When I turned 40 my coworkers had a birthday party for me. I’m not into celebrating birthdays, especially my own, but, if nothing else, it was a day of free food at work. During the party one of my male co-workers informed me I was at a good age because I was like “a dairy cow put out to pasture.” If that wasn’t bad enough, the idiot thought that was a compliment! I tend to have a bit of a vindictive side, so when this co-worker said he’d like some pyrography art, I knew it was time for a little payback. Thus Cow Daddy was born. This blog is going to cover the creation of my pyrography Cow Daddy art I gifted to him.
Like most of my artwork, it starts out with a pencil sketch that I burn in with the writing pen tip. I found a picture of some old farmer in rubber boots holding a pitch fork in the middle of a hay barn. I left off the head when I transferred it onto the wood and substituted Cow Daddy’s. It wasn’t a proportional match, but since this was a joke gift that will most liking will end up in the garbage, I let it be.
After burning in the trace lines I started to color and contour the work using the shading pen. Here, I’ve started working on Cow Daddy’s shirt and I shaded it in such a way as to give him a sizeable ‘beer gut.’ After all, there are consequences to calling someone a cow even if you somehow believe it’s a compliment.
The key to giving the appearance of a beer gut is the shading. Yes, this is a duh statement. I shaded the belly very similarly to how I would a round mounded hill; the top of the hill is lighter than the sides and the closer to the ground you get the darker the sides get.
Another important aspect to the large belly illusion is to also take into account light direction. In this case the light was overhead; this means the underside or bottom of things are much darker than the top. I tend to work on the darkest areas first, so this photo shows the bottom of the sleeve and the ‘underside’ of the belly burned in.
This photo shows how the ‘mound’ is lightest on the top (area still un-burned), darker on the sides, and has a very dark shadowed area at the bottom. If I had kept the shirt all uniformly colored like the old farmer source photo was, the chest/belly would look flat.
By making the ‘underside’ so much darker it really gives the impression of sizeable girth.
After the dark shadowed areas were done I started filling in the rest of the shirt.
One area I really liked, and impressed myself a little with, was how much detail I was able to put on the belt. Like the notches which were accomplished by making a small divot or hole in the wood with a sharp-pointed object like a metal pick. Then I carefully burned over the top of it with the shading pen tip.
The last area to work on was the pants and rubber boots. I liked working on the jeans because of all of the wrinkles, crease lines, or whatever you want to call them. This gave me lots of practice putting in highlights and shadows to recreate the fabric texture and worn look.
The numerous wrinkles are actually easy to do. They are just like the belly in that the top of the wrinkle is the lightest spot and the sides are darker. Also, just like the belly, the underside is darker because of the lighting.
Below are some progress photos of the pants being burned in.
The rubber boots shade technique is similar to the pants, but the final results end up looking like a light reflection. So how is this done?
First I drew in the reflection with a white charcoal pencil. Then I burned the outline of the boot very darkly and burned along the edges of the white charcoal lines.
After I erased the charcoal I had my “highlight” marked, so it was a matter of toning/coloring the rest of the boot.
In this photo I’m almost done. I lightly burned over the highlight area to reduce the contrast a bit.
What makes this look different from the pants is the gradient shading away from the highlight. Or, put another way, I gradually darkened up the boot the further from the highlight I got. With the pants I had a dark shadow right next to the light area. This makes the light area seem to rise up from the surroundings. Whereas the boots just got gradually darker, so they remain looking flat.
The cow was another item that is not in proportion, but again as this was intended to be a joke, I left it alone. Plus, I thought it added to the comic value of the artwork.
This photo of the cow was taken after I just started working on it. It also shows how I bounce around when I work.
The cow took me an hour to do and most of that was working on the sides. I did my normal short fur zigzag method for the cow’s hair. I’ve covered that in both the deer (venison) and meerkat blog, so I won’t mention it here.
I have no idea what type of cow this was, but it had white legs and a white underbelly. I quickly gave the legs a touch of color to give them a little shape and make them stand out from the wood. I didn’t worry about trying to make them look like the reference photo and the same can be said of the hooves.
On the cow’s nose I quickly burned in the dark nostrils, did some overall shading, and gave it a coating of tiny dots. I really like the texture the dots give to animal noses and I use it on almost everyone I do.
Lastly I applied a little color to the white portion of the face and gave the cow a hairdo slightly reminiscent of Cow Daddy’s hairdo. I will admit that this wasn’t my original intention. The reference photo cow had a “hairdo,” and I didn’t notice the similarities until after I was done with the artwork.
In the time that has passed since my birthday party I have yet to figure out how being called a “dairy cow put out to pasture” is a compliment. The person who uttered those words is still claiming it is, but my other co-workers don’t get it either. If you have any insights into the matter I would love to hear them.
To Cow Daddy, I hope that you’ve learned that it’s not a good idea to insult an artist. Especially one with a slightly vindictive side!
Lastly to answer a few commonly asked questions. The artwork measures 12 by 13 inches (30.5 x 33.0 cm), was burned on birch plywood, and it took me 6 hours to complete the artwork; 1 hour for the cow, 30 minutes for the lettering and 4 ½ hours for Daddy.
Until the next blog,
Mar 31, 2017
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