Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Wind-Blown Asters, 1951; watercolor on paper, 30 x 40 inches (Frame: 35 x 45 inches); Collection of the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Gift of Dr. Edna M. Lindemann, 1968

Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Wind-Blown Asters, 1951; watercolor on paper, 30 x 40 inches (Frame: 35 x 45 inches); Collection of the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Gift of Dr. Edna M. Lindemann, 1968

Watercolor Effects on Cermics

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

When used correctly and with a little experimentation artists can achieve watercolor like effects on ceramic work.  Ceramic stains and underglazes when mixed with water and painted on unfired white-glazed bisque is visually similar to watercolor painting on paper. The main difference is the glazed bisque surface absorbs the color and water mixture more quickly. But once tested, you can create beautiful watercolor-like surfaces on clay. Ceramic watercolors differ from your conventional use of watercolors in the fact that ceramic watercolors are a mixtures of mason stains, oxides and ceramic underglazes. These materials withstand high temperatures and become permeant once fired onto ceramic wear. Similar effects can be achieved when using china paints. Underglazes are the most similar to watercolor paints. Underglazes are clay-based materials with ceramic stains and metallic oxides added to create a full spectrum of color in your work. They’re the fastest, easiest, and most dependable way to add color to your pottery or sculptures. Like many other art materials, underglazes come in a wide variety of form; liquid, dry, chalks, pens, pencils, watercolor. These materials have similar properties that ceramics artists use to achieve the fine details and watercolor effects within their artwork.

When comparing the watercolor painting by Charles E.Burchfield’s Wind-Blown Asters, the colors and techniques he used are somewhat similar to ceramics artists who create watercolor effects. Artists use ceramics stains and underglazes to achieve the free flowing watercolor techniques Burchfield has throughout this paintings. Burchfield developed his own unique style of watercolor painting that reflected his profound respect for nature. Throughout the Burchfield Penney Arts Center his artwork is continuously changing. To compare the watercolor Wind-Blown Asters for its exquisite colors and the dream like sensation properties desired by ceramics artists.

An excerpt from Burchfield's Journals gives access to the origin of the work.

[..A glorious day packed full of delightful impressions from beginning to end. Parked at the open fields to the north of the main woods. The moment I landed, I felt at once that it was a special day – brilliant sun, hot dry wind from the Southwest blowing of the meadows of bleached grass, asters and golden-rod. I decided to do a piece featuring the asters and dry grass — almost from the first, the picture took the lead and I had to follow as best I could — and it was difficult to invent rapidly enough the semi-abstract conventionalization’s that the power and beauty of the wind, sunlight and sky demanded, worked until 3:00…]

—Charles E. Burchfield, Journals, September 21, 1951.

Burchfield uses different techniques including the addition of paper to create larger works. As a ceramics artist I have experimented with watercolor within my work and I am continuously inspired by Burchfield.

—Samantha Landin


Samantha Landin is a graduate student at SUNY Buffalo State enrolled in the Multidisciplinary Studies Program where her concentration is in Ceramics Arts and Art Education. Landin’s ceramic work focuses on the delicate balance between life and death using animal subjects in a humanistic style. Samantha Landin has an Undergraduate degree in Art Education and Art Therapy and is currently working as a teaching assistant at Attica Elementary School where she gains useful insights from her third grade students.