Artisan Profile: Glass Painting with Joe Barbieri

Few possess the innate skill, creativity and patience it takes to design and execute high quality stained glass window paintings for clients. That’s why Stanton Studios is thankful to have professional artist Joe Barbieri on our team. Barbieri has been working with us for nearly 2 decades – a true master at his craft.

Bent over his workbench with various materials at his disposal and talk radio humming in the background, Barbierti crafts custom stained glass designs that are extremely delicate and vibrant in detail.

We took some time to ask him about his art and experience working with stained glass:

img_4182

How long have you been with Stanton Studios, and is your primary role in painting glass?

I’ve been with Bryant for about 18-19 years, and yes, I’ve been exclusively painting and designing. I don’t use a computer for my designs; I sketch it all by hand. Usually when a client wants representational work – or in other words, something that looks like something real rather than just geometric shapes or an abstract design, I typically end up designing, drawing and painting it.

When did you start painting glass?

When I started here. For a few years I fiddled around with watercolors, but it wasn’t until my early 40s that I started [glass painting]. Bryant asked me if I wanted to try painting a portrait on glass, and I said sure. So I tried it, and it worked out. I had a landscape business but my back went out and I couldn’t do it anymore, so it was the perfect set up for me to come work here. [Bryant’s] business had grown to the point where he could have an artist on staff, and we’ve been at it ever sense.

What is it like working with glass? Is there a difference between painting glass and painting on canvas?

It is a very clumsy medium to work with compared to oil on canvas. Here, you have to do a lot of preliminary work. The drawings have to be exact before you ever start. Then there’s the cutting of the glass, the picking out of the colors of the glass and then the painting itself. It’s very laborious and time-consuming; each layer of paint – whether it’s linear lines or I’m matting and shading – has to be fired individually. So, each piece of glass is going to be fired at least once. Faces are usually [fired] 8-12 times, and at the end if you don’t like it, you’ve got to start all over again.

Barbieri is currently working on a massive project for a client that includes 4 different depictions of Jesus’ life. It has 28 windows that have to be broken up into different sections in order to create before installation.

How long have you been working on the piece you’re doing now?

This particular panel has taken about 3 weeks. Each one is taking me about 5-6 weeks to do. And then I still haven’t done two of the bottom panels, which are as big as these. So I still have 6 more of the bottom panels [total].

What does the process of completing a piece like this look like?

img_4179

The drawing pictured above is the sketch Barbieri presented to his current client. This sketch represents what the final piece will look like, and has to be approved before he can move forward with his painting.

img_4175

This is the panel Barbieri is currently working on. The colors of this particular piece are very vibrant and aesthetically pleasing.

It starts with the client telling us what they want, and in this case [with Barbieri’s current project] the priest said he wanted 4 scenes. He wanted Christ carrying the cross, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension. So, I did the designs. I blew them up [to scale], and then I took them and traced the basic lines onto a piece of paper. This is where all the detail is. It took probably 2-3 weeks to do these because each one had to be exact and all the information I needed had to be on there to scale. When I got that done I did multiple copies of it by hand – the cut copy, layout copy, drawing copy and the build copy. All of them are exactly alike.

 

After that I cut out my cut copy – and in this case it took me 3 days just to cut the paper out – I had stacks of paper, and each one of them had a window number, a glass number and a color. Then I went around and looked for my glass and attached and cut out each piece to where it fits and laid it all out. After that, I took my drawing copies and usually start with the most difficult parts, which are the face and hands. I’ll do the face and hands of all the characters first and then fire them and then start picking out stuff [to paint]. We’re getting close with this one. Then we’ll get to the waxing stage and that will determine whether or not I have to go darker or not, so we’ll just have to see where we’re at. After that I take it [to the guys] to get built. I have 13 ½ windows done out of 28 windows. Hopefully by February of next year we’ll be able to get these installed, which would mean that I would have worked on this project for over a year, which is the longest I’ve ever worked on any project.

What has been one of your favorite projects?

The creation scene we did for Hillcrest hospital. It’s pretty impressive because it’s 30 feet long and 10 feet tall, so it literally fills up the entire space. I enjoyed that probably more than any other project I’ve done because it went so smoothly, it was fast.

How long did it take?

I would say it took 3 months, maybe. When they asked us to do that, they were in the finishing stages of the hospital, and they said we’ve got about 4-5 months and need you to finish it during that time period. So, I worked overtime. There were so many different techniques we used. We used sandblasting, hand painting – we did everything we possibly could on glass for this piece. Then they said they really liked their garden, and wanted to be able to see it through the window. [I told them] we would have to leave part of it clear where the sun was, so it was perfect.

stained glass window Stanton Glass Studio installed in Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center Chapel.

Creation, Hillcrest Hospital, Robbins Chapel

Did you design it too?

Yeah. They said they wanted to see the “creation” – that’s all they said. There are 7 windows on top and 7 windows on bottom, so when they said they wanted the creation scene, Bryant was upstairs working on an abstract, and I was down here working on a representation. They said they didn’t know what they wanted, so Bryant did his which was very nice, and I did [a representational one] which was based on the 7 days of creation because we had seven windows – it was a perfect set up. We did a nice presentation for them here in the studio with a PowerPoint, and Bryant took my drawings and paintings and put them right in the window and took pictures of the room, so they can see what it would look like. They picked the representation one.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

You have to have artistic ability. You have to. The demands are there. That’s the number one thing. Nobody that I know of, except a few people, are making a lot of money doing this. So, you have to like doing art. You have to like working alone, artists usually like working alone. You have to be willing to learn, because there is so much involved in it.

I got a great job. It’s amazing. Bryant is the easiest boss in the world to work for. We have a relationship where he trusts me and I trust him.

We place high value on our work and craftsmanship, ensuring our clients receive quality stained glass designs. If you are interested in working on us with your next stained glass project, please contact us.

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment