Monday, September 26, 2011

Color your World Red

Gorgeous red pot by Michael Nowack.
Photo by Mary A. Gravelle.

"Artists can color the sky red because they know it's blue." ~ Jules Feiffer[1]

I attended a clay workshop over the weekend on how to achieve the color red in the glazing and firing process using copper reds. Our workshop leader was Michael Nowack of Tucson, Arizona. 

Apparently there is an art to achieving the color red in the world of potters and ceramicists. I’m so new to this field that I had no a clue about this. I was curious to find out more.

Michael shared his technique and his glaze formulas with us that also included beautiful matte colors of black, green, and blue. He also shared how he achieves his personal color of red by layering two different reds. His first glaze layer is a tomato red. Then on top of that glaze he uses a thin coat of a blue red. The combination of these two reds provides a luscious red color that is unique to Michael’s pottery. However, even for Michael, the achievement of these reds is difficult and does not always come out as expected. There are so many variables even when he uses his tried and true method of layering these reds. So when they do come out, it is exciting.
Pottery by Michael Nowack.
Note his beautiful glaze colors of luscious red,
matte blue, and matte green.
Photo by Mary A. Gravelle.

Attendees at the workshop were privileged to use his glazes. Our pots will come out of the kiln right about now (10:00 am mst). I cannot wait to see how my pots came out.

As an artist who loves color, I have my own favorite colors and red is one of them. To me, red is passion and warmth. Many of my landscape paintings use red. Being a painter I use color perhaps a little differently than a potter, but not really. I mix and layer my colors to achieve the desired color just as Michael layers his reds.

How do you use the color red? Is the color red important in your work?

"Purple Mountains Majesty", acrylic on canvas,
36 x 30 inches. Original is available.
Contact Mary at

Here are a couple other sources on using red in your artwork:
  1. Color Theory: Know Your Reds [2]
  2. Use the Hidden Meaning of the Color ‘Red’ in Art & Design
  3. Color Theory: Know Your Reds

[1] “color”.
[2] “Color Theory: Know Your Reds”.

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