If you have been following along with the last few posts, it is pretty clear that underglazing requires a logical, methodical approach. The other side of this is that it also takes away a lot of the control that artists who favor this way of working tend to want. It turns out that my Hackney project has provided a good example of the kind of curve that gets thrown at ceramic artists from time to time.
Bone china horses like the Hackney offer some real advantages to an underglaze artist, most notably the fact that most colors are pretty durable after they are fired. (This is very much not true when working on earthenware.) But they also come with some downsides, and one of those is that the clay will sometimes randomly resist color or glaze. I had already dealt with one tiny spot on the base that resisted glaze on the first fire. That was easily fixed by adding glaze to the spot for the next firing. The next instance, however, was a bit more of a problem, because the spot was on the barrel in the middle of what should have been a pretty even golden tone. As anyone who has ever airbrushed with gradual building layers knows, flaws like this are really difficult to fix. With underglazes, that is even more so because you really cannot tell when an area is truly opaque even when all the color is raw. When the surface is fired (and therefor its mature color) and you are hitting it again with raw, chalky color, it is an even bigger challenge.
So how do you salvage this?
The first thing I chose to do is create a back-up in case my calculations are wrong. Remember I won’t know if I have fixed this problem until the whole area is under impervious glaze. To allow for that, I needed the area that resisted to have an outline like a bleach spot in the coat. That is what is pictured in the photo at the top of this post. This is something that does happen in real horses, and fortunately for me they are particularly common in the area where my resist spot occurred. I just needed to give the spot a more natural outline and feather the edges. That is more realistic for a bleach spot and also gives me a better chance that the repair will blend. That is my preference, after all—that the area not look any different from the rest of the belly. This is just my back-up plan if that does not work.
This situation also made an issue where I had been wavering easier to decide. This is the horse that went into the kiln yesterday.
As I said in the previous post, I was erring on the side of a paler tone for fear of losing too much of the dappling. What I worried about was the depth of color on the lightest areas of the coat. Because the tan goes on so chalky, there is a lot more guesswork to the final color in those areas. I knew that I might want to hit them again and do another firing before adding the gloss. I was going to wait and see what the fired color looked like and decide. Having an unexpected resist spot made that decision easy. To have any hope of getting that spot blended into the barrel, the color in the lightest parts of the coat was going to have to be deeper.
So I am once again waiting for the horse to cool in the kiln. Today I will find out if he has a bleach spot like the one above, or if he just has a deeper golden coloring in the palest parts of his coat. Either way, he is scheduled to have his final glaze firing tonight, so tomorrow I will share the finished horse.