Friday, 26 October 2012

Pyrography A Mistake

Hi All,
I've finished another box so I thought I'd share it with you in this post. But, before we go there I'd like to tell you a little story.

Once upon a time, there was this little boy who grew up in a beautiful little village in England.  He roamed the woods and fields and soon learnt the names of all the magnificent trees and could identify every bird that flew in that enchanted landscape. He was truly at home with nature.

He particularly liked the dragonflies that flitted around the reeds as he spent many an hour fishing beside  a crystal clear stream. He thought these delightful little insects, with their metallic blue wings were great and he adored those dragonflies. However, this was a big mistake. The creatures he thought were dragonflies, were actually damselflies.

He was eighteen years old and fishing a small pool when a real dragonfly buzzed over his head and he nearly s**t himself. It took some time to come to terms with this creature, that was almost as big as a sparrow, and when he got home he looked it up in a book and realised his mistake.

I still have an aversion to dragonflies, but I still have a soft spot for damselflies and that is why I have used them in a couple of my designs.

If and when you start doing your own designs for pyrography, make sure you keep any rough sketches because they can be quickly adapted and used again somewhere else. Here is the original design for the dragon flies which I used on a round plaque.

If you learn to use photoshop you can quickly re-size or move items about in your design which is handy when doing pyrography. It saves me a lot of time re-drawing things that I want to use again.

Below you will find the box with the new damselfly design. I used a spoon tip in my pyrography iron and painted the damselflies with a special watercolour paint that gives the wings a lovely translucent sheen. Because I used a watercolour paint on it, I used spray varnish for the first of the three coats I gave it for protection. Then I gave the insides a nice covering of a deep red felt, just to finish it off.

Before we go I just thought I'd mention mistakes in pyrography. What do you do if you make a mistake with your pyrography iron?

Well, if it's a big mistake there isn't much you can do. I have been lucky enough on occasions to be able to blend the mistake into my work by changing the design or adding another element that wasn't there originally. If that isn't possible all you can do is use the piece of wood for practise.

If I make a small mistake with my pyrography iron, I can sometimes fix it with a craft knife. By using the blade as a scraper rather than a knife, it is possible, if the the burn isn't too big or too deep, to remove it. However, concentration and trying really hard not to make any mistakes is the best way forward with pyrography.

I am currently working on a box for precious memories and I will share that with you next time.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Pyrography Hares

Hi all, in my last post I mention that I'd purchased half a dozen wooden boxes to do some pyrography on. I also said I'd show you some results after I've attacked them with my pyrography iron.
This post is about the first of three that I have been working on.

A few months ago my wife and I were having a little tour around the Peak District in Derbyshire when we came across a small shop/gallery in the heart of Tideswell. The village is lovely and a magnificent church provides a splendid focal point for visitors. The shop in question is more or less opposite the church and we popped in to see what was on offer. Now let me tell you that over the years I've popped into a lot of arty crafty shops and popped right out again just as quick. The reason for my rapid departure is that many of these shops are filled with over priced tat.

Anyway, I walked into the establishment mentioned with crossed fingers and an open mind. Well was I surprised; the place was bursting with with some fantastic pieces of art and was completely devoid of the afor mentioned tat.

Obviously the owner of the shop had impeccable taste, but not only that, everything was priced decently. As we walked around the shop it became obvious that there was a bit of a theme running with Hares.  Hares are magical creatures and this shop boasted some fine examples and my wife declared a liking for them. So this was why I did a pyrography image on one of the 6 boxes.

How I went about it
For years my wife has had a wooden ornament of a running hare. It's a bit basic but the shape is there. So I used that as a model to draw the outline shape and then put some more details in from my imagination. I then scanned it into my computer and using Photo Shop Elements, I sized the image of the hare to suit the box. Then because I wanted two hares running side by side I copied and pasted the original hare then used the move tool to pick it up and position it a little way back from the original hare. I played about with the composition for a while until it looked pleasing. Then I printed it out and used wax free paper to transfer the two hares to the top of the box. Once that was done I used my pyrography iron, with a spoon tip, to burn in the outline. Once that was complete I carefully did the eyes and then the shading.

I think that pyrography comes to life at the shading in stage. Burning outlines is all well and good, but mastering the art of shading is what gives any pyrography work substance. I'm still working on the art of mastering it, but I'll stick at it because pyrography is like anything else. Success won't come easily, you have to practise.

If you are trying to get to grips with shading hares or anything else for that matter here are my tips.
1 Draw the item on paper first and shade it in. Your shading won't be right first time so rub the mistakes out and try again. You can't rub out the mistakes you make with a pyrography iron but you can rub out those drawn with a pencil.

2 Use the back of a spoon tip when shading and keep the temperature really low. Remember. Rushing when shading will result in disaster.

3 Keep your pyrography iron moving at all times. I find small circular motions are the best.

4 Get into the habit of blowing on your tip as you put it down onto the wood, that along with the low temperature I've already suggested will ensure you don't end up with deep burn marks where you don't want them.

I know you are dying to see it so here is the completed box.
The box in the picture below looks bowed, but it's just the barrelling effect of the camera lens.

By the way I have a request.
I like doing pyrography work on bowls, but I have a problem with my supplier. They are currently out of stock and it doesn't look as if they are going to order any more. Bummer, if you know where I can find some I,d love to hear from you.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Pyrography Pencil Box

Hi All,
Although pyrography is relatively new to me, I've been doing artistic things all my life. In 1966 my mother gave me a painting by numbers set for Christmas and I enjoyed following the pattern and coming up with a piece of art work.

 However, I had quite a bit of paint left over in those tiny little pots and wondered what I could do with it. Eventually, I cut a piece of cardboard out of the back of a corn flakes packet and drew on it, an oak tree with an eagle's nest and eagle flying out of it. I used the left over paints to colour it in and was amazed how good it was, and so were my family and friends.

I suppose I could've gone on to bigger and better things, but I was only fifteen at the time and a few weeks later my dad decided that we would all emigrate to Australia. So art went out the window as we prepared for a life down under. I couldn't take the eagle painting with me and it was snaffled up by a girl called Linda Davidson. If by chance your name is Linda and you lived in Bramall close Seighford, perhaps you could let me know what became of my first masterpiece.

Anyway, I eventually returned to England and years later when I tripped into my forties the art bug bit again. By the way, thanks for being patient because at last I'm getting to the gist of this story. Since 1992 I have been keeping my art pencils and pens in a pencil pouch. Every time I wanted a pencil I'd have to rummage about in the pouch to find the one that was right for the task at hand. Very frustrating it was too.

It took a long time, but the penny eventually dropped and I got a box for the job and now I can choose a pencil with ease. I have done a pyrography pattern on the front.  Actually, I brought a job lot of boxes, well six to be exact and have been wondering what to do with them. Having done a pencil box for myself, I thought it might be worth personalising one or two. After all, if it made a great pencil box for me, then others might like to buy one. I think they'd make a cracking gift. Below is an example: of course it doesn't have to be a pencil box, the wording can be changed to nick-nacks or anything the customer requires.

For those who are interested, here's how I created it.
I drew the left and side of the pattern of leaves by hand concentrating mostly on creating pleasing curves. Then I scanned it into my computer and copy and pasted it. Then I used the move tool to move and flip the top layer through 180 degrees and this gave me a perfect mirror image.

Then I printed it off and used wax free paper to transfer the design to the top of the box. The pyrography work was all done with a spoon tip and was painstaking yet enjoyable. 100 percent concentration was required on the lettering because mistakes cannot be changed. If I made a mistake on the leaves design I could always modify it to suit, but with letters it is almost impossible.

After the pyrography work was completed, I varnished the box and then my wife put a layer of felt on the bottom inside and out, and another layer inside the lid.

I am busy at the moment working another couple of these boxes and will be pleased to show you them in my next post.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Using Colour in Pyrography

Hi all,
Some die hard pyrographers would sooner have their wisdom teeth put back in than use colour on their pyrography work. Personally, I like to keep an open mind; if I think my pyrography will be improved by some colour then I will use it.

Generally, you should plan up front about using colour because just slapping a bit of paint onto a piece of pyrography work is liable to make it worse not better. You also need to be careful when using colour because if not used properly it can take the essence out of your pyrography work and make it look like something from a child's colouring book.

Having said all that, here are the mediums I sometimes use on my pyrography:
Watercolour paint and pencils.
Wax based pencils
Acrylic paints
Coloured varnish

I generally use water colour paint and pencils where the subject matter is delicate or needs to have a subtle blending of tones. In the round plaque pictured below you can see how I used water colour paint on the damsel flies to bring the work to life. I also considered painting the reeds green, but thought this would detract from the image so I shaded them in with my pyrography iron.
Wax based pencils can be used to good effect with pyrography. They can be applied to the wood without the need for any liquid and blended on the wood. If you take a look at the fox below you will see how the colours on the fox have been blended. This effect would be difficult to achieve with paint.
You may also notice that because the pencils are semi transparent, they do not hide any of the pyrography work.

Here's a tip when it comes to varnishing any pyrography to which you have applied water colour paint, pencils or wax based pencils. Use a spray based varnish for the first coat because if you don't, that lovely bit of blending you've just done will be spread all over your wood. I find that once the spray varnish is dry I can apply further layers of varnish with a brush. Where possible I prefer to apply varnish with a brush because it gives me more control and it's a hell of a lot cheaper.

If the subject of my pyrography requires a bit of strong colour, I will use acrylic paint. I like to use a coat of white acrlic gesso as an undercoat first because this allows any colour that is applied over the top to really shine through. There is no need to worry about acrylics smudging when you vanish over them because they are very tough. Acrylic paint also ruins brushes very quickly. Keep a big container of water handy and rinse the brush you are using every couple of minutes. If you don't you will soon find that it will be more use as a potato dibber.

Here is a platter that my wife did. The clematis was crying out for some strong colour so she gave it a nice coat of purple acrylic.

Lastly, here's a few words about coloured varnish. One could be tempted to try out a range of the coloured varnishes that are now on the market, but I guess when one sees how much a single tin costs, the temptation soon dies. Anyway, if the varnish is too dark it will hide all of your delicate pyrography work, so if you;'ve got a pocket full of dosh and want to try lots of coloured vanishes, only go for the very lightest shades.

I haven't mentioned coloured wood dyes because I haven't tried them yet. I've seen them advertised in a magazine and will probably give them a go at some stage but for now I have all the colour I need. If you've tried wood dyes, I would be interested to know how you got on.

In my next post I will show you how I got on doing some pyrography on a big pencil box.