Sunday, February 13, 2011

My First Real Project!

So, in my typical fashion, I've gone all out with my stained glass fetish.  I completed my first big project the other day and took plenty of pictures along the way.  Here's a step-by-step:

1.  My humble work station.  The pattern I am attempting is on the right.  I printed out two copies and numbered the pieces in both.  I'll keep one copy whole and cut each piece out of the other so that I can trace the shapes on the glass.  From previous experience, I've learned that its better to use cardstock as it allows a more precise tracing to be made.

 2.  You can see the color pattern I made on the left.  The pattern itself came through an online search.  I used a free stained glass program trial to "trace" the pattern and insert the colors.  The trial only offers 52 colors but the paid version has 3200!!  I was still able to get close to what I wanted.  The glass and individual pattern pieces are on the right.

 3.  I've already cut out the red pieces in this photo and placed them on my master pattern.  Things are going quite slow at this point.  I'm still inexperienced in glass cutting, which means I'm having to make great use of the glass grinder which is in the upper left of the photo.

 4.  I now have the green, yellowish and clear glass cut and placed.  I had to take great care in cutting the three clear middle pieces.  Though I purchased a good amount of glass, much of it was scrap and were pretty small.  Those were the only three pieces of clear large enough to make those shapes.  Luckily, my glass cutting has improved slightly by this point.

5.  Here is a close up of the pieces and pattern cut outs.  You can see how close I was tracing them, trying to save glass.  My two cutters are shown also.  The one in the middle of the screen is a brass, oil-filled Toyo cutter with a carbide cutting wheel.  It seems to be the industry standard.  There are a number of features which make it quite nice: the carbide cutting wheel will last much, much longer than the steel wheels that come on standard cutters, such as the red one in the picture;  this cutter has an automatic oil dispenser.  When you press down on the glass, a wick pulls oil from the inside chamber, lubricating the wheel, extending cutting wheel life span, and aiding cutting.  The only thing that I use the other cutter for is tapping glass. When you make a score in the glass with a fairly tight radius, it can sometimes not break correctly unless you "run" the score by tapping it from underneath.  This fractures the glass at the score and makes for a cleaner cut.

 6.  This is where I'm at now.  By this point, I've improved my cutting significantly, resulting in more accurate shapes and sizing so that I don't have to use the grinder as much.  Its still a good idea to grind the edges of each piece of glass however, as this smooths them down and reduces the likelihood of cutting yourself.  Just the blue glass left to cut!

7.  This is everything, all cut, ground and laid out according to pattern.  Now that I know that everything fits, I'll need to foil the edges so that they can be soldered.  I'm quite ready for a break though. As it turns out, pretty much everything about stained glass works better when you are standing up and looking down at your work.  With this low table, its been a huge pain in the neck, literally!

8.  Please allow me to present my new work station! After a nice, child-less day of shopping with my wife, and yet another stop by the glass shop, I now have a much more user friendly work area.  I bought some more chemicals, solder, etc but most importantly, I purchased this nice, little work bench.  Only $100 from Harbor Freight Tools (and two hours of assembly), it should suit my needs quite nicely :)

 9.  If you thought cutting and grinding glass was tedious, just you wait.  I bought some hand-foilers to help make the job of foiling the glass a bit easier, but its still a time-consuming process.  I'd like to point out that there is still a small gap between each piece.  I learned reading "The Lazy Mans Guide to Stained Glass" that it is important to have this so that the solder can seep down between each piece and strengthen the work.  Btw, the book was a great resource and even better, its a free online PDF book!  Check it out here:                                                             's%20Guide.pdf)

 10.  I've not got everything spot soldered.  I used a liquid flux this time, instead of the paste flux.  I'm not sure yet if its better or worse actually.  I'll need to learn more about what I'm looking for in a flux before I can decide.  At any rate, after using flux in each of the corners (and realigning each and every piece), I was able to tack them all together so that I can begin getting down to business.  Since this was the back side of the piece, I decided to apply a generous amount of solder so that it would seep between the cracks and make the job of soldering the front a bit easier.  What a time consuming process!  I definitely need more practice soldering.  I guess speed will come with practice and confidence.  I think I need to study up on a few different soldering techniques.  For the back, I was just laying it down thick to fill the gaps.  Then, I went back and added solder, finally running the hot iron over the bead to try and make it look kinda nice.  For the front, I layed down the amount of solder I would need then, as with the back, one pass on each bead with the hot iron to make it look good.  Btw, I bought the Weller 100 iron, seems to be the most popular one to start with and works well from what I can tell.

 11.  Ok, I'm still not completely satisfied with my solder lines.  but for this only being my fourth project, it isn't too bad (I did three little 4x4 inch squares just to get the hang of things earlier this week).  I'm putting on the zinc edging in this picture.  Wow, what a nightmare!  First off, this stuff was curved the opposite way to start.  Trying to get to curve the correct way, without twisting or creasing was a bit pain.  Maybe next time I'll just solder the edge...

12.  All said and done, I think it came out OK :)  I'm concerned about the chain holding up, or rather the solder thats connecting it.  The solder didn't want to stick when I was tacking it.  Oh well, we'll see.  I have some different colors of patina, but since my wife and I liked the silver look, I decided to just clean off the flux and apply a layer of wax to the glass and beads to protect it.  Project Complete!

So, there it is, in all its photographic detail.  My first real project.  While it is a tedious task, this one taking the better part of 2 days, I find that I quite enjoy it.  It is art, which I want to explore, but its an art form in which I am in complete control, quite unlike the watercolor that my wife does (though she likes her sometimes unpredictable relationship with watercolor).  I'm already anxious to start another project, just need some ideas :)

A new hobby?

Wow!  I knew it has been a long time since I've posted, I just didn't realize it'd been 6 months!

Oh well, its a new year (Happy Late New Year) and the smell of change is in the air.  My wife is still painting, and doing quite wonderfully I might add.  She's gotten more commissions since December than she had the entire previous year!  Its very exciting to see things picking up for her, but I'm still waiting on her to become famous and rich :P  She's still a constant, driving motivation for me to somehow achieve some semblance of artistic expression.

I tried my hand at painting and drawing, and while she says that I have the aptitude to do well at both, I am too critical of myself to see that happening, at least without a major shift in mindset and determination.  She recently attended a nude drawing/painting session at the local gallery, her second time ever doing so, and really loved it.  Interestingly, I've since considered the idea of doing some nude modeling as well (since she said I'd make a better model than the guy that was there.  I love my wife :)  We'll see if that ever actually happens, as is the case with many of my ideas.

There is one idea however that I have at least started with.  Yet another form of artistic expression, and one that I think I might actually do well with.  Stained Glass!!  One of the local shows that we attend here in the high desert of California caters to a number of arts and crafts vendors.  Our frequent neighbor as this show is a highly skilled glass artisian.  He creates a wonderful selection of fused glass jewelry, plates and bowls and decorative items.  He's purchased a number of my wife's paintings and we've wanted to support his work with a purchase as well.  We have a chandelier in our entry way that has 24 panels of plain, smoked beveled glass that, while an interesting idea, lacks much excitement.  We decided to have him make new glass panels in whites, reds, oranges and blues to really increase the beauty of the piece.  As we were visiting his home a few weeks ago to view the sample panels and colors, he showed us some of the numerous stained glass pieces he has in his home.  A number of tiffany style lamps, kitchen window and side lite in the bedroom.  He also showed me his shop and the tools of the trade.  While is fused glass items are beautiful, I found myself drawn to stained glass.  So what did my impulsive self do?  Bought 100 pounds of glass!!  I also bought a number of other items deemed essential to the craft such as: a glass grinding, a good glass cutter, a lathekin, copper foil, solder, flux, a soldering iron with extra tips and other items.

I'm pretty excited with this idea and really think that it might suit my abilities and personality.  I've already done a few small panels to learn how to cut the glass and solder the joints.  Perhaps I should have taken a class or two first, but hey.. I'm not exactly a traditional learner :P

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Carlsbad Art Show Report

So, how did our first big art show go?  As it turns out, I'm still not exactly sure how to answer this question...

My son's birthday (1 year!) is on Aug 16.  Since the grandparents haven't seen him in a while, and we needed a babysitter to watch him this weekend anyway, they decided to come down and celebrate early.  This gave us the time to get some things ready for this show that we haven't had for other shows.  We finally made and matted a few of the largest print size that we can make, 16" x 20" (matted to 22" x 28").  We only have about a half dozen or so paintings that we have a digital copy that is high enough quality to print that size anyway.  We also printed some more greeting cards.  There were a few paintings that we hadn't made cards for yet and we wanted to have at least five of each one.  We also double-matted most of her original paintings using colored mat board.  I think that this really increased the perceived value of the artwork and they look great.  We're thinking about double-matting our larger prints as well.  Lastly, we printed and stretched our very first canvas prints!  I'm not sure how well they will sell, but they look really great.

Since the art show was 2 1/2 hours away so we left the night before and stayed with some friends in the area.  Waking up at about 6 am, we headed to Starbucks and the grocery store to pick up some water and snacks for the show.  About half of the attendees were already at the event when we arrived at around 7.  It was quite easy to find our space, a 10' x 15' spot between a glass artist and a lady who made and decorated bird houses with sea shells.  We were able to park our van right across from the spot, unload and set up with no issues.  Set up took slightly longer than normal due to having to rearrange our wall display to accommodate and showcase a few of the larger prints and canvas prints.  We also had to frame a few of her newer originals.  About an hour and half later, we were all set up and ready for the day.

One of the first things we noticed is that the atmosphere was a bit different there than at the other shows we have attended.  For starters, everyone seemed to actually enjoy looking at art! This makes sense of course as it was an art/craft only show, but it was nice to see greater interest in her works.  It didn't take long to be able to distinguish between regular show attendants and other artists.  Other artists usually gave themselves away by their tendencies to "analyze" the artwork rather than just look at it :P  There were a surprising number of artists that expressed the difficulties that they've had when they tried to use watercolor.  I heard a quote the other day that went something like "with watercolor, you're always only one decision away from disaster".  Genia doesn't seem to share that sentiment, her work flowing pretty effortlessly and smoothly.  Perhaps its simply that she doesn't see a "mistake" as a disaster as I typically do. 

Genia drew some rather decent crowds when she was painting one of the two paintings that she brought to work on.  One of them was the commission she's currently working on of a sleeping baby.  There were lots of "aww, look at the baby" exclamations with that one.  The other was a image of a local Calsbad monument.  It was great to see people point and say "Oh look!  That's just down the road!".  I definitely think that providing some type of demo increases the publics interest in an artist and Genia was one of only two that was doing so.  We were also one of the few booths with two people working it, so I guess its more difficult to do a demo without someone else to take care of the customers.  Husbands, help you wives! 

Despite the great interest in Genia's work and the many compliments that she received (the "Cactus Flowers" painting received a surprising number of comments), sales were not great.  In fact, we gave out even fewer business cards and fliers on commissions that at some of our smaller shows.  As to sales, it seems that most of the vendors only did "OK".  Now, what OK means to them, I didn't ask.  As to Genia and I, we did ok by our standards, which means that we made our expenses back.  Actually, after paying her families dinner, we actually lost money, but it wasn't a total flop.  The experience was great, we were able to meet a lot of wonderful people, we're getting her name out a bit more and we got to see some other artist's work and booths.  I was really hoping that we'd make enough to fund our next show, but alas, that was not the case. We've got a medium sized show next weekend in Apple Valley and another small farmers market in Barstow the week after.  We aren't currently signed up for any larger shows, need to develop some extra income, but we do look forward to trying again.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Our First "Real" Art Show!

I'm Excited! 

My wife and I have been attending local shows and swap meets for a few months now.  None of them were "art" shows and living in the high desert of California, we didn't expect sales to soar (and they didn't).  This weekend however will be our first "real" art show.  We'll be attending the 12th Annual Art in the Village in Carlsbad, CA.  First off, Carlsbad is a wonderful little coastal town very near Camp Pendleton, CA, where I was stationed for three years.  We'll be able to visit a few friends and even more, escape the desert heat for a few days!  Most important though, this will be the first real taste of what to expect at a show for artists with a very targeted audience. 

So, what are we hoping for?  Genia, of course, is excited to see the other artists and their art, maybe get a few new ideas and tips.  She's not a big fan of the high desert, and loves the coast so she'd be happy regardless of what we were doing.  A gallery owner from Carlsbad has been following Genia on twitter so she's interested in perhaps meeting with him and developing a new contact.  I, being the fiscally-minded person that I am, want to make tons of money!!  Ok, I at least want to make our fee back, which was $220 and a bit-o-profit would be nice too.  This show will really be something of a gauge to determine if we can/want to/should continue to do the local shows or move to art-specific events.  The great thing about local shows is that childcare is simple and there is little travel.  Also, the costs of the local events are quite low so one or two sales of our smallest prints make up for the expense typically.  Larger shows take a bit more planning and travel and the entry fees can really be quite high.  The returns have the potential to be great however, both in financial terms as well as exposure and publicity.  I'll be sure to post a review of the experience once its all done.

One very cool thing that we just discovered yesterday is that one of Genia's paintings, Cherry Blossoms II, was used on the event poster!  (click the link to view it in our website)  While this is extremely awesome, there's also an issue with it, primarily in that they never asked our permission to use the image.  I've asked Genia to review the event application to see if there was any fine print authorizing images to be used but so far she hasn't found anything.  While receiving this additional exposure and advertising is great on one hand, doing so without permission is a definite no-no.  After much deliberation, I've decided that I will contact them about it... after the show :P  At the very least, I want to learn more about copyright laws, especially after the Cheeseburger in Paradise incident

While this will be the most expensive event we've attended, and also the most regulated (every print signed and numbered, fire extinguisher required, seller ID number posted, etc), we're very excited and look forward to sharing the experience with you :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

On Passion...

Does an artist have to be passionate about art?  Is one an artist if they don't have that passion?  What is an "artist" anyway?

By no means do  I call myself an artist, nor am I sure that I ever will be.  Even more, I'm not yet sure that I really want to be.  For the most part, I have enjoyed the few things that I have done.  A few sketches, a few paintings (they'll be up soon, I promise), but at times, I wonder if I'm only doing this because my wife is or just to do something new.  Is the passion supposed to be there in the very beggining or does it come with time? 

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts both on what "being an artist" means to you and your views on the passion (or lack thereof) of artistic creation...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Violin in the Making

I finally did another sketch :)  In keeping with my wife's suggestion that I use only pens (to build my confidence), here's my latest sketch.  I briefly read through the EDM list a week or so ago and one of the few that I could remember was EDM #17 - Draw a musical instrument.  While I do play guitar and have one sitting in the livingroom, I decided I wanted to draw something a bit more classical.  I found this wonderful image of a violin in the process of being built and had to give it a shot!

The original image has a nice glass lamp sitting on the table above the violin.  I initially decided that I wasn't going to include it on the sketch but when I was done, that top left corner seemed awfully empty.  I added the lamp, but now I'm wishing I didn't.  I'm actually pretty pleased with the rest of it, for it being a 15 min sketch with only pens.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Website - Creation

Of all the many things we've done and experienced since my wife decided to "go professional", this was by far the most frustrating and stressful.  Hopefully these tidbits will spare you some of that.

As I mentioned in my last blog, I knew nothing about web hosting or design.  The hosting part was fairly easy to figure out but the design took quite a bit more effort.  The hosting company that I went with,, provided a large variety of pre-made templates but after searching through them, I was left feeling that none of them really had what I was looking for.  So, I began doing some research into how to create your own website from scratch. 

All websites are build using HTML code, though I learned that the easiest method to creating a website would be to use a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) style of web designer which writes the code for you.  The most popular of these is Adobe Dreamweaver.  Unfortunately, the price for that program was such that I didn't look twice before searching for some free options.   The two programs that I ended up using were Kompozer and Seamonkey.  These two programs are very similar and I started with Kompozer due to the excellent guide provided by  If you know nothing at all about web design, I highly encourage you to follow this guide to get a good idea of what to expect.  The guide is very step-by-step and I followed it religiously.  Once I was a bit more comfortable with what I was doing, I began to insert our own information and formatting. 

A few things that will help you out a bit will be to get all of your text and images together before you really get started on your site.  Some of the things you'll want to do are:

- Create a folder to store all of your web files/images
- Create your Welcome Message if you are going to have one
- Create your Artists Statement
- Create your Biography
- Determine what images you are going to use on your site
- Modify your images to all be the same size, resolution (we use three image sizes on our site, 150 x 150 pixels for thumbnails, 500 x ??? pixels for mid-size images, and 750 x ??? for our full-size images.  All of these are set to 72 resolution, which is sufficient for most web applications yet is not a high enough quality that others can copy, scan or print your images from the web)
- Save and arrange images in your "web" folder.  We have our images divided by size and gallery.  For example, we have separate folders for not only our full-size and thumbnail images, but each of those folders have sub folders based on gallery (ie, flowers, abstract, portraits, etc).  This organizes things well and makes it easy to find images.
- Create your web banner or other images that you will use and place them in the web folder

As an artist's website, images were a huge part of the content.  We used Photoshop to edit all of our pictures.  The images of artwork were "saved for web" in JPEG format.  If you use the "save for web" option, it will compress the file giving a smaller file size.  There are only three image types typically used in web design, JPEG, GIF and PNG and each have their benefits and shortfalls.  JPEG's are great for detailed images with a great variety of color.  Though they end up with a larger file size (potential slowing down the load times of your website), they provide the greatest amount of color and detail.  GIF's are really great for simple and low color images such as buttons, arrows, etc.  They have a very small file size and you can do some cool things with them.  They can be strung together to create a mini slideshow/video and they can be made to have a transparent background so you can see the background images or text around the image itself, instead of having a block of color around the picture.  The downside is that they only use 256 colors so they aren't suited to detailed and colorful images.  PNG is something of a bridge between the two, designed to have a transparent background but also utilize a greater variety of colors.  Here is a website that discusses these types in greater detail.

When you create the files for your website, it is highly recommeded that you save them in the place that you plan to keep them.  Be organized from the start and don't move too much around as even one folder or file in the wrong place in the server can lead to all sorts of headaches.

Once you have the building blocks of your website created, and the layout in mind, you can really begin to create the site.  Both Kompozer and Seamonkey work in the same way with the same features, though I preferred Seamonkey.  If you've followed this guide on for Kompozer, then you shouldn't have too many questions about how to create a basic layout.  Unfortunately, I don't know much more than you can read there. 

Creating a website can be a tough process, but a very rewarding one as well.  Once the site is actually created though, upkeep and maintenance is fairly minimal.  Though you may not be able to, try to get what you want on the first try.  I'll be completely redoing our website to make it look more "contemporary".  At least I have an idea of what I'm doing this time :)

I highly encourage you to check out other highly rated websites when creating yours.  Here is a great article that showcases the website of artist Latifah Shay and discusses what makes a good website.  In the end, it comes down to three things:
1. Make sure your website has a quick load time.  Many visitors won't stay if it takes longer than five seconds to load the page.  Do this by not including a bunch of "extra" stuff, such as music, videos, flash screens and by compressing your image files.
2. Make sure your site is visually appealing.  Remember, sometimes "less is more".
3. Make sure your site is easy to navigate.  No one will look around too much if its difficult to get from page to page.

I plan to write a page on website and search engine optimization at some point in the future (once I learn more about it myself).  However, one thing that really helps the ranking of your page is to have incoming links from other sites.  Here's your chance!  If you have your own website, please leave a comment with your web address and provide any additional web creation tips and resources that you've found especially useful.  Besides, we all need a bit of inspiration and ideas from other people every now and then :)