August 12th, 2010
Have you always wondered how I get my dots so perfectly round? How I came up with that intersecting-circles-of-dots pattern? How you might be able to duplicate that pattern on a piece you are painting? Well, look no further! I’ll tell you how. Better than that, I’ll show you how with lots and lots of photos, most of them taken by my partner in
crime painting, Brenda. (You can tell from the length of my hair and my non-pregnant state that these photos were taken a while back…almost a year ago! I guess I’ve been busy writing about other stuff since then.)
Step 1: Go to Starbucks. Purchase caffeinated drink of your choice. I guess this step is optional but I rarely skip it.
At the pottery studio, browse the shelves until you see a piece that is just crying out for dots. I usually dot mugs and bowls…
…but I’ve dotted spoon rests, butter crocks, a few Christmas ornaments, a teapot, a wee play teaset, and plenty of plates. I find that plates and mugs are the easiest things to dot, though. Which is why I chose a cute little rounded mug to dot for you.
Once you choose your piece, next you need to decide what colors you want to paint with. Sometimes I walk into the studio knowing exactly what colors I want to use, but usually I dither over the paint selection forever before I decide on a combination I like.
On this day, I went for a bright rainbow of colors, minus red because there only happened to be five wells in the palette I was using. Also, I find that five colors is about right for “actually dottery.” Note that you don’t need much paint to dot with; a teaspoon or so of each color is more than enough to cover a regular-sized mug.
Okay! We’ve got our blank mug, our paint palette, and five paintbrushes. I don’t always use one brush for each color; the way I dot it’s possible to use one brush and just wipe off the paint each time you switch colors. But this day I decided to use one brush for each color.
Now we pick up our paintbrush, and…are you ready for this? It’s the big secret to painting dots…
…turn the paintbrush over. That’s it! When I paint dots, I use the wrong end of the paintbrush. (Make sure you’re using brushes that have a rounded end, not the sliced-off-slanted ends that you will find on many paintbrushes so they can be used for scraping paint.) You can also use cotton swabs, toothpicks, or your own fingers, depending on what kind of dots you want, but I almost always use the wrong end of a paintbrush. It’s that simple.
To recap: for dottery, this is wrong. You do not use the bristle end of the paintbrush.
You use this end. Okay, I think I’ve made that pretty clear. Now, we’re ready to paint!
We dip the paintbrush, wrong-end first, into the first paint color, annnnnd…
Dot! One dot, right where you want the center of your first circle to be. This is not a science, it’s an art, so where you want that circle to be is totally up to you.
Then pick up the next brush, dip it in the next color, and just make a circle of dots around that first dot. It’s okay if your dots aren’t all the same size—again, art not science. Move on to the next brush and the next color, add another ring of dots around the first two. We’ve made a good start.
Whew. This painting stuff is hard work.
What I need is a refreshing sip of my iced latte. Ahh, that’s better. Now where was I?
Right! Painting. I have no idea what’s going on with those two behind me and that ceramic skull, though.
But who cares about those shenanigans, because I’ve finished my first circle! Usually when I’m dotting, I use each color once, and then I do the last ring in the same color as the center dot. That’s a personal choice, and I don’t even consider it a hard-and-fast rule. I just think it looks complete that way.
It was at this point that Brenda got a little bored watching me paint dozens of dots, so she got up and wandered around the shop for a minute. She took this photo of some mugs and a plate that always cracked me up: it’s a heart-shaped plate painted with an octopus, a rainbow, and a couple of phrases in French, including “Je t’aime.” Sure. Why not?
While Brenda was taking pictures of octopus-rainbow plates, I kept dotting away. Once I finished my first circle, I picked a different color for the center dot of my next circle, decided where I wanted the center to be, and started on that one. I use the colors in the same order for each circle because I find that’s less confusing for me personally. If the circles start to run into each other, I just imagine that one circle is underneath the other, and I leave off the dots where they overlap. Does that make sense?
As the mug fills up with dots, I pause in my painting to look at the mug. Are there any spots that seem blank? If so, I might add another circle of dots there. If it’s a small space, sometimes I place the center dot right on the edge of the mug, and end up with only a semi-circle of dots. Or I try to make the dots, and thus the circle, smaller by very lightly touching the surface of the mug with the paint instead of pressing the paintbrush down.
Ah, dottery makes me happy. Can you tell? It really is a very relaxing type of painting to do, once you get into it.
Too bad for Brenda that dottery is kinda boring to watch. Nah, just kidding! This photo was totally staged. After all, Brenda was keeping busy taking pictures. And we were laughing our heads off and having a great time being silly.
Ooh, I’m concentrating hard, now. Must be getting close to done.
Hmm, what’s this? I’m pretty sure that I was pointing at some kind of mistake here, but I don’t remember for sure and I can’t see the mistake. Which just proves the point I was trying to make, that it’s okay to mess up a little in dottery. No one will notice anyway.
All done with the dots! In this photo you can see what I was talking about before, how when circles run into each other I just imagine they’re overlapping and leave off the dots of the parts that overlap. You can see that when I added that ring of orange dots, I ran into the purple dots on the right and the blue dots on the left. And on the lower-left circle, the yellow ring ran into the orange ring of the center circle.
I like to paint little phrases on my dottery. Usually I paint a very small “be happy” somewhere along the edge of a circle. In order to do that, I need a decent tiny paintbrush, so I whip out my trusty paintbrush kit.
The fabric case I use to store my paintbrushes was actually made to store crochet hooks. It’s not the best material for storing paintbrushes, because the bristles rub against the fabric and can get bent and frayed. My paintbrushes are fairly inexpensive, though, so it’s not a big deal if one of them wears out faster than it should. This case has worked pretty well for me for the past year and a half, and it’s small enough that I can carry my paintbrushes in my purse all the time. It’s really annoying to go paint, to need a decent tiny brush, and not have your paintbrushes with me.
Most of my paintbrushes were purchased at Michaels. I bought a couple at an art-supply store and at least one of them came from Wal-Mart. I think the most expensive brush I own cost less than $3. They all have been a worthwhile investment for me. Why?
Because painting tiny words is fun! I love doing it, and regularly offer to paint words for other people if they don’t want to do it themselves. I also loved making posters when I was an RA in college.
Most pottery-painting studios do have tiny paintbrushes, but they generally are pretty crappy and hard to paint with because the bristles stick off in five different directions. That’s exactly what you don’t want when you’re trying to paint a fine line.
See the difference?
I often like to paint a little something on the inside of my mugs, just for fun. And guess what? It’s much easier to dot the inside bottom of a mug than it is to paint there. So I added a little circle of dots.
Then I painted my name and the date on the bottom of the mug, which I do with all my pottery. And Ta-daa! Done. All that’s left is for you to pay for your piece, leave it to be fired, and come back and pick it up. Then you get to show it off to everyone and let them marvel at what a great job you did painting such a gorgeous piece of pottery.
I hope some of you find this tutorial helpful, and that you all have as much fun creating your dottery as I do mine!