China Painted Bears

These hand china painted bears are brand new to my shop! China painting is a traditional process in many of the porcelain factories around the world that allows for detailed, delicate color to be added to ceramic pieces.

China paints are ceramic pigments that fuse with glaze and have to be layered like oil paintings, but are fired in the kiln. For these pieces I use china paint to show the bear’s beautiful habitat on the surface of the figurine.

China paint comes in a variety of colors in a dry powdered form. Using a palette knife, I first mix the powdered pigments with a medium. I use glycerin a sugar syrup. Other mediums can also be used including evaporated turpentine, various oils, and even sprite! I choose glycerin for its lack of toxins or smells and its work ability. China paints are usually mixed on glass panes or ceramic dishes to allow them to be covered and used again.

First, I clean the piece of any dust, which would mix with the china paint and cause parts of it to burn out in the kiln. I use rubbing alcohol and a paper towel, but you can also use acetone to clean ceramic pieces of dust. After cleaning, I can being outlining the painting on the surface and filling in with color. This part is very similar to any other kind of painting, especially oil painting because of the need to build up layers to get depth and shading in the colors.

I like to use paintings that inspire me as a source to work from. This mountain landscape was  inspired by Caspar David Friedrich’s The Watzman. I have always been inspired by artists in the romantic period because of their love for nature. In romanticism, nature is believed to be the most powerful source for all emotion and inspiration.

Here is the bear after one layer of china paint. This is then fired to fuse the first layer of color so that more layers can be painted on and fired again. I use various brush techniques for the landscape and a cotton cloth to blot the sky so that it appears to have a different, lighter appearance.

Here is the finished landscape bear after the second layer of painting and the second firing. While this process is similar to other glazing techniques it has a more subtle and elegant result. The variations in color and depth of perspective can be controlled more easily in china paint than other processes.

To purchase this bear, order one like it, or view other items in my shop, please visit Porcelain Menagerie


About Ariel Bowman

I grew up in Dallas, Texas where I learned to love nature, animals, and art. I graduated with a BFA in ceramics from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2011. I am currently working towards my MFA in ceramics at the University of Florida. This blog serves as a way for my friends and family, as well as anyone interested in my work, to view not only the finished pieces, but some of the process as well. You can subscribe to this blog to keep up to date on what I am currently working on in the studio, research, new sources, and exhibitions.
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