A simple cup- Sgraffito Challenge day 12

Today’s challenge was to take an everyday object and use it as the subject.  I chose my favourite coffee cup – white porcelain.  I thought it would be a tricky thing to represent with black powder on white glass, and so was worth a try.  Of course, everything is tricky, but I wanted to have a go at reflections/shinyness.

cup 1

I drew the cup in outline on sifted powder first.  I liked this, but made myself add several thin siftings of powder to try to get the details of the highlights and contours.  I fiddled for ages, and ended up with an overworked rather clumsy piece.

cup 2

attempting to get contours and highlights

cup 3

finished cup

I then decided to try to do another version of the simple cup that I had done at the beginning.  Somehow that was harder, as I now had an expectation of being able to produce something I found attractive. I think I should have done a thicker sifting of powder to start with, and made the cup a bit bigger.

cup simple

Both of these went into the kiln.  As the pieces are tiny it is taking a long time to fill the kiln, which brings a novel problem.  I get tempted to fiddle with work that is ‘done’.  I added some shadow to the lettuce, then slightly dropped the piece when putting it back in the kiln- only a few millimetres, but it is enough to disturb the powder.  I was bothered that I had no contrast between the side facing the light and that away from it and attempted to fix that problem

kiln jan12 2015


Sgraffito Challenge day eleven- Lettuces are ludicrous

SC 11 lettuce

So I found it difficult representing an apple on days nine and ten.  Today’s task was to draw a vegetable.  Choice in my fridge was potato, carrot, brussel sprouts, root ginger or a partially eaten soft round lettuce (that kind that is limp and floppy).  I started imaging drawing lots of sprouts, but got the image in my head confused with grapes, so decided to try the lettuce

I noticed that yesterday someone had posted some preliminary drawings, so decided to try some myself.  I also looked up ‘how to draw a lettuce’ and came across a charming blog about following Ruskin’s drawing primer.  So, I drew the lettuce in the hope I would understand  the way the shapes worked.

lettuce by pencil

Studio temperature was still only ten centigrade by the time I had done this, so I waited until it hit 12C, dressed warmly and went out with the lettuce to try with the black powder.  I seemed to find it easy to lose track of the main segmenting of the lettuce – the thick ribs of the leaves seem obvious but I still managed to muddle myself.  I stopped when I got too cold to carry on, came in and ate the lettuce.  Beginning to be a bit of a theme, eating the subject.  I wonder what tomorrow’s topic will be.

I did let myself have a postcard sized piece of glass (10x15cm) for this challenge rather than the 5x10cm.  I couldn’t imagine getting anything lettuce-like on such a tiny narrow piece of glass.   I used the small piece of glass I had intended to use today to do a drawing of myself as a toddler  – tricky as the intense shadows made it look like I had black hair across my face and blond curls on top of my head.  It is all good practice at knowing how to look and using the glass powder.

lois toddler

I used the inter-dental brush for most of the work today, and also the toothpick.

Sgraffito Challenge day 10- an apple and more…

SC 10 apple 2

Draw some fruit, add a context, or just have a wild time….so, lots of possibilities.  I began imagining all sorts of drawings, but kept coming back to my dissatisfaction with yesterday’s apple.  It was dull, didn’t look like an apple…surely I could improve it.  The second drawings of both the half Braeburn and the whole Bramley still existed, so I had the opportunity to try to improve them.

I got my ear wax vacuum and tried adding a small highlight to the Bramley to make it look rounder and glossier.  As the drawing was small and I haven’t done the nifty fixes to make the nozzle smaller, about a third of the apple vanished immediately.  Tipped the powder back in the jar.

What I needed, I decided, was a good asymmetric glossy apple (I’d eaten both the subjects by this time) and a good sideways light source to give definition.  Off to the shop to get some suitable fruit and an extension lead.  Then I tidied the studio…which hasn’t been done properly for months, so I could sort out the old computer that had also been waiting for an extension lead.  Spending calm drawing time in the studio (garage to normal people) means that the mounting chaos was beginning to feel really wrong.

So, set up with a nice shiny wonky Braeburn and a good sideways light (oh, and washed all my glass cleaning cloths in the meantime too) and a clean desk…..really no excuses left.

I used the little inter-dental tooth brush recommended by someone else on the challenge and a sifter.  The brush allowed me to add directional strokes which seemed to help give a feeling of three dimensions.  A tiny dab with the ear-wax vacuum just to emphasise the brightest spot (careful…) and yes, I do think this is a bit better than yesterday.

Apples are Arduous

Sgraffito Challenge day 9- draw an apple.  A real apple, not a drawing someone else has done that makes it easy to see the shades of grey.   Simple in idea, terribly hard in practice.

SC9 braeburn SC9 bramley

I had a knobbly Bramley apple and half a large Braeburn to hand.  I tried drawing both.  I didn’t like what I had done, but left them sitting in the studio while I got on with other things.

Went back to try to modify the existing drawings by adding more powder and being a bit more adventurous with the markings.  I think I have ended up with a Bramley apple that looks more like a custard apple.  The half apple looks ok.  I found it really hard to figure out how to do dark apple and adjacent shadow so that it was obvious one was apple and the other shadow.  There’s a light bit of apple just above the darkest shadow and I just couldn’t get that to look right.  Drawing a table edge/horizon made the object look more solid- the edge wasn’t visible in real life but I let myself add one.

SC9 bramley apple 2SC 9 Braeburn 2

I think it would be a good idea to eat an apple every day but only after drawing it whole…perhaps eat a bit and redraw it.  That process would be a good one for many reasons.  After a year of that I don’t suppose Apples would be Arduous Anymore.

P.S. another thing I learnt today- if you spell your title wrong the spellchecker doesn’t notice, and once you’ve published it the incorrect spelling will stick on your URL forever, no matter how often you tell it to update.

Day 8 on the Sgraffito Challenge- another new tool

SC8 owl

The first few days of this powder drawing challenge we were allowed to use a sifter, a business card and our fingers to do the imagery.  Yesterday we could add any tool provided it wasn’t a brush – and people came up with an amazing array of found and constructed tools, including a meat tenderiser (made a great sunflower heart). I used a toothpick, mostly because I had just bought a very cheap box of a thousand, and I had a card lying around with a frosty teazle and I figured they could be great together.

Today we were allowed to add another new tool, though again not a brush.  I wasn’t sure what to pick.  I wanted to try a picture of an owl, having torn one out of a magazine, and I wanted to get a soft fluffy look – several people had done images of cats and birds that looked really strokeable.  What could I use to help me get a fluffy look?

owl setup

After a bit of thought I decided the real tool I needed for this kind of textural detail was time and patience.  I allowed myself a larger piece of glass (I’ve been working on 10x5cm pieces of white opal glass). This piece is 10x15cm.  I then got myself some zippy trad jazz on the CD player and set to work slowly and carefully.  Nine whole tracks later I decided I wasn’t improving things by going over the image so I stopped.

Not as good as I hoped, but better than it might have been.  I then did a super quick teazle with the 5x10cm piece of glass made by cutting the other bit….

..SC8 teasel

throwing away Rodin…

SC7 thistle


Today is day of the sgraffito challenge.  Today we were allowed to add tools other than our fingers and business card.  Drew a quick sketch of a teasel (think I accidentally called it a thistle) using a tooth pick.  The pointed tip was just right for getting the wispy spiky stem.    Having enjoyed that I then worked with a photograph of Camille Claudel- apart from realising after I finished that the eyes were too large I quite like this.

camille claudel

Moved onto some Rodin sculptures- don’t have the originals to hand but propped a book up and set to work.  I tried using a rubber tipped tool which did move the glass powder well but I lacked dexterity with it.  I threw away the full length image, after doing it twice when I knocked it over once just as I got to the point that I liked it.  The final image isn’t recognisable as anything, but it was the back of a crouching figure.  Hence the title…when else am I going to say I threw away Rodins.



Sgraffito Challenge Day 6

More five minute drawings.  Today I allowed myself to send less than five minutes on a drawing if I wanted to.  One I had to do again as I knocked it over just as I got to to my liking.

I decided to pick snowy scenes.  The fox image I based on a print by someone whose name I’ve forgotten, so thanks for the image and sorry I lost your name.  Yours was vastly superior to my interpretation.  The bird is a Sanderling, those agile shore birds I enjoyed watching at St Ives last year, scurrying among the pebbles on the beach.

I bought myself an egg timer to make it easier to manage the five minutes only problem is that I have to remember to look at it as the end is silent.


SC6 fox in  snow

Fox in the snow

SC6 parent and child in snow

Parent and child in snow

SC6 sanderling


SC6 winter trees reflected

winter trees reflected

SC6 snowy mountains

Snowy mountains

Sgraffito challenge day five – another bunch of quick drawings

Day five- more five minute drawings.  I think the organiser of this challenge is planning to make us do these quick drawings with just fingers and business cards until we develop facility and stop complaining about how hard it is (particularly difficult for those who like to plan and be very careful) and then we will move on to using other tools.

SC5 windblown tree

windblown tree

SC5 mouth


SC5 face


SC5 swimming lake

swimming lake

SC 5 eye


The main thing I learnt doing this?  That my moisturising regime isn’t as good as I thought it was. Spend five minutes staring at a small bit of your face trying to draw it in any medium ………

Sgraffito Challenge Day 4 – five five minute drawings

SC Day 4

Today’s challenge- to do five drawings in quick succession, setting a timer for five minutes for each.  Aim- to loosen up style and stop people feeling too precious about the work.  Instruction was to tip the powder away each time and reuse the same glass…again, to stop people feeling too attached or anxious about the work. The topic was supposed to be different each time.

I’d been seeing people post images of desert landscapes and feeling a touch envious, so I found a photo with a desert and used that.

SC4 1

first drawing – whole scene

SC4 2

Second drawing – the rocky mountain

SC4 4

Fourth drawing – an interesting bit of leg and shoe

SC4 3

Third drawing – Emin and book

SC4 5

Fifth drawing – Emin and rock

I set the timer, did five pictures in five minutes each.  However, I worked off a single image, just taking a different aspect or scale of it each time.  I also kept the images, partly because I wanted to fire the kiln…. a whole week with just tiny bits going in is very strange, so with these extra five I’ve now set it going.  I also kept them as it amused me to have such incomplete images, and I’d like to use them as components in a piece sometime.  Also, as I was working from a photo of Tracey Emin sitting on her chair in a desert I thought she’d approve of the task for several reasons.  She has said she likes processes that force you away from the initial expertise and control (I paraphrase, it was a comment in relation to her mono prints at an exhibition I saw years ago, and, as this isn’t an essay for college I’ll be lazy and not check it and give a reference).  She also seems to rather like the chaos of activity and existence and what it can say about the life being lived that produces it. She also works the same image and topic over and over again.  Anyways, I kept them all, and being glass, if I don’t want to use these I can just melt them and do something else with them.

I found myself caring about the image rather a lot, which surprised me…not being anywhere I had been or anyone I know I had thought it would be easy to disengage from a desire to do the person and landscape justice.  Perhaps I should have set out to discard them all after all. I was using the phone times, and the screen kept reverting to the front screen so I had no idea how long I was taking so didn’t plan the allocation of time.  I’m also wearing my posture prompting device to remind me not to curve my back (the Lumo Lift) and kept getting buzzed as I altered angle slightly, which was quite distracting I should have switched the ‘coach’ function off before I started.

Well, five rather odd little images being cooked in the kiln with rest of the week’s drawings.  I checked the firing cycle recommended, checked the ‘landscape’ fusing cycle I normally use for single layer powder drawings, the one given to me by Warm Glass, and did a variation on both of them with a lowered top temp as I fancy the powder just sticking and not melting.  This gives me more choices about how I use the drawings later.  The ‘landscape’ cycle has a slower cool down rate, the other cycle a faster heating.  I’ll learn something from this, and none of the pieces is important in itself so if something doesn’t work it doesn’t matter.

Schedule (C):

rate     temp    time

167     538      10

afap    740      10

afap    482      END

sgraffito challenge kiln full

Sgraffito Challenge Day 3 – a landscape with fingers and business card

SC day 3 landscape

I chose a picture of the Cornish coastline for this challenge.  I decided to do two drawings, one where I added the glass powder with my fingers and the other when I sifted powder over the whole glass to start with and then removed it with the card.  I found it tricky working so small (these pieces of glass are just 5cmx10cm).   I should have converted the coloured image to black and white as that is another difficulty trying to imagine the correct grayscale on a coloured photo.  I forgot about this step as I had found this photo while tidying up and thought it would do.

SC 3 landscape additive

This one was done by dribbling glass powder onto the glass with my fingertips, and then moving it a little with either fingers or card. I did sift a little powder onto the whole image near the end to give some colour to the sea and sky.

SC landscape subtractive

I sifted black glass powder thickly over the glass first then removed some with the card, and finished off by trying to soften the clouds and waves with my fingertips.

SC day 3 lois parker

Both together in the kiln waiting to be fired when it is full.  They do look quite different.