Cat Boxes|
|Octagon Box with Heart Fusion, Dichroic Glass and Monogram|
|How to Salvage a Bad Piece|
|Easy 2-Fire Autumn Leaves|
The following is taken from the introductory page of the booklet. It lets you know that what you are going to be reading about is no ordinary china painting, because Marci is definitely not an ordinary china painter!
"Porcelain painting for me was absolutely love at first sight and from the very moment my brush touched a piece of china, I was hopelessly hooked. As much as I love traditional china painting methods, there has always been a "Wild Child" lurking not so far beneath the surface who yearns to explore the uncharted path....to "boldly go " where no china painter has gone before. (I'm one of those kids who blew up chem lab just to see what happened.) This book is the result of some experimentation and a whole lot of 'Gee, I wonder what it would look like if I....'
I hope you'll enjoy walking the uncharted path as much as I do.
Here's the map....FOLLOW ME!...."
And with that said, let's see what Marci has in store for us.
Links to pictures of some of the pieces Marci describes in the following text are scattered throughout the articles. Just click on a link to a picture to display it.
BASE FOR GOLD
Before I begin discussing the boxes in detail, I want to tell you about a substance that I use in a lot of my work to add interesting textures. It's called BASE FOR GOLD and is readily available from most china suppliers. Please don't confuse it with Raised Paste. BASE FOR GOLD is a white powder, basically an enamel, which when mixed with oil will give you a raised surface that will allow you to tint it with china paints for a colored enamel look, leave white for accent touches such as highlights in eyes, forget-me-not centers, lace, etc. and , once fired, it can be covered with Liquid Brite for a beautiful raised gold look. It can also be used to fuse glass bits and small porcelain pieces to your work. Structure-Powder and "I-Relief" are basically the same thing except that they allow you to obtain a higher texture. (RAISED PASTE on the other hand, is a yellow powder that is only used for scrollwork with Roman Gold. If you apply Liquid Brite over fired Raised Paste, it will fire an ugly black that can't be corrected.) So make sure that you are using BASE FOR GOLD ... (Structure or I-Relief will also work for these projects.)
MIXING BASE FOR GOLD - I use BASE FOR GOLD in a lot of my work so I usually buy it by the 1/4 pound bag instead of the little vials ... but if this is your first experiment with BASE FOR GOLD (Which I will call BASE from here on out to save my poor little typing fingers!) , a small vial is fine.
Dump a generous amount of the BASE onto a tile and mix it with ANY oil you have handy. (This is a good time to use up the oil you bought at that seminar 5 years ago that is just sitting at the back of your workstation.) (We're all the same, aren't we!) I use plain old mineral oil... It's cheap and it works great. (BTW: Mineral oil is also a fantastic medium for mixing your paints...it leaves most paints open and creamy indefinitely There are a few pesky blues and purples that will harden up no matter WHAT you mix them with.)
I mix the BASE with enough oil to make it a creamy, soft-frosting texture. When it spreads like a nice, fluffy frosting, it's ready. I usually mix a whole batch at once and store it in a baby food jar ... it will keep indefinitely (if you mix it with mineral oil) and it saves me the trouble of having to mix a batch every time I want to use some. I will go over how to use it in detail with each piece.
HOW TO FIRE IT - IMPORTANT! The directions I gave you for mixing BASE have you adding quite a bit of oil. The reason for this is so the BASE will pool and puddle and pull into interesting craggy textures when fired. The downside of that is: if you fire too hot in the initial (burnout) stages, you will get a LOT OF SMOKE! (This is the voice of experience talking here.. Trust me and take my word for it. Hee hee) The campfire in the house look can be avoided if you FIRE SLOWLY (That means, leave your kiln on LOW and the lid propped open or the door cracked) until all the oil burns off. (Usually to about 350 degrees but you can see when it stops smoking, then close the lid and proceed with your normal firing schedule (017-018 although it will hold up to an 015 fire) It's also a really good idea to vent the kiln if your kiln is not outside. I don't have an exhaust hood so I open the front door and blow the fumes away with a fan. If you fire slowly, you wont have a lot of smoke ... not much more than a normal china fire ... but if you fire too hot at this early stage, the oil will burn and you'll be scrambling to shut off the smoke detectors. If you're going to fire in a small jewelry kiln, you have to be especially careful ... stay with it and leave the door open till after burnoff. When I fired in my small kiln, the heat went up so fast that the piece actually caught fire... It didn't ruin the piece , but it did give me a heart attack ... so now I leave the door all the way open till the oil burns away.
If you follow my precautions on firing, there are a minimum of fumes and the results are worth it..
ONE MORE CAUTION: Once you've reached 018 and shut down the kiln, resist the tendency to peek. (I'm the impatient type and it kills me to wait through this period but after having to glue back lots of popped off BASE and glass pieces, I now leave the lid closed till the kiln is cool. (Well, most of the time, anyway!) ... If the kiln is allowed to cool slowly, there is less stress on the BASE and less likelihood that it will pop off.
Ok, now that you know what BASE FOR GOLD is...... are you ready to dive in?
WELCOME TO THE WILD SIDE......
BASE FOR GOLD
Base for gold Decorated Box Click here for picture
This is a very simple and quick but effective decorating technique.
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Heart-Shaped Cat Box Click here for picture
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Easy Wipeout Kitty
Portraits and cats are two of the things I most enjoy painting and I have developed an easy wipeout method for painting cats.
Using drying oil, paint in a solid background as smoothly and heavily as possible. Draw the cat with wipeout tool. (Its simply a circle with ears.) With a clean, lightly oiled brush, wipe out the cat. There will still be some color left on the cat. Clean your brush with turp, make sure that it is dry, then wipe out two small circles side by side right near the bottom of the circle that you drew for the head. (muzzle). Then starting about halfway down the circle, wipe out the small area between the eyes. It will be a stroke the width of the nose, ending at the muzzle.
Paint in the ears with pompadour or blood red, making the color slightly darker on the inside portion of the ear and fading softly toward the outside of the ear. Paint in the eyes about 1/3 of the way down from the top of the head with Paula Collins gold or mixing yellow or chartreuse or Lt. blue. (If the cat you're painting is large enough, you can shade under the top of the eyelid with yellow brown for yellow eyes, moss green for green eyes and dark blue for blue eyes. Also add a tiny dot of green in the yellow eyes, yellow brown in green eyes, purple in blue eyes. Remember that a cat has almond shaped eyes that slant down toward his nose and the pupil is an elongated thin oval (not round like human eyes) and don't forget a highlight. (a tiny dab of BASE for GOLD) Outline the eyes carefully with a scroller and black paint mixed with a touch of rich brown.
The nose is shaped like a triangle and is done in pompadour or blood red. Paint the mouth in the black-brown mixture paying attention to the shape. It should resemble drawing 5 not too elongated like drawing 6 (although if you want a more cartoonish, cute cat look, # 6 will look fine).
Finally, with a wipeout tool, start at the muzzle and with a quick stroke, pull out a few whiskers, cleaning the tool after each stroke.
On the second fire, you can add a little gray under the mouth area to define the chin. Add more color to features if needed.
To do other colors of cats, follow basic directions and paint in spots or patches of color. Tabby cats are painted in a wash of their lightest color after you wipe out the shape. Then wipe out the muzzle and forehead-nose line back to white. Add stripes as shown in the cat's darker color.
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This is the result of one of those moments of "I wonder what would happen if........" I was playing around with lusters when I suddenly had a vision of doing watercolors and sprinkling salt into the wet paint. So I decided to give it a try. I've since done this several times and achieved a consistent look. But then I happened to see a chapter in one of my pottery books on salt glazes and there were several cautions: One was to fire in a gas or wood kiln to not damage the elements of an electric kiln and the other was to fire outdoors to protect from harmful fumes. Well, I checked several sources and couldn't find out whether this also applied to china firings where the temperatures are much lower ... but I finally managed to contact the head of the pottery department at San Diego University who assured me that at the low temps we fire at, the salt would not undergo any chemical changes and so is SAFE ... But even with that reassurance, I would still advise that you make sure your kiln is properly vented.
How to Do It
Turquoise Box Click here for Picture
Small Rectangular box (No picture)
Black and Gold Luster Box with Yellow Roses Click here for Picture
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While looking through a catalog sent to me by a factory rep of a line of jewelry settings that I was contemplating, several of the beautiful, ornate brass Stampings caught my eye and the wheels in my brain started to turn again. The boxes with Brass embellishments shown on this page are the result. Brass pieces can be obtained through me.
NOTE: THE BRASS EMBELLISHMENTS ARE APPLIED AFTER FIRING. DO NOT FIRE WITH THE EMBELLISHMENT(S) ATTACHED!
Heart box with barn and yellow roses Click here for Picture
Heart (with the Gold Flowered band across the middle) (No picture)
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ROUND BOX-iris with brass embellishment Click here for Picture
The embellishments used are:
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Refill the brush the same way, then to form leaves, envision a cat getting ready to pounce and picture how he crouches down low, and wiggles his fanny before he pounces. Its that wiggle motion that I want you to keep in mind as you paint the leaves. First, load the liner with strong color, then place the side of the brush on the china, push it down firmly and wiggle it a little bit. Then, suddenly drag the stroke up and, as you get to the top of the leaf, roll the brush a little in your fingers so that you're no longer painting with the side of the brush but with the tip and then lift it off. Do the second leaf.
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DICHROIC GLASS .... AND OTHER GLASS JEWELS INCLUDING STAINED GLASS PIECES AND BEADS
First of all, a word about dichroic glass and glass fusing: You're probably saying to yourself "Di-what-ic glass?" Dichroic glass is a specialized glass that was developed by NASA to eliminate glare on the space shuttle windows. It is specially treated in a difficult and delicate process by flashing glass with an expensive chemical compound and then exposing the glass to an electrical current while the glass rotates in a vacuum chamber. This gives the glass the very strange property of being able to reflect different wavelengths (and therefore, colors) of light at different angles.
If you hold a piece of dichroic glass flat in the palm of your hand, it will appear to be one color, then if you look at it straight on, it will be another color and if you look at it at an oblique angle, you'll see yet another color. It's this multiple color reflection (axis and off-axis colors) that gives dichroic glass its unique look.
Glass artists discovered that when you fire a piece of dichroic, it fractures internally into thousands of microfractures which each reflect a different color and that gives fired dichroic the look of opal, colors that change depending on how it's viewed.
Dichroic glass is another thing that I fell in love with at first sight. Unfortunately, it is expensive (fortunately, only small pieces are needed to make an impact)... but because of the expense, most stained glass shops wont carry it and it is difficult to find in small amounts.
I have access to different colors of it at varying times, so you are welcome to call me to see what I have in stock at that time.
It is recommended if you are going to work with dichroic glass that you pre-fire the glass for several reasons. One is that the fired color sometimes bears no resemblance to the unfired color of the glass, so in order to get a true idea of what the final effect will be, you need to pre-fire the glass. The other reason is that dichroic glass is glass..and whether you cut the pieces with a glass cutter or break it with a hammer (or heat it quickly in the kiln and then drop a little cold water on it), when it breaks, it will have sharp edges. Firing the glass rounds the edges off and helps to form it into nice little jewel shapes.
DIRECTIONS FOR FIRING DICHROIC GLASS .... AND OTHER GLASS JEWELS INCLUDING STAINED GLASS PIECES AND BEADS
These directions apply to ALL glass. The addition of little bits of glass to your pieces adds a beautiful jewel-like sparkle to your work and can be very effective in enhancing borders, jewelry and even decorating a china painted Christmas tree. You can use any kind of glass to fuse to your porcelain pieces-opaque stained glass (which will give you solid colored jewels resembling turquoise or jade or onyx), transparent colored glass (which will give you the effect of rubies or sapphires or emeralds, etc.), dichroic (there are many types of dichroic and each has its own unique look. Some resemble opals, others resemble goldstone, others have a iridescence that is impossible to describe.) and you can also fuse glass beads ... only, PLEASE, make SURE they are glass. You can even fire bugle beads which will give you fired glass lines.
If you are using flat glass (stained glass or dichroic), either cut small pieces with a glass cutter or break the pieces with a hammer or by heating and then dropping cold water onto it. (Please use common sense when breaking the glass. Put the glass into a plastic bag before you whack it with a hammer. Wearing eye protection is always a good idea.)
Lay the glass pieces out on either the back of a tile covered with glass kiln wash (which is NOT the same thing as china kiln wash ... glass kiln wash is available through most stained glass dealers) or lay it out on pieces of ceramic blanket. (this is a cottony looking fiber that is made from ceramic fiber that will withstand the heat of kiln firing without breaking down. It is available through me. I have several pieces that have gone through 30 fires already with no change.) Fire to an 015 or till the glass gets a wet look and the edges have visibly rounded over. Cool slowly ... The resulting "jewels" can then be adhered to your porcelain by using the BASE FOR GOLD.
A helpful hint for placing glass bits on BASE for gold - Get a package of "Sticky Tack". This is the putty-like stuff that you can find in the stationery section of most stores that is used to hold posters etc., onto walls so they can be removed easily. Take a small wad of it and stick it onto a pencil or onto the handle of an old brush. It can be pinched into a point with your fingers and then touched to a glass jewel. The jewel will stick to it and then you can easily pick it up and maneuver it into place. This is also fantastic for getting lint and hairs off of your wet china. Just pinch it into a sharp point and touch it to the lint.... The more you use it, the stickier it gets and the better it works ......
OK, now that you know what Dichroic glass is (you can throw that term into a conversation and amaze your friends! hee hee)... let's do a few pieces.... UNFORTUNATELY, pictures don't do dichroic glass justice...You really have to hold a piece in your hand to appreciate the beauty of it.
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Always, HERE WE GO............
Black and White Cat Box with Luster, Raised Gold and Dichroic Glass Click here for Picture
(And the tiny tooth fairy cat boxes) Click here for Picture
Octagon Box with Heart Fusion, Dichroic Glass and Monogram Click here for Picture
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HOW TO SALVAGE A BAD PIECE
The 3 pieces displayed in the picture links below, the octagon box with the rose insert and the round boxes with the Iris and the rose inserts are all done basically the same way.
Octagon Box with Rose Insert Click here for Picture
Round Box with Iris Insert Click here for Picture
Round Box with Rose Insert Click here for Picture
This was a technique I came up with out of sheer desperation. (One of the porcelain art clubs I belong to was exchanging painted boxes at our Christmas party. In my typical fashion, I waited till the last minute to work on my box, which I painted with an Iris , a small gold textured border and some bits of dichroic glass. I put the piece in my jewelry kiln to fire and promptly forgot about it. When I finally did remember to check it, it was so badly overfired that the BASE had gone flat and the glass color completely fired out ... RUINED! It was too late to get another piece, so I ground off the glass pieces, repainted the Iris where the paint had faded, redid the BASE FOR GOLD and added more dichroic glass bits, put it into the jewelry kiln and promptly did the SAME DARNED THING .... This time, in desperation, I painted an Iris on a jewelry blank that I had, fired it (I watched the pyrometer like a hawk this time!).... Then I covered the ENTIRE lid with BASE FOR GOLD, embedded the fired Iris piece in the center, added more dichroic glass and refired and then finally, covered the BASE with Liquid Brite. (The bottom of the box was done in 2 coats of luster) The result was so attractive that the ladies promptly asked me to demonstrate a class on the new box technique....
The boxes on the page are done in that same way .... The octagon box lid was originally painted in a hideous pink color. I covered it with BASE FOR GOLD, leaving the pink showing through in several areas. When I taught the class, I asked the ladies to bring their worst disasters ... you know the ones I mean ..... those horrible pieces that were mis-fired or mis-painted or just plain turned out terrible for whatever reason. We went to town, slathering on the BASE FOR GOLD and sticking on painted porcelain jewelry pieces and glass bits and you would be amazed at the fabulous results. One of the ladies had a beautifully painted jam pot and lid that she had done with strawberries. The jar was gorgeous but for some reason, the lid fired a hideous salmon color that couldn't be corrected. We covered the lid with BASE and embedded several porcelain butterflies onto it. She painted the butterflies with china paints and then we fired the piece. We then covered the BASE with Liquid Brite. She painted a yellow butterfly on the jar bottom for continuity of design and she had a beautiful piece that was once almost relegated to the scrap heap....
So, pull out those disasters and start slapping on the BASE FOR GOLD.....
You just might turn that trash into a treasure!
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A Gold Incising Sample piece Click here for Picture
Another Gold Incising Sample piece Click here for Picture
There are several products available to incise porcelain. One is a flux that is mixed with heavy copaiba oil and painted on where you want to remove the glaze from your piece, firing to an 015 or 014 and then rapidly cooling the piece. The other involves tinting some capaiba oil with a small amount of china paint (just so you can see where you're painting the oil), mixing it with flux, painting the mixture onto the areas you want to incise and then sprinkling tiny red glass beads onto the oil and firing the same as the flux method. The idea with both of these methods is that the incising flux or beads crack when the piece cools down and will fall off, taking the glaze with it. (Exactly the opposite of what we usually want to happen on china.) The fired-on crazing is scraped off carefully (being cautious of flying particles which are very sharp), leaving the bisque of the piece exposed. Then it is cleaned with alcohol and covered with a coat of Liquid Brite and fired. (A second coat is often necessary) The result is a beautiful matt hammered gold effect over the chipped away bisque areas and a contrasting shiny gold effect on the glazed portions.
The two secrets of either of these methods (they both seem to work equally well although the non-bead method is slightly easier to do.) is to keep a clean line between the incised area and the glazed area. The easiest way to do that is to mask off the glazed area using either a masking solution that is painted on with an old brush and allowed to dry. Then you do whatever incising method you choose and carefully peel away the masking solution. (Be sure to peel away the masking solution before you fire the piece. If you do fire it with the mask still on, it will ruin the piece.) (Its also a good idea if you're working with the incising beads, to cover the ENTIRE area that you want to remain glazed because any area with a bead on it when it is fired will have little pits where the bead popped off, so to avoid having little craters and pits on your glazed areas, cover them completely with the masking solution.) Another masking method that works extremely well for doing straight lines is to use auto stripping tape. This is available in most auto parts stores and comes in various widths. It sticks very well to the slick glazed surface of china and it stretches slightly to allow you to pull it snugly over the curved shoulders of vases, etc. There are even tapes with multiple stripes that are laid down as one tape, then a top, clear tape is removed, leaving 2 parallel tapes with a thin line between them. This is a terrific way to get a sharp, thin gold or painted line. Just burnish the tape tightly to the china to make sure that no paint, etc. can leak underneath, and then stipple the gold or color over the line. Remove the tape carefully.
The other secret to incising is to quick cool the piece. This is the one time you are allowed ... heck, encouraged, to open the kiln before it cools down. Rapid cooling will crack the incising medium and make it easier to scrape off. (A lot of it will probably fall off....BE very careful when handling these little pieces. They are actually thin layers of glass and can be very sharp) Hold the piece down into the bottom of a deep trash can or put it into a plastic bag and scrape away the crackled incising. Its a good idea to wear eye protection when doing this as the pieces WILL fly. If it becomes too hard to scrape off the incising, put the piece back into the kiln and refire for a few minutes. (If it still doesn't come off, refire it in your next kiln load...just be careful to not have the other pieces in a place where the incised pieces might fall on them.)
Incising is enhanced by extending the Liquid Brite slightly over the incised area onto the glazed china which gives a lovely matt/shiny gold contrast. Another attractive look is to stipple some BASE FOR GOLD in random areas over the incised area or running thin lines of BASE over the incised areas (like marble veins) and firing before you apply the gold.. This also gives a nice shiny/matt gold contrast. Just be careful to not over-do.
Hope you enjoyed playing around with some new ideas and maybe it will encourage you to do a little experimenting of your own. Just remember, no piece is a failure: you can often learn more from a failure than a successful piece.
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EASY 2-FIRE AUTUMN LEAVES PLATE
I decided that the first fire was pretty self explanatory and didn't really
need the set up...
The reason I chose a rectangular dish was only because I figured it would scan easily wet....
Click here for Picture of Easy Autumn Leaves - 1st Fire
So, pick an assortment of fresh leaves( maple , oak, what ever suits your fancy....this would also be pretty with ferns or any type of leaf)....
Vary the sizes and shapes....(don't use the same leaf over and over..too boring!)
Using pen oil or any drying medium, brush china paint on the BACK of the leaf (You want the veins to be prominent) ...I used pen oil and a mix of colors....mostly violet of iron and blood red mixed on the brush for the scarlet-y ones...then w/o cleaning my brush, I went to some yellow brown and antique gold and even a little moss green on some leaves....I used several different colors on one leaf on occasion...
I started with the smallest leaves,painted one...carefully press it down onto the plate and tap it down carefully...a Q-tip helps get the edges and tips pressed down...Try to press the leaf down carefully so as not to smudge it and also be careful pulling it back up..there is a little tendency for the leaf to skid across the slick china...
Then I paint and place the next leaf, overlapping the 1st one slightly (remembering an important art rule; DON'T KISS ON CANVAS...meaning that you should never let 2 edges barely touch..it confuses the eye...better to overlap the edges somewhat)...You may need to clean up some edges that have smudged or where there is too much paint where 2 leaves overlap....continue adding leaf upon leaf...getting larger as you go back...
You will notice that when I overlapped the leaves, I tried to use a different color than the leaf underneath..I did this for variety and also to help me keep which leaf was which straight in my head...(It may look a little confusing on the picture, but the leaves are actually easier to separate in person...
You will probably need to paint in a few leaf edges for clarity...don't overdo...and don't make them too solid....the #1 arrow points to a leaf that has just been pressed...#2 arrow shows some leaf edges that I touched up with a liner brush and painted to match....I also ran some stems with the liner (Pay attention to the sweep of the leaves )
You will notice that I left a blank area where the #2 and the star is...thats because I decided that I'm gonna carry this piece a little farther than I originally intended...I will explain in a minute....
Fire the piece...I like to fire hot...015 usually...I find that if I fire the first few fires hotter, I get a great glaze on the finished piece and I find that I don't lose as much color as I feared...
Next step will be a wash of color over the leaves....Those of you that wanted a 2 fire piece will be able to stop at this point....But I decided that I'm gonna go another couple of fires....I'm gonna do the same process as the paint with Base for Gold on the back of one large leaf and then maybe one small one in that large blank space....Then a 4th fire to add Liquid Brite gold to the Base for Gold....
So many variations possible on this
THIS IS YOUR PROJECT NOW....PLAY WITH IT AND HAVE A BALL....See who can out-wild the Wild Child..(That's ME, for those of you who haven't heard! heehee)
And the best part is, its so easy that the kids and grandkids can do this one....
Here is the second fire....
Basically, this fire consists of washes of various reds, violet of iron, maroon, purples, yellows , oranges and greens. Paint darker where the leaves are in shadow under other leaves. Then touch up the leaf edges as needed with a scroller.
Click here for Picture of Easy Autumn Leaves - 2nd Fire
and spread the gospel of china painting...Let's keep it alive and well and growing!
If you would like to email Marci to ask questions about these techniques or
to inquire about supplies she has available, her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can click on the hyperlink below to send her email now.
Send Marci EMail
Or, if you wish, you may contact Marci by "Snail Mail" or telephone:
125 Vulco Drive
Hendersonville, TN 37075
To see more of Marci's art work and the products she offers:
Click here to go to Marci's Web site
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