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Painting Watercolor Crystal

By Mary Ann Boysen


Crystal PatternsThe procedure for painting watercolor crystal is much the same as lace, exactly the same! However, with the crystal you might be seeing what is inside the crystal or what is beyond it; since it is totally transparent.

It is those colors that will determine what colors to use in the execution of the painting. I start by drawing the main design, then repeating it until I have memorized it. (If the crystal is very ornate, you can cheat by doing many little strokes in the direction of the design, changing colors frequently). But if the cut glass is a simple design, such as in this image, you must memorize the pattern. Treat each little facet as a separate painting. Don't panic by looking at the total image and frantically worrying about "how will I ever do this?"

Red Pepper CrystalNext is a painting of a watercolor crystal vase with which I took some liberties. I put a large red pepper inside so that it would be a brilliant contrast to the glass. In each broad facet of the crystal I painted the red shape that I saw. One at a time....and they were all a bit different.

Notice the light space between the facets. This is the light that you see at the edge of the cut. This also helps to define each facet of watercolor crystal. In the bottom of the vase you can see through the crystal.

The red checked tablecloth shows up and it is distorted because of the curve of the glass. Also you see a bit of the purple onion reflected in the crystal.

All these things make up the body of the painting. You will also notice that I painted the edge of the painting to look like a mat, and I added cracks across the face of the painting to look as if the glass was broken. I also painted what appears to be faint reflections in the glass.

I entered this painting in a juried competition. It was accepted, and I was called by one of the committee workers to see if I would like to pick it up and have the glass replaced before the show opening. Oh, how I laughed.

Smooth GlassPainting smooth clear glass poses another problem. It does not have facets that you can treat as individual little paintings, so you must treat the whole, or concentrate on what is inside the glass, as that is the little painting that you must concentrate on.

Here, the Lalique apple is not transparent, but translucent. It has only a hint of the green glass that is behind it on the left side. The clear glass apple is clear, so it is easy to see the red object behind it. Likewise, the faceted vase (the same that I used in the previous illustration) has a green object behind it, so each facet is painted thusly.

Daffodils and DaisiesThe following is a faceted vase that is loaded with flowers.  Stems are in every direction in the water. It is a mish-mosh of greens, blues mingled with some of the colors of the flowers which are reflected in the glass. Even the shadow below has a repeat (in a lighter value) of the colors in the vase.

SHADOWS ARE NOT GREY! They are every color of the rainbow! They also carry reflected light from the subject casting the shadows. That is another entire chapter!

Now, I hope you understand more about patterns found in cut glass, and smooth watercolor crystal. It takes a bit of practice to get this right, but you can do it. All it takes is dedication to practice and the desire to succeed. Remember what it takes to get to Carnegie Hall. (practice, practice, practice)

Return to Watercolor Techniques from Watercolor Crystal 

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