Blue Wren Vase by Ruth RobartsonMaterials:

Flat sided Vase. Various brushes, wipe-out tool, masking lacquer, paper and pencils. Grounding oil, metallics, pen oil, enamels, Pure Gum Turps or odourless brush cleaner, Copay based medium. Paints: Meissen Blue, Meissen Red, Black, Banding Blue, Meissen Green, Ice Blue, White, Turquoise, Mixing Yellow and Hair Brown.



To make the medallions take a piece of paper and fold it in half, then in half again. In one quadrant draw an interesting shape, then cut out the shape while paper is still folded. Flatten it out and centre on one side of vase. You can hold it in place with tiny pieces of blue tack. Carefully trace around the shape, remove the paper and blue tack. Do the same on the other side of the vase.


first fire

With a good pointed brush fill in the entire inside of shape with masking lacquer. Do the same on the other side of the vase after the masking lacquer has dried on the first side before attempting the second side. When the masking lacquer is completely dry, it is time to put on the background. Mix up three different colours of paint for each side. These colours are to echo the colours of the birds on each side. Mix them with painting medium to a runny consistency. Place a plate under the vase and paint one side of the vase with turps or brush cleaner. On the blue bird side place drops of Meissen Blue, Turquoise and a few small drops of black. Gently run these colours together until the vase is covered. On the reverse side of the vase which will have the red wren, place Meissen Red, Mixing Yellow and a few drops of black. Once again, blend these colours in. When it is all dry, carefully remove the masking lacquer, be sure to carefully wipe top of rim and also the base of the vase. Fire at 800°C.


second fire

Draw or trace Blue Wren in one medallion. Use Meissen Blue for tail and tail coverlet feathers. Paint Banding Blue for under body. Meissen Green for the wings and collar. Start with the long flight feathers first and work up to the smaller coverlet ones. Meissen Blue plus white for the crown and Ice Blue for the cheek patch. Meissen Blue for the chest. Black of course for the beak, legs, eye and the “necklace” and black for the head and eye surround.


It is important to paint in the above sequence because of the overlapping feathers. Keep a small ring clear of paint around the eye, this will be painted blue in the next firing. Paint in branches with Hair brown. Wipe out two highlights in the eye, one small round and one at the top and a crescent one lower down.


The red Crowned Wren can now be painted in the appropriate colours. Mix a little Hair Brown with White for the under body colours. Always paint in the direction of the feathers.


third fire

Paint masking lacquer over the birds, water lilies and branch.

Sky – Birds are sitting in filtered suns rays. Use peacock blue or similar and brush long angled strokes diagonally across the sky. Restrict number of sun rays to three or four as too many will lose impact. Softly brush in sky with a large brush painting horizontally across work, darker at top and almost white at horizon line. Soft yellow may be brushed near horizon line and on to close water surface. Clean off a little paint from tree foliage shapes using a cotton bud and wipe out tool. Add trunks and branches.

Water – Darker at horizon except at the focal point to the lower right of design. Wipe out a fine white line on the horizon line to simulate distance…make sure your level is perfectly straight. Check over work and clean edges again. Fire 820°C.


fourth fire

Re mask as in the third fire, paint sky, water. Clean up and remove the lacquer. Now with care the Kingfisher and rest of design can be strengthened. Soft shadow leaves can be painted in water at horizon line. Run wipe out tool through them for ripples. This fire can be done in two stages if you are not confident painting wet on wet. Fire 820°C.


fifth fire

Background should be reasonably complete by now so concentrate on adding more colour, shading and fine details to the birds feet, branch and water lilies. Fire 810°C.


Sixth Fire

Sky – Peacock blue, dark (Banding) blue or black for shading. Wipe colour off tree tops in direct sun rays.

Water – Brush a little Banding blue towards edges of piece, in foreground and under lily leaves. Wipe out more ripples, a variation of tone and colour is essential for a naturalistic effect. Shade distant bushes at water’s edge with a greyed sky colour, darkest at waterline. Re-establish light on bushes. Mirror the bushes in the water, blur edges and pull wipe out tool through them.

Kingfishers – Assess birds and repaint with dark blues. Chest and front have mottled shading in black, under wing and near the perch. Place Banding blue then black on flight wing feathers and shoulders. Look carefully at your photo so you can capture realism. Lighten wing feathers with brush this will give your bird a rounded form. A feathering effect can be achieved by scratching in lines with a satay stick or toothpick. Do not overdo this.

Water Lilies – Add black green or Cypress green and black mixed in brush. Model leaves for light and shade, paint stems. Add a little Ochre.

Flowers – Shade with pink but have them in a light value to contrast well with the dark water.

Branch and Lichen – Paint with Chartreuse, pushing grey/black up under the lichen as it grows on top of branch. Model the rounded shape of the branch with grey/black mix and/or pink/blue mix, darker to underside. To achieve the look of dead wood touch branch carefully with a little turps (turps repel) getting it to run lengthwise. Check work again and Fire to 810°C.


seventh fire

Deepen black shading on bird wing feathers if not dark enough.



Review your Painting: Is the blue of the birds on the leaves, in the water and on the branch? Is the Ochre/Mixing yellow colour hinted on the leaves and maybe water? Will grey/black pen work enhance the turps repel branch to simulate a dead wood look? Are the light beams giving the impression of a serene jungle pool? Did you sign your piece and is the back clean? Fire 800°C.



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