Friday, January 17, 2014

Piggy banks stage 7: more gold, and enamel

So, my first friend had given birth to the baby girl, and the second was due any day when I finally made it back to my painting mentor's house the second week of November. I had 2 days before she left town for a month, and I had to re-do the gold work... and normally you want to do two coats of gold, but I was pretty sure I was going to run out of time.

So, with my wrecked right arm, I discarded the pen I had used, opened a fresh bottle of Liquid Bright Gold, and got to work. This brand of Liquid Bright went on red instead of yellow (another brand goes on green), which, unfortunately, was pretty hard to use on top of a red micron pen... Again, if it's too lightly applied, it doesn't turn out gold.

Fortunately, the end result was pretty good. I managed to get all the gold on in one day, and in the late afternoon, fired them. In the morning, I mixed up white enamel, (using it for the first time ever!!!) applied it, and managed to fire them before I had to leave in the afternoon.

They were actually still hot... had to use oven mitts to get them out of the kiln and then wrap them up in my spare clothes so they didn't cool down too quickly.

Other than the gold turning out not as dark as I wanted (especially on the Chinese characters), I'm pretty pleased with the way they turned out.

Here's the end result of the Lotus Pig:

 In this lighting you can just see the enamel catching the light differently... there is a dot on every bubble, on the seeds (on top), and in the centres of the lotuses on the sides.

Now here's the final Sleepy Pig which, coincidentally, ended up being a boy, and his name begins with 'T' so that was a total happy coincidence:
 You can't see them very well, but the characters in the middle of each 'T' shape are the "four blessings" (si fu 四福) are happiness (xi 喜), prosperity (lu 禄), longevity (shou 寿), and good luck (good fortune) (fu 福).

Because the parents of this baby are Christian, the characters at the bottom are:

And the ones on the top are:





Thursday, January 16, 2014

Piggy banks stage 6: first layer gold linework

With all the lustres set, I took a few hours to design the inner pattern for the white areas. Since my friend who was expecting the girl was due first, I concentrated on finishing the Lotus pig up first so, hopefully, I would know the gender/name of the second baby before I had finished the final firing.
 I toyed with multiple ideas for the top of the Lotus Pig (if you click on the picture, you can see each petal has different designs). In the end, I kind of free-handed some lotuses for the wrap-around, and did bubbles in the top lotus petals, which softened up the rigid design a little, and a ring of seeds in the centre around the coin slot.

...time to crack open the Liquid Bright Gold...

Because my arm was giving me major problem (shaking so bad I was trying to eat with my left hand instead of my right), I thought it might be easier to use this strange sort of pen instead of a brush as, after all the work so far, I didn't want to ruin it all with shaky/messy linework.

The pen is really cool, you can see it below. It's like an open ink-pot where you put a couple drops of gold in the top of the little brass(?) head, and it feeds down through the bottom. You can use nib-type pens as well, but even after practicing with them, I couldn't get a consistent flow, which was both frustrating, and the lines were ugly.

Because this particular Liquid Bright Gold went on gold/yellow coloured, I switched to a red micron pen so I would be able to see better than if I had used a black pen.

The process went reasonably well. Yes, all the red are the lines I drew on first with the micron pen to make sure everything was lined up/even.

I also did the Sleepy Pig, but somehow forgot to take pictures...

...then I fired it overnight, the day before I had to leave to go home.

...and what was the result?

BOOOOOOOOO! The gold was contaminated! It ended up black, and smeared/rubbed off when you ran your finger over it.

Now, either the gold in the bottle was contaminated, or the pen I used had some kind of residue... I did clean it thoroughly with turpentine first... but, y'never know.

So, an entire day wasted, and I had to go home. At this point, it was late October, and the first baby was due end of October...

I was rather upset... and my arm was in pretty bad shape.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Piggy banks stage 5: second lustre coat

So, I left the piggies with my mentor to be fired, and didn't have a chance to go back until several weeks later.

Now, here's why I should have red-resisted the opposite area first on the Sleepy Pig:

 Painting red resist over a dark blue lustre... oh my goodness... I could NOT tell if there were gaps in the red resist at all, it was so hard to see! In this picture the red resist is dried, so it' shinier/redder, but while painting it on, it was impossible to tell if I was laying it on evenly, and thick enough (since if it's too thin, peeling it off is super hard and you don't want to put it in the kiln with any bits 'cause it makes a big mess).

You can see in the background the Lotus Pig has been red resisted for a second coat of the same transparent blue colour.

 Here's the Sleepy Pig after the second firing, I freaking LOVE how the orange clouds turned out!

The Lotus pig didn't really need a second layer of blue, but because I had such a hard time running the lustre on the first coating (I did the Lotus Pig first, so I was experimenting with it), there were a bunch of missing gaps... including around the mouth... so it looked like the pig was drooling/foaming at the mouth. Don't really want to give a rabid-piggy-bank to a newborn, right?

Also, the second coating of blue gave it more depth, and since I wanted the reflective/flowing look to be reminiscent of water (since, duh, 'Lotus Pig').

At this stage, I was pretty happy with the way things were looking.

Oh, in the background, you can see the Sleepy Pig after it had the coating of orange lustre, after I had peeled the red resist off, but before I had fired it., time for the part I hadn't given much thought to... designing what I was going to do with the white areas...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Piggy banks stage 4: first lustre coat

Since I am pretty much a newby painter, I know you can use lustres in different ways, but since my mentor likes to drip lustres because you get very interesting results, that's the only technique I have used, which is fine, because I quite like how you're always surprised by how it ends up.

Also, since I went with technical precision on the designs, I wanted the free flowing nature of dripped lustres to counter-balance the rigidity and soften the overall result.

How do you drop lustres? Well, on a flat surface it's incredibly easy. On a shape like these piggy banks... quite difficult.

First you need the lustres, and a high-grade clean turpentine:

Essentially, you drip several drops of lustre on the piece, then drizzle turpentine on top, and smear it around with your fingers. If you put on too little turpentine, it doesn't mix well and the lustre is too heavy and will burn off in the kiln. If you put too much turpentine on, it pretty much just runs off the piece and the lustre will be super thin or non-existent.

Earlier, I made a lustre test plate because I had a whole bunch of lustres, and I didn't know what they looked like, or whether any of them were contaminated.

On a relatively flat surface, dripping lustres is an easy task.
Quite the difference, eh? I waited to decide which lustres I was going to use on the pigs until after the test plate was fired.
On a pig-shaped piece... freaking hard. One word: gravity. Everything runs down so fast I didn't have time to mix the turpentine with the lustres before 99% of it had already run off onto the table. So I kept adding more. And more. And couldn't tell how thick the lustre was, or if there were any bare areas, and since I could only touch the red-resisted areas, I had to hold the pig in one hand, and drip/mix/touch-up with the other.

Also, the lustres are sticky... and as they started to dry, they made the red-resist sticky... which then wanted to pull off when I needed to readjust the pig in my holding hand.

Long story short, I managed. Here's what they look like just before the first fire. You have to let the red-resist dry thoroughly before you can put the lustre on, and then you have to let the lustre dry completely before you can fire it. By the end of my fourth day, I had only gotten this far and had to leave before they were fired, so I didn't see the result until several weeks later.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Piggy banks stage 3: red resist

Once the designs were on, I needed to red resist the areas I did not want lustre to touch.

If you remember from last time, I did not think about the Micron pen being so easy to wipe off. Due to this, whenever my brush would touch the lines, it would smear and I was worried that the result would not be crisp lines after all my time spent obsessing over the templates.

If I hadn't been under a time-crunch, I would have wiped off the designs, gone out and bought a different kind of pen, then re-done them, but at this point, it was day 3 of only 4 days I could work on these, and I hadn't even had the chance to fire once. I had to just take extra time and be super careful.

Even though you can see I have a design on the side of the pig (that wraps all the way around), I only had a silhouette that I was happy with. I didn't have any plan of how/what to fill them in. At least with the top design I had a 75% clue what I was going to do... but the lustres had to go on first, and I was swiftly running out of time.

Here's the red-resisted Sleepy Pig, and this is my first major error with this project. I should have reversed the areas that I red-resisted. By the way, do you have a better idea now why I didn't want there to be 'pig anus' for the wrap-around designs? That's actually the main reason I did do a wrap-around rather than have a focus point like in some of the discarded sketched designs.

Oh, and so you can appreciate the detail level... those thin white lines in the clouds are about 1/8" wide.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Piggy banks stage 2: templates

The Lotus pig design came together first because of this image:

I knew it was 'too busy' to attempt (especially since the lotus in this book is about 12" in diameter, and on the pig, I had about 5", max. But I liked this so much, I finally stopped digging my heels in and did the math for a 10-point lotus instead of an 8-point one.

Here's the difference: To get an 8-point design, all you need to do is fold a piece of paper in half once, twice, three times, and there you have it. It creates eight evenly spaced straight lines.

To make a 10-point design, first I found my centre and laid down concentric circles. Then I quartered the paper and inked out the first 2 lines. Then, with a ruler that is so bendable I can wrap it around a twoonie (for non-Canadians, this is our $2 coin), and measured, in millimetres, the length of each arc between the 4 quartered points along the outermost circle, the middle circle, and the inner-most circle. Then I broke each measurement into five. Since this entire template is only about 5", all of the measurements were partial millimetres. Then I marked down each division point (yes, I did this all the way around the entire design, not just on half so I could make sure it was precise as possible) and drew in each line.

So, my first template has 20 sections marked out.
After I had the initial template, I made a smaller template of each individual large petal, and the tiny sub petal, laid them out, and drew them on.

By this time, I was on my 6th template as I had to discard several along the way.

Finally I ended up with:
I taped down the centre and four points, then carefully outlined each petal. Because the paper is flat, and the pig was round, it's difficult to make sure everything remains even because when you bend the paper down, the surface to draw on is smaller than the template. To make sure I didn't end up with lopsidedly spaced petals, I held down three petals at a time and drew from each point down towards the centre. Due to spacing, the sub-petals ended up nearly non-existent.

Here's the final inked-on design for the top of the Lotus Pig. My first big mistake of this project: the Micron pens rub off easily, so further work was very time-consuming/finicky.

Here's the main inspirational image for the top design of the Sleepy Pig. I took in inner blue design and modified it. The main reason I ended up choosing something along this line is because it was 8 sided, which is lucky, and it left a good blank centre where I could later include Chinese characters.

My first start of the template. Making the final template only took about an hour, compared to the 3 hours it took to make the template for the Lotus Pig.
Second stage of the template.
The longest part of making this template was squaring off every bit of the 'T' shape. If you click on the picture to see it bigger, you'll see what I mean. Again, remember I'm working off a template that is less than 5" in diameter. Each line in the 'T' shapes are just a little over 1/4" thick. Squaring off those was... straining on the eyes, and on my problematic right hand/arm.
And here's the design inked on. To extend the corner lines, I actually laid down strips of thin tape so I could make 100% sure the lines would be a consistent width.

See how the coin slot isn't centred? Grrrr... still bothers me... It actually is slightly angled to the right, as well as being too far forward. Made it very difficult to put this design on straight.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Piggy banks stage 1, roughing out the designs

When I started out making these gifts, I had no previous plan or even a rough visual in mind.

All I knew was the personality/preferences of the two mothers-to-be, and the gender of one baby.

There were two major design 'problems' to work with:

1) The shape of the pig is in no way symmetrical. Even the location of the coin slot isn't centred in any meaningful position. Because of this, there were a lot of things I wanted to do that seemed great in theory, but just didn't look good when you actually laid it out on the piece.

2) Almost any design on the back of the pig... ended up looking comically like a piggy anus. While this was... amusing, it also resulted in discarding many ideas.

I spent a full two days looking through books and roughing out sketches (using a black micron pen) on the surface of the porcelain pigs before I finally decided on a lotus design for the girl baby (hereafter known as Lotus Pig), and a gender-neutral Chinese influenced design for the baby I didn't know the gender of (hereafter known as Sleepy Pig).

I didn't take many pictures because most of the designs were wiped clean before they looked even remotely usable.

You can see I was playing with both pig designs in this, one sleepy eye and one cute/feminine eye, and I was toying around with more of an Arabesque look on the top, and a sharper design on the bottom.
One thing I also played around with was either creating a band-like design that wrapped around the whole piece (which I ended up with), or more of a point of interest design, like this, which is more traditional for European porcelain painting.

The tops of this one was where I started meandering from Arabic into Chinese influences, and decided it worked better overall, even if this particular design was scrapped.

The Lotus Pig was the one that came together first, and in the initial design stage proved more difficult than the Sleepy Pig, but Sleepy Pig ended up more problematic in other ways. You can see I was already partially roughing out a template at this stage, but you'll notice I still had a 8-point lotus instead of the 10-point lotus which was the final design. The 8-point just really didn't look as good, but I was hesitant to 'do the math' required to make a 10-point lotus.

Here was the semi-final roughed-out Lotus Pig design just before I started making templates. I really liked the cute eyes.