Art nerdistry

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First I should mention some things I forgot in my last post.

I really loved one of the Met's recent acquisitions, Corrado Giaquinto's The Penitent Magdalen (c. 1750).

It is a stunning painting, and it was great to see. I also loved the way they arranged the chat cards to include a small reproduction of a preparatory red chalk drawing. I wish museums did more of this, as I think it really enhances the experience.

I usually take snapshots of pieces I either liked or need to remember at some point, so I decided to make a Flickr set of Art from the Met, collecting these images.

Now onto the hands-on nerdistry!

This semester I am taking a chemistry course dealing with artist's materials and techniques, as well as aspects of conservation. It combines lectures with lab work, and the labs have been spectacularly cool.

Our first lab was synthesizing pigments, where in a series of fairly simple procedures we created azurite, malachite, Prussian blue, burnt ochre, and cobalt blue.

I cannot even begin to describe what a huge thrill it was to create some of my favorite pigments (especially malachite!!!). I should add that I made a Flickr set of Art Nerdistry, which contains more images and notes on some of the techniques.

(If you are super, super interested, I put my lab report online, and I would love to geek out anytime over it.)

Last week, we made Egyptian faience, which is basically a self-glazing ceramic. More specifically, it is made from sand which contains clay and mineral salts, combined with water to form a kind of paste. As the water evaporates, it carries salts to the surface, which deposit silica and metallic oxides, the components of the glassy glaze. When fired, the inside is a solid white, resembling porcelain, and the outside is a luminous glass-like surface.

In lab, my group worked with manganese, but I asked if I could use some of our synthesized pigments on my own.

Eric came with me on Friday, and we mixed up a batch of faience, using combinations of our synthetic pigments to try to get different colors. I think Eric found the whole process a little tedious, but I was in heaven:

We decided to make discs, which could be strung on wire to make a kind of molecular sculpture. I'll have to see how they turn out when fired, of course.

It was way cool to have the lab to ourselves (and later to myself, when Eric left) and play around with new materials. Faience is a real pain in the neck to work with, but I think it has so much potential for really beautiful creations.

I kind of wish I had a kiln at home, to make my own.

The more of these materials that I experiment with, the more I want to try more. When I finished my fresco, I immediately started thinking about having a fresco business that does wall murals and smaller pieces on tile. Now I'm thinking of jewelry and design pieces using faience... God help me when I take weekend courses in illuminated manuscripts and mosaics.

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This page contains a single entry by Vicki published on March 19, 2008 4:35 AM.

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