Friday, December 28, 2012

Butterfly on porcelain

Last month the local BAASA group had a porcelain painting workshop. I painted this butterfly on a random milk jug and am now totally hooked, I just want to paint on every bit of china I see, but don't actually own the necessary supplies myself. BAASA!?

Anyway, it's really great because you paint on already-fired porcelain or bone china, which means whatever you have around the house or find at the shops is fair game. The paints are overglaze powders that you have to mix with esoteric oils and things, and fortunately most of the time what you see is what you get in terms of colour. You need to fire the painted pieces in a kiln, sometimes several times between layers especially if you are trying to get a nice bright red, but when you're done the design is permanent: you can wash it, eat off it, whatever. I'm hoping that a couple of us will get together in the future and share materials so that I can do more. I started a sugar bowl to go with the milk jug, but someone sadly cleaned off my drawing (in a special porcelain pencil that disappears when fired; normal pencil will become part of the glaze and be permanent) so I have to start over again.

I never used to be able to draw butterflies, because I couldn't get them even close to symmetrical. Then one day I realised that you could draw half a butterfly and trace it in reverse for the other side. Even later (like, last month) I realised that you can use a simple four-square grid to guide you in situations where tracing doesn't work so well.

I drew a few for you to demonstrate - figured that horrible mouse-drawing would replicate the effect of trying to use a disappearing pencil on a wobbly moving object with a curved surface.

The aim here is to show that you don't need to draw beautifully to get the right effect - the grid will allow you to achieve the basic symmetry that will make your butterfly look right. The first one is a bit wrong: in general the thorax needs to be in the "crosshairs" because both pairs of wings (and all the legs) grow out of it. I haven't drawn in their heads. You need to make the head small and inconspicuous to look right; our instinct as humans (duh) is to place special emphasis on the head and eyes, making them a lot bigger than they should be. This makes the butterfly look cartoonish rather than real.

Butterflies, butterflies, I am going to go and draw lots of butterflies now!


  1. This is great! My butterfly drawings are always lopsided!

  2. Yes! That was always my problem too, until literally a couple of weeks before this post. Now it just isn't a problem any more! Please try it and let me know if it works for you?