Saturday, 31 October 2015

Another Trip Outside the Comfort Zone

OK, I'm way behind in my blogging responsibilities, but I'm working to catch up.  Considering that I started working on this vase about... well... less than ten years ago (but more than seven), four months to blog about it isn't too bad.

This vase is the result of some more recent influences, especially from the Saskatoon 2014 Woodturning Symposium.  The emphasis there was more on surface decoration rather than turning techniques, and initially I was kind of disappointed with it because I thought that I would never use any of what I was learning.  I did check out Binh Pho's airbrush demo though because I had done some airbrush tattoos before and it is a lot of fun.

I started the vase itself all those years ago as a natural edge project.  It is made from birch and was originally turned wet to about 3/4" thick and left to dry for a while.  When I went back to it I found it had cracked so I filled the cracks with epoxy and thinned the walls a bit more, then let it dry a while longer.  When I came back to it again  the cracks were larger and more numerous.  More epoxy and I started to turn it again but this time it flew off the lathe when the base snapped.  I set it aside for a few  more years.

Fast forward to the 2015 Matisho Memorial.  I decided that I wanted to try some air brushing on something but I didn't want to spend a lot of time starting a turning from scratch, and I especially didn't want to cover a good piece of wood with paint.  This vase, sitting in the 'corner where projects go to die', was the obvious choice.

Even more epoxy, and this is what I started with when I got to Waldheim.  The first thing I needed to do was to put it between centres and turn the foot so I could grab it with the chuck.  In order to do this I needed a centre at the top end of the vase.  Fortunately I had a piece left over from a face plate turning (I am not a hoarder, I swear) that fit nicely inside and gave me a centre for the top end.

After I turned the foot I turned the bowl around and knocked off the natural edge.  I kept turning until I had this.

The next step was to cover it in sanding sealer and let it dry for a while.  While I waited I sketched out some flowers.

The numbers are there to show the stages in which the masking is removed from the vase.  When  the overlapping edges are outlined with black this helps to give the petals some depth and separation.  Once the sanding sealer had dried it was time to transfer the flowers to the vase.  For this, I used wax free transfer paper.  It won't interfere with the paint and comes in multiple colors so I can remember which color I was going to paint each flower.

I did my best to erase the parts of the flowers that were 'under' the other flowers but I wasn't 100% successful.  It didn't matter in the end anyway other than helping to keep my layers straight.

Before I started painting I had to make sure that the paint went where it was supposed to.  I covered the vase with frisket, a thin, clear, sticky backed film that cuts easily.  Because the vase tapered as it went I cut it into tapered strips and stuck them on.  Later I realized that, because I was painting the background in this step, I could have just covered the flowers alone and I would have saved a lot of frisket.

I painted the inside yellow to start.  It took a few coats to hide the epoxy.   I had been concerned that the epoxy would simply repel the paint but using lots of light coats eventually colored it over.  You can still see where it was if you look but it doesn't jump out at you as badly as it might have with other finishes.   After painting the interior I used a scalpel to cut the frisket around the flowers and peel away everything that covered the background.

The background consists of three layers.  The first layer is a translucent blue-green (viridian according to the bottle) followed by a thin layer of opaque yellow and finally another layer of viridian.  If you think it looks a little blotchy, it was deliberate.  The intention was to simulate an out-of -focus background of grass.  To be honest though, I really didn't pull it off.  The other thing I should have done before I painted the green was outline the top and bottom of the flowers with black.  This would have helped them to stand out from the background.  One thing I have learned about airbrushing is that everything looks like crap until you remove the masking.

  Once the paint had dried I re-applied the Frisket so I could paint the individual flowers.  At this point I got carried away (once again) and forgot to take any pictures.  If there is anyone who reads this blog, they must get frustrated by this habit of mine.  This time though, because the painting is the biggest part of this project, and because I don't need to make another vase to show how it was done, I'm going to recreate the process for you.

It starts with a drawing of a flower.  In this case I laid the frisket on top of the paper and drew the flower on top.  Then I used an X-acto knife to cut along all the lines.  Make sure to cut through the intersections slightly.  The numbers show the order in which the pieces of frisket are removed.

Remove the sections with the number 1 on them and paint lightly along the edges where they border other sections but not the outer edges.

Repeat the process for the number 2 sections, followed by the number 3(s) and 4's.  When you remove the 4's the only place you need to paint is right at the base where they meet the centre.

Now you can see some separation, some of the petals look like they are 'under' the others. The frisket is still over the centre and all around the outside.

The next step is to add some colour.  I'm not painting individual petals at this point, just trying to get a semi-even coat over the whole thing,

Now I have cut a piece of paper with a curve that starts with a large radius and tightens as it goes.  I lay it on the flower and try to line it up with a low spot in the top of the petal, then paint along the edge.  The goal is to get paint on both the paper and the flower.  Repeat the process all around the flower, changing the part of the curve that you use, or flipping it over, to add some variation.

When I did the vase this is the point where I stopped.  Since then though I have tried to get things to look a little more realistic by shading things to give them the appearance of light hitting the high spots.

Here is the finished product with the centre painted an the frisket removed from the outside.

I think I went a little overboard with the shading and the centre isn't as sharp as it should have been, but at least it still looks like a flower.  Here is a closer look at the flowers on the vase.

As you can see it didn't come out looking like a professional job but, like a lot of my stuff, it looks good from a distance.  The airbrushing was fun and there are lots of techniques to try.  It has kind of sucked me in for a while, and I will share more later.