Sunday, 31 March 2013

Birthday Painting

Hi All,
I've got a confession to make. This week I haven't managed to do any pyrography at all, so I haven't got anything to show you. I apologise for this and here's my pathetic excuse. I have just finished writing another book and the pressure is on to get it edited and published.

I promised myself I'd have it finished before my next birthday, which will be upon me again in a couple of days. I can hardly believe that I will be only three years away from retirement and I am looking forward to that. Not the getting old bit, but to get back some of the money I've paid in over the years. I think it will seem very odd to be getting money for nothing, but there again I have paid my dues so I will deserve every penny.

Getting back to birthdays, my wife decided to do me a painting for my birthday and because she was so excited about the results I had it a week early. It is now framed and hanging on the wall in the lounge. I said I wanted a landscape with a river running through it and that is what I got.

You can see the painting below and I think it is brilliant.

In fact, the painting has inspired me to have a go at oil painting. The painting you can see is done in acrylics, but I've tried them and find the quick drying times to be a bit of a bind.

Don't worry, I won't be giving up on the pyrography, but every now and again I just long to use some colour. I am hoping that what I have learnt about the use of tone in my pyrography work can be transferred to oil painting.

It is also interesting that when producing some of my pyrography work I can't help but wonder how it would look in full colour. Anyway, besides the painting, my wife has done for me, she is also buying me enough oil painting stuff to get me cracking and I can't wait.

In my next post I promise to have a piece of pyrography finished and look forward to sharing it with you.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Feeling Fruity

Hi all, I don't know what's happened to the weather, but I am hoping for something warmer soon. We are just entering the last week of March and our garden looks like Finland. A couple of days ago, I had some lovely daffodils and primroses in flower, but now they've been flattened. Here's a picture I took earlier today.
The only good thing about cold weather is that it gives one an opportunity to indulge in ones indoor passions and, despite spending a lot of time writing the finishing chapters to my latest book, I managed to do a little pyrography.

This pyrography project involved drawing and then burning a piece of fruit. I choose an apple because I wanted to see if I could capture the sheen on the skin.

I went about it as follows.

First, I begged a photo frame that I would use on the finished article from my wife, who it has to be said, is a walking cornucopia. I used the frame to size and cut out a piece of MDF and a piece of beech veneer. I then ironed the veneer onto the MDF and left it for twenty four hours to make sure the glue had dried.

Next, I drew an apple by hand and then set about the burning process. Rendering an image of an apple with nothing to determine the value of tone, but the heat from the pyrography iron, takes a lot of patience. If you are thinking of having a go at an apple, please feel free to use my image. However, there is one thing you mustn't do, and that is to outline the apple first. If you put a line around the fruit you will ruin the illusion.

I defined the outside edge of the apple with the back of my spoon tip and used this on a very low temperature setting. Besides the stalk, which can be outlined first, the rest of the image is just shading and this is where you need patience. You also need to make sure that all shading is done in line with the natural shape of the apple because this is what gives the drawing it's form. Start light, but then go darker and darker, but be careful not to lose your highlights.

I liked the finished result and it looks great in the frame supplied by my wife.
Obviously the apple would look strange if I left it dangling in mid air, so I did an abstract effect underneath it to provide another point of interest. If anybody is interested in buying the apple it can be found in my shop on

Next week, I hope to share with you a new image that I have in mind for the top of a pencil box and I'm hoping for warmer weather.

Friday, 15 March 2013


Hi All,
In my last post I showed you a sketch of my next pyrography project and I have included it again below for those who missed the post.
Anyway, I was quite pleased with the sketch and it didn't take me long to make some inroads into it with my pyrography iron. However, I had to be careful because with this image the shading was going to be very important.
It had always been my intention to create a very dark background so that I could have an excuse to use some paint to make the seed heads stand out. This meant that the pyrography work had to be done in a certain order to reserve the white of the wood.
I burnt around the seed heads and the stalks first and then began the shading. This was done in a circular motion from the place where I wanted the lightest tone, to edges where the burning would be at its darkest.
The shading was all done with a spoon tip and although very tedious and time consuming (it also played havoc with my Carpel Tunnel Syndrome) it was very satisfying when completed. To do this sort of shading, you must take your time and start off with a low temperature and quick iron movements until you start to create the tonal value you are trying to create. As you get away from the lighter tones increase the temperature of the iron and slow down on the speed of your movements.
One thing is absolutely critical, if you take your iron tip off the wood, even for just a short period of time, make sure to blow on it to cool it before you put it back down. If you don't, you will finish up with black spots all over your work.
Once the pyrography work was complete I used some watercolour paints to create the white parts of the seed heads. I used watercolours in preference to acrylics because I wanted them to be almost transparent in the centre. I find that acrylic paints tend to be more opaque than watercolours.
In fact, it took several applications of paint to get the image right. I built up several layers to give a solid edge around the top while graduating away slowly towards the centre.
Once it was finished, I sprayed it with three coats of varnish to protect it. I have mentioned this before, but I will say it again for those who may have missed it. Do not use 'brush on' varnish with anything you have done using water colours because it will smudge badly. Always use spray varnish with watercolours and you can't go wrong.
I quite like the effect I created with this image and framed it in a recycled frame from a charity shop. My only problem with it is whether I should sell it or not. Answers on a postcard please.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Bluebirds and Dandelions

Hi All, I have just completed a sketch for my next pyrography project, but before I show you that I thought it would be nice for you to see what my wife has been up to.

If you have been following these posts you will know that she is very skillful with the pyrography iron and that she also likes a nice splash of colour. Her latest bit of work follows the same pattern and I have included a picture for you below.

A chequered pattern in blue covers all sides of the box and on the top she has done a pair of swallows. It is a very nice box and one she should be proud of. By the way most of my wife's items are adorning our house but we are running out of space so she is going to start sellling some. You can find this box on

Regarding my own pyrography, and following on from my last project where I depicted some dandelion seed heads on a trinket box. (This can be seen in the previous post). I decided to do a whole dandelion on a piece of white beech veneer.

So far I have done a rough sketch of the image that I am aiming to reproduce. Here is the method I followed so far
1 I cut a piece of MDF to the size of the frame I was going to use on the finished work.
2 I glued the veneer to the MDF.
3 On a sketch pad, I used a pencil to draw around the piece of MDF to give me the exact size.
4 I did a sketch of the dandelions and seed heads with a 4b pencil and once I was hapy with the composition I went over the pencil marks with a 005 Staedtler fine line pen. Then I used an eraser to remove any pencil marks.
5 Using a pencil, I roughly shaded in the sketch to give me a range of tones. It is my intention to have a light source partly behind the dandelion head to give it a warm glow, whilst also providing an area of darkness which will allow the feathery ends of the seed heads to show through. I say hopefully because it isn't always often that the vision in ones mind actually turns up on the finished piece.
6 I scanned the sketch into photoshop and adjusted the contrast to deepen the image and then printed it out so that I can transfer it to the veneer. I will file away my original sketch so that it will be availble for future use.
In my next post you will be able to see if it worked out as expected. By the way my wife asked me to add a PS to this post after she had edited it. So here it is.

PS My wife would like it to be known that the insperation for doing dandelions came from her. She says I stole her idea and I'll have to admit it, she's right.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

A Little Pot

Hi all,
I have been in a bit of a muddle for the last week. There are so many things I want to have a go at with my pyrography iron, but I found it difficult to focus on any major projects. Eventually, I made a decision, but then found that I hadn't got any suitable veneer left. I do have some steamed beech, but after doing the boat and the hares I've decided that it is much too dark for most pyrography work.
The veneer on the left is white beech and  the one on the right is steamed beech. By the time varnish has been added to the steamed beech the pyrography marks are not as distinct as I would like. So, if you ever want to have a go at doing some work on veneer, I suggest you use white beech.

 The veneer I use can be ironed on and be purchased in suitable lengths from ebay. I have been using the veneer by sticking it onto MDF which I got from B&Q. I had to buy a big panel which I cut to suit the size of the frame that I am going to use on the pyrography work. The results of sticking the veneer to the MDF are very good, but next time I'm going to buy a panel of plywood. It will be just as rigid, but will not have the health implications that come with MDF. I saw the stuff up and sand it outside but you need to be very careful about inhaling the dust.

Another tip I would give to anybody going down the veneer route is to visit your local charity shops before you start any work. In most of these shops you can buy very nice second hand picture frames for a couple of quid each. You get a cheap frame and the charity shop gets a donation, so it's a win win situation. If you buy the frame first you will know what size to cut your MDF to.

Anyway, while I was waiting for the veneer to arrive I decided to do something with my pyrography iron and went through the blanks I had available. One of these was as a small trinket box upon which I drew some dandelion seed heads. I then burnt then in with the pyrograph iron and painted the feathered end of the seed head with some of my wife's special paints.

I quite liked the results and the amazing thing is that it came together very quickly. Instead of taking days like some of my pyrography projects it was completed in a couple of hours.

My next project will be related to this one and if I get a few minutes I will let you have a look at the preliminary sketch that I will be doing for it. My biggest issue now is the weather. The days are getting warmer and that means it's time to set about the garden before it turns into a jungle. Between writing my books and weeding the garden, I expect the time I can spend on pyrography will be diminished over the next six months. Ah well, that's life.