adventures in enamelling, stories, music and travel
It was three years ago I saw my first Grisaille enamel up close and personal at the Taft Museum in Cincinnati. It literally took my breath away. My heart started beating faster, and I began to hyperventilate. I knew I had to do this – but I had a problem. It had been years since I had done any drawing and I had become sloppy and inaccurate
I know you will think that I am lying. Since I am a full time artist – you will think “She can draw!” but actually my designs have been very stylized, and I use a lot of templates and guides to make them turn out right. I can ‘sort of’ draw – or I could years ago – but I was terribly out of practice.
At first I it felt like I would never be able to do it. But, as I often tell my students, being an artist is having the courage to fail. I have a lot of stubbornness in me – and a lot of patience. I find that these two qualities are more than all the talent in the world!
The breakthrough came while I was working on the classical series. At first I was using a very opaque white that only needed one coat to cover the dark underlayer. But the white I was using was some that I had had around the studio for years. I was running out, and the company that I had gotten it from was out of business – so I asked another supplier what they had to offer. I got some white paint – but it wasn’t nearly as opaque – and I had to do two or three layers before getting the same effect as the original product. At first I was annoyed – more layers and more firing meant that the piece would be more expensive – but suddenly the penny dropped. I had looked out some grisaille enamel pictures on the Internet, one of which was this lovely little piece from the Louvre.
This was my first attempt – so I can see flaws (I don’t have the detail that was achieved in this piece – but after all it was made by a third generation grisaille enamelist from one of the greatest enamel houses in Europe!) – but I was pretty excited. I could see that I had had a breakthrough on the technique – and that now it was just a question of practice, practice, practice!
I have been wanting to do a post on practice – so here it is! Practice in every sense of the word. Art is my practice – and I have to practice all the time! People know that you have to practice in order to be a good musician – but they think that if you can’t pick up a pencil and draw something beautiful right away you ‘can’t draw’.
No matter how bad you are – if you pick up a pencil and draw every day, at the end of a month you will be better! Of course – this will not make you great – but it will make you competent. I think for me it is a compulsion to make the idea that I have in my head into something concrete that drives me.
I still have a way to go to reach my own personal goals – but I am well on the road now – and can see the end in sight!