As mentioned in my Cougar stalking Deer gun stock blog, this last summer I received a commission to burn “something outdoorsy” onto a gun stock. On one side I created a cougar stalking deer scene and on the other side I created this Eagle by a mountain lake. I knew that my customer loved bald eagles, so I was hopeful that he would like this concept. In this blog I will discuss the artwork and show its progress of creation.
Above is a picture of the bare gun stock sanded down and ready to receive artwork. The bottom of the stock had a naturally pale section that reminded me of a pond with ripples going through it. I knew right away it would be a perfect spot for the lake. The rest of the stock was pretty uniform in color, but it did have a lot of tight grain lines in it. Grain lines can sometimes create some unpredictable and usually unwanted effects when wood burning.
Using a large piece of newsprint paper, I traced an outline of the gun stock onto it. This allowed me to sketch out ideas and determine what needed to go where; based on how it fit. The sketch came together very quickly, as the only real thing in question was where to place the eagle. Since I wanted the eagle to be a large as it could be and still fit, that meant it had to be placed at the butt end of the gun stock. Everything else fell into place after that. Once I finished the sketch, I sent it to the customer for approval and, after receiving the okay, I went to work.
A quick note about the progress photos. I take a photograph of the artwork’s progress when I have a stopping point. I then use still shots taken from the video recording to show the progress that lead up to the stopping point. And, yes, my goal is to one day add video via youtube, but that is still a down-the-road project as I can barely keep up with things as they are.
FIRST STOPPING POINT
In this first stopping point I haven’t gotten very far along. Basically I got the outline done and a tiny bit of one mountain started. I almost always outline my work so I can erase the pencil marks. I worry that if I don’t then I will smear or smudge the pencil marks and that could make it difficult to shade it later. Note that I’m not going to show any of the mountain formation in this section as I will have many photographs of that later.
SECOND STOPPING POINT
As you can see in this next stopping point the eagle’s head is done, the shore line is well-formed and a little more work has been done on the mountain. I’m going to group the progress photos a little differently in this section, so I can discuss the artwork a little easier.
First let’s see what I did with the eagle. I started working on the lower wing feathers darkening them up a lot. Eventually I just gave most of them a medium tan tone as I wanted to move onto the head.
Working on the head required that I use my micro shading tip on very low heat. I wanted shadows under the beak, but they needed to be light enough that it didn’t look like dark feathers. Switching to a needle point pen tip was necessary to work on the eye. I’m not sure I could have made a regular writing tip work as the eye so small. I was able to use the shader to finish contouring the head.
In this photo I’ve got the tree branch pretty well-defined. I turned the shading tip on edge to draw in a lot of thin lines of assorted length down the branch. This gave the area that ‘tree bark’ look to it. I added a cast shadow from the eagle’s body onto the branch and toned it an overall medium brown or tan color.
Now I’m going to discuss the background a bit.
First item is the mountain. Looking at the sketch, you can see that I drew in some basic mountains with a few lines to indicate cracks, peaks, etc. on the gun.
When I drew the mountains onto the gun stock, I just left them in silhouette form, so I only drew in the top peak edge. When I started filling in the mountains I used very short zigzag types of strokes to give a varied texture. I will discuss this further and provide a lot more pictures in a later segment.
Next item to discuss are the trees and shore line. The trees were mostly created using a vertical (up/down) zigzag line. I made sure that there was a lot of variety in the height of the trees.
THIRD STOPPING POINT
The big change in this stopping point was the smaller mountains were completed. Below are lots of pictures and I’ll try and explain how I created them. As mentioned before, I used small zigzag lines to create varied texture. I kept the lines in the direction of the mountain slope, so right-sided lines slanted down and slightly towards the right. I made sure to vary the intensity of the color as this gave the impression of deep crevasses, pale peaks and some jagged slopes. Another thing I did was make the shadowed side of the mountain darker than the slopes facing the sun. In this artwork that meant the right side was in shadows.
FOURTH STOPPING POINT
As you can see the gun stock is essential done in this photo. There were two areas that needed finishing; the eagle and the last mountain.
Below are the progress photos of the last mountain being burned in. I used the same technique as I described in the third stopping point, so I’ll just show the pictures. There are quite a few of them, so that might help visually show what I did.
I also added a dark band of “trees” along the bottom on the mountains. Since the trees in the foreground were done, I just filled in behind them with a much darker band of zigzag lines to indicates the trees.
Finishing the eagle was a matter of shading in the remaining feathers.
Sometimes I will wet out the wood by misting it with water to get an idea of how the wood might look after it is sealed. It was during that step I discovered that there was a ‘bruise,’ as I called it, in the wood. The bruise was a dark band that went right through the eagle’s head.
I was upset when I discovered this! If I had found this out earlier I could have shifted the eagle’s position a little to the left. I also hated how the tail feathers looked transparent. Todd and I thought about what options there were to fix and the only thing we could think of was to color the areas with a white paint.
Searching the net I found people were using colored pencils on pyrography with great success, so that’s what I used. I added white highlights to the head by drawing in short bursts of lines that followed the feather direction. I only applied the colored pencil in the areas that would receive the most sunlight. With the tail feathers I whited up the top two a lot, but the rest of the feathers received pencil treatment along the outer edges.
I was fortunate enough to receive a picture of the gun after it was sealed/finished (see below). It was amazing to me how the white colored pencil really popped. I like how that turned out. I’m pretty sure Tru-Oil was used and from my understanding it is very easy to use and gives a wonderful uniform finish that is very durable, but it sure gives the wood a yellow hue.
I shipped the gun stock to the customer and he liked how it turned out. As I hoped, he really liked the eagle. The gun has now been added to his collection and one day, hopefully many years down the road, one of his boys will inherit the gun. When that time comes I hope the recipient will like it as much as their father does.
Lastly to answer a few commonly asked questions. The gun stock was 8” long (20.3 cm) and varied in height, but the area I worked in started at 3 1/2” (8.9 cm) and increased to 4 1/2” (11.4 cm). I’m pretty sure the gun stock was made out of cherry and it took me 4 hours to create the artwork. Below is the link to the Cougar stalking deer blog.
Until the next blog.
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