— February 2018
In stained glass tradition the working drawing that an artist uses to create the final glasswork is called a cartoon.
This cartoon is a full scale-drawing or artwork, in colour or black and white. It conveys the essence of the glass work to come; its size and the shape of the glass pieces, and details of applied techniques; paintwork or etching for instance. Quite simply, it is the glass artist’s working guide for creating the work. It represents the artistic transition from scale design to full size work.
Here once, at cartoon stage, you worked out all your compositional and practical challenges.
I was trained at the Swansea Architectural Stained Glass course (1989 – 1992). We had one day a week devoted to life drawing, and learnt to cartoon at 1:1 with Colwynn Morris who had worked for Powells of Whitefriars. It was important grounding in drawing and draughtsmanship. Throughout my career I have continued to use my skills for technical drawing, and direct free-hand working by eye.
Like many contemporary artists I take the best of what is available to me and use it! Today, it is possible, and also at times appropriate, to create that cartoon electronically. The printed version can be very useful creatively and practically, and also a liberating creative springboard. An example of this in my portfolio is the Sainsbury’s facade where the cartoons were scaled up electronically and used merely as a guide. The actual enamelling was all free hand. Read about this project in my published journal of 2009: ‘Vitreous Art’.
The thing you have to understand about simply enlarging a small image, is that you enlarge both the bits you like, and the bits that are unconsidered or unseen. You create new design information, sometimes unrecognised at small scale. A new brief can emerge – one that must either be managed, or left to chance as part of your art.
In recent years I have reinvented cartooning for my projects. Due to my experience of working with industry, I am taking a different explorative perspective on the part cartoons play in my creative journey. However, it is a process of distillation where I build even more meaning and direction into the art, on its journey to become an artwork in glass. It has an influence on the choices I make about how my work is made. Sometimes throwing up epiphanies not considered at the birth of the scale design.
Depending on the commission, the practical processes will always be a ‘horses for courses’ set of choices, as you can read in my first blog ‘If turner had a spray gun’ – this can mean any combination art working for a contemporary artist.
The full size cartoon for The Illumination Window for Durham Cathedral was revealed to the project team recently – as I moved forward with the glass in my hands.