I began creating reverse paintings on glass about 25 years ago. Prior to starting out on this interesting artistic adventure I painted on canvas or wood panel and also sculpted, mostly in clay.
One of the first things I began to learn about reverse painting on glass, (which at that time was known to me as painting on glass or glass painting) was the fact that glass as a painting support would restrict my freedom of arm movement as well as the way in which I would be able to apply paint to a surface.
At first I didn't really notice that these changes in method were occurring because I was totally absorbed in learning a new painting technique. This took place during the early 1980's in south-west France, on a large, round metal garden table in a country garden. One Spring morning I sat down with a small table easel, a few paints and a piece of square glass to embark on my grand adventure with reverse painting.
I'd already decided when starting out with this painting technique that I would try to develop an alternative painting technique for reverse painting. However, I first had to learn which paints to use, and how to apply them.
This wasn't to be as easy as I thought. It was difficult to properly create outlines for the subjects I was trying to paint, with the result that my very first attempts at creating reverse paintings on glass invariably ended up in the bathtub under a stream of hot soapy water. My only 'recompense' in those moments of totally wiping out what I'd laboured over for hours was observing the acrylic or oil paint 'skins' that occasionally held together on the glass and that I for some reason relished in trying to lift off in one complete piece!
Glass is a non absorbant surface..
My first self-taught lesson was learning that because glass is an extremely smooth and non-absorbant surface I would have to be careful about applying layers of paint one upon the other in the way I'd been used to doing when painting on canvas or wood panel. On a glass support, applying layer upon layer of paint without respecting the drying time necessary in between layers risks lifting your entire composition off the glass itself.
Following that very first glass painting adventure I decided to adopt a more methodical approach in order to learn more about how to accomplish the reverse painting technique. I already knew that glass was a smooth, non absorbant surface and that this painting technique would require quite a lot of patience. My next step would be to find out how to create neat, clear outlines of the subject or subjects I wanted to paint on the glass.
Glass dictates its own painting style..
I first had to learn more about using glass as a painting support. I consequently began to understand why a subject that is painted on glass usually appeared more simplified (similar to that of naive art) than a painting created on canvas or wood panel. I also learned that the use of glass as a non absorbant painting support can easily inhibit the creation of a three-dimensional appearance of a subject being painted.
Working the paint in order to create areas of shadow or light on glass was therefore more complicated than when painting on canvas for the following reasons:
a) because creating a three-dimensional effect needed to be done with the first layer of paint applied to the glass before it dried
b) because working the paint to create shadow and light required constant observation from the opposite side of the glass and because colour-mixing was creating results out of my own direct view. This in turn is explained by the fact that when creating a reverse painting on glass there is both a painting side of the glass, and a viewing side (in order to see results)
In gradually learning this information about glass painting I was filled with admiration for the artists throughout the history of reverse painting who have created beautiful artworks, a number of which include applications of light and shadow in great detail.
You can find more information about reverse painting by visiting the Reverse Painting FAQ or the links in the top right column of this page.