Todd bought a photography ‘how to’ DVD and I was watching part of it with him. At one point the photographer had a series of flower close-ups with dark backgrounds. I loved how they looked and it inspired a new tutorial series I’m calling wallflowers. Apple Blossoms is the first flower creation in that series. This tutorial blog will explain how to create the Apple Blossoms pyrography art.
Now, let’s get to work.
SKILL LEVEL: 2
- Writing tip
- Shading tip
- 4 x 6 inch (10.2 x 15.2 cm) piece of wood
- Pattern (enlarge or shrink as needed) Apple Blossoms pattern
ABOUT THE WOOD – –
In my Wallflowers series I wanted to present an option for sourcing wood than you might normally consider; a local home improvement store or a lumberyard. A trip to a store near me revealed long boards of maple that came in an assortment of widths.
The store carried boards of other widths both smaller and larger, and, of course, the wider the board the more expensive it becomes. The six inch board was selected because Todd needed it for something and I got the leftover. If it wasn’t for that I could have gone with the cheaper 4” wide (10.2 cm) board and had it cut into 6” long (15.2 cm) chunks.
As I said, Todd needed part of the board, so I got the remainder that he cut it up for me. I ended up with 9 pieces of maple; 7 measure 4×6 inches (10.2×15.2 cm) and 2 measure 5×6 inches (12.7×15.2 cm).
Hope you like flowers because I have more boards to use. 🙂
Do you have to use maple? Heck no. The only thing I would recommend is that the board be pale in color and not have a lot of grain lines in it. Poplar can be a good choice and some people really like pine because is it’s fairly inexpensive and readily found. You just have to go to the store and see what is available.
Don’t have a saw? Most lumber yards and home improvement stores do, so they can cut up the board for you.
STEP 1 – PREP THE WOOD
Then thoroughly wet the board by misting it with water or running it quickly under the sink faucet. Let the board dry and then sand again.
This will produce a super smooth surface, and the smoother the surface is the better the burn results will be.
STEP 2 – TRANSFER PATTERN TO WOOD
I use the tracing method to transfer all my patterns to my projects. It’s cheap, easy, and gives me control on what I want to include. Print off your pattern on lightweight paper (standard copier paper is perfect), coat the back of the pattern with a graphite pencil, position on the wood, and trace over the pattern. Make sure to check the trace results for accuracy before removing the pattern.
There are other methods and I cover a few of them in my blog: Transferring Patterns.
STEP 3 – BURN THE OUTLINE
With the writing pen tip on medium low, lightly burn in the trace lines.
On the pattern there are some dotted lines that indicate shadowed and/or concave areas that will be burned in darker than the surrounding areas. Make sure to keep the dotted lines super pale!
After you have burned in the trace lines, rub over the surface with a pencil eraser to remove any residual graphite.
STEP 4 – EMBOSS THE NAME
Trace the flower name along the lower right edge of the board. Using the writing pen tip on low heat, deeply press it into the surface of the wood along the lines of the letters. You will end up with a series of deep dots that form the letters.
Use something with a sharp point like an X-acto knife tip to scrape along the bottoms of the letters to remove the graphite that got shoved down there.
As an fyi I did try using the pen tip to follow along the letters, but found it was really hard to control on the curved letters. Plus I often overshot the stopping point for the letter, so after a couple attempts I gave up and went to the deep dots. A softer wood (like basswood) would be a lot easier to emboss in this manner.
STEP 5 – BACKGROUND
Burn the background a dark brown-black color. This is needed so the pale flowers will show up. I used a circular motion to fill in the background. A circular motion is burning a line of small looping circles that connect to each other. For a much better explanation with lots of pictures, please refer to my blog on Using the Shading Pen Tip.
First darkly burn around the flower and tree branch. This creates a little buffer zone to help ensure that you don’t accidently burn into the flower area when working on the background.
When you are burning in the buffer zone, make sure you keep your pen tip in optimal position. Notice how the edge of my pen tip is on the outside edge of the blossom. This is optimal pen tip position that ensures I am burning on the background and not the blossom. I mention optimal position a lot in my blogs because it’s important. Keeping optimal position keeps your edges clean and crisp and it ensure you are burning where you intend to burn.
Make sure to use the flat of the shading tip when you burn over the embossed name. This will allow the tip to glide over the area and leave the lettering nice and pale.
Continued work on the background.
STEP 6 – BRANCH
Now we’ll burn the branch and short stem the blossoms are attached to.
First color the branch a medium tan color using a circular motion. The circular motion will provide a little variation to the color and this will start building the texture.
Next darken up the back half of the branch, but don’t create a hard line. I used a circular motion when doing this and that ensures some variation in the line.
Continued work on the branch.
Using the razor edge of the shading pen tip, draw little dark dashes to represent the bark irregularities. Vary the placement and length of the dashes.
Darken the cast shadow. The shadow starts where the leftmost blossom petal touches the branch and then the shadow curves down and gently arcs towards the back of the branch.
If needed, darken up the backside of the branch a little more.
Fill in the short stem a brown color, but leave the edges a bit paler. The goal is to make sure it stands out from the background.
If you get a little carried away (like I did) just use a fiberglass eraser and gently rub over the area to lighten it back up. The eraser I’m using is one meant for removing rust from automobiles. I found it on e-bay for around $8.00, but if you buy one don’t buy it if it’s advertised for clock cleaning. I made that mistake and discovered it’s too soft to erase mistakes in wood and that includes soft woods like balsa.
STEP 7 – GREENERY
Burn the greenery a medium tan color with paler edges. I will admit that I didn’t spend a lot of time on the greenery and maybe I should have, but my goal was to give the impression of greenery. I did accomplish that.
Start on the two bits of leaves that show on the left. Burn them a medium tan color and leave the edges a little paler.
Continue fill in the little spots between the petals and the small lower leaf. On the small lower leaf, keep the edge a little paler so it will stand out from the stem and background.
On the larger leaf on the right, shade it a medium tan color, and, like the other leaves, keep the edges a little paler for contrast.
Continued work on the right leaf.
Burn darkly along the bottom edge of the bud stem.
Fade out the color as you fill in the rest of the stem. Or, put another way, gradually lighten up the color on the stem as you get closer to the top of the stem.
The little leaves that border around the bud are burned like the other leaves; burn them to a medium tan color with paler edges.
Do a final burn on the little leaf to darken it up.
Don’t forget this little spot. I had actually forgotten it until I started work on that flower.
STEP 8 – FLOWERS
The last thing to do is to burn in the flowers. This is a gentle reminder to keep the heat setting on your burner low. The blossoms are white with touches of pink and we want them to pop out from the background. My Colwood unit goes up to ten and I had the heat setting around 1.5 – 2. I only put my heat setting for reference as there are a lot of things that influence the heat setting like the type of wood you are burning. Harder woods generally require a higher heat. Another factor is the type of pen tip being used. Larger tips require more power (heat) and vice versa.
First we’ll do the blossom bud.
This reference photo shows bud circled in red.
Use the edge of the shader to burn a brown line under the top petal (red arrow is pointing to the line) and to burn in the vein lines on the left petal a bit darker.
Then shade the left petal a light tan color using the circular motion, but keep the center of the petal the lightest area.
Note that I did use the circular motion for the majority of this artwork, but when I’m burn near edges I tend to use uniform and/or pull-away type of strokes. These strokes are straight strokes and either stay the same color throughout (uniform) or fade out at the end of the stroke (pull-away). For more information on the different ways I use the shading pen tip read the Using the Shader blog.
Color the next two petals. The first one gets burned a light tan with a slightly darker base. The last one (far right) is burned a tan color that is slightly darker than the first one we burned.
With the top petal, first burn in the cast shadow. The cast shadow is marked with a dotted line on the pattern. Let the shadow fade out a bit as it nears the edge of the petal.
Next using the razor edge of the shader, burn in a super thin line along the inside edge of the petal where it touches the left petal.
Now darken up the vein lines and burn in the slightly darker spots along the edges of the petal blossom.
Lastly lightly color the rest of the petal to a pale tan.
Next flower is the topmost flower or flowers as I think there is more than one here.
Again the flower is circled in red in the reference photo.
First define the right edge of the large rounded petal.
Extend the color up along the separation line (marked with a red arrow) and let it fade out once you reach the end of the separation line.
Fill in the bottom part of the petal with a tan color. Extend the color to the dotted line indicated by the red arrow.
Burn in the left petal of the top bud a tan color and burn the petal to the immediate right a very pale tan.
Now burn the right petal on the top bud. This petal is darker at the base and fades as it nears the top.
Lastly lightly burn over any unburned areas to a very pale tan color.
Once I was done with the apple blossoms, I didn’t have any unburned spots on the artwork except the rounded ends of the stamen.
Now for the upper right flower that is partially open.
Once more the subject flower is circled in red in the reference photo.
First burn a tan line along the left edge.
Next use a pull-away stroke to burn the left side of the petal. Start the stroke at the bottom of the petal and pull it up and away towards the upper left edge of the petal. The color should fade as it reaches the top.
Shade the right side of the petal a tan color and lightly burn the rest of the petal a pale tan color.
On the far right petal, fill in the depressed areas marked with dotted line with a tan color.
Continued work burning in the depressed areas.
Lightly burn over the rest of the petal to color it a pale tan. The base of the petal should be a touch darker.
Darken the vein lines in the last petal.
Then burn in the curved area above the dotted line on the petal. This area is darker near the dotted line and fades the closer you get to the top of the petal.
Continued work on the curved area. When you get close to the dotted line on the left of the petal (marked with a red arrow) darken along the right side of the line.
Extend the color down from the curved area, but make sure to keep it paler than the curved area. Also lightly color the rest of the petal a pale tan.
If you look closely at the previous picture my dotted line on the left side of the petal was still visible as a dotted line. Here I’m burning along that area again to make sure the dotted line disappears. More accurately is that I’m increasing the color of the area to match the color of the dotted line. I point this out because you need to do the same with your artwork as dotted lines are going to look out of place the flower petals. This is also why you need to leave the dotted lines very, very pale when you initially burn the trace lines at the beginning of the project.
The last flower to burn is the open main blossom facing us.
And again the area in question is circled in red in the reference photo.
First lightly edge the two petals that are peeking through on the background.
Next shade along the lower edge of each petal fading the color as you near the upper edge of the petal.
Next burn the cast shadows from the stamen onto the lower left petal. Since these are cast shadows they are uniform in color.
Burn the bent end of the blossom a tan color.
Lastly burn the entire surface of the petal a pale tan color. Try not to make it super smooth as the little irregularities will give the impression of subtle texture on the petal.
Working on the left petal above the one we just finished, burn in the dotted area at the top of the petal a tan color.
Then burn in the large dotted area.
Continued work on filling in the large dotted area.
Lastly burn the rest of the petal a pale tan color.
The next petal we’re going to work on is the lower right petal. The first thing to do is burn the bent petal edge a tan color.
Then burn the rest of the petal a pale tan color. Again, don’t worry about making the surface perfectly smooth. Some irregularities will add a little visual interest.
On the upper right petal burn the vein lines a little darker.
Then fill in the large dotted area on the petal.
Continued work filling in the large dotted area.
Note that there is a smaller dotted area within the large one on the pattern. This area is marked by a red arrow in the photograph. The smaller dotted area needs to stay paler in color.
Continued work filling in the large dotted area and color the rest of the petal a pale tan color. I do want to point out how I’ve made the small dotted area (marked with red arrow) pale tan in color.
All we have left to do is the last petal and the stamen. The stamen in the reference photo have a slight yellowish hue to them and this really makes them stand out from the petals. Since we can’t replicate the yellow hue in pyrography what we have to do instead is use contrast to make them pop. First darken up the vertical lines at the base that separate the different stamen.
Then color the entire stamen base a tan color.
Next color in the dotted line area on the petal behind the stamen a tan color.
Continued work coloring in the dotted line area on the petal.
Extend the color on the lower left part of the petal being very careful to leave the rounded stamen ends unburned.
Shade the top left of the petal a little and burn the rest of the petal a pale tan color.
Next carefully shade the center of the stamen cluster, but again leave the rounded stamen ends unburned.
STEP 9 – FINAL TOUCHES
I looked at my artwork and decided that a few spots, like the lower right bud, needed to be darkened up a little.
The last thing I did was draw a few vein lines here and there on some of the petals.
Continued work burning a few vein lines.
Below I put the reference photo and the final artwork photo side-by-side. I want to point out some changes I made, so look at the photos and then I’ll talk about the changes.
Looking at the photo I’m sure that you can see I eliminated things like the 3 leaves on the tree branch and some sort of broken twig just to the left of the open blossom in the foreground. I also simplified the leaves as they weren’t the focal point of the art, so I didn’t feel the need to invest a lot of time and effort on them. Lastly, I completely ignored all of the stuff in the background. Once I was done I felt that the image was cleaner or less cluttered, if you will, so that it had a much stronger visual impact.
The reason I’m pointing out what I changed is that I want to emphasize that reference photos are just that; reference. You use them to help you get shapes, contours, and shadows correct, but that doesn’t mean you have to replicate everything in the photo.
Maybe you want more details in the greenery or fewer flowers in the cluster. Then, by all means, make those changes. It’s your artwork, so make it your own!
The first flower in the wallflowers series is done. While the artwork is not very big I envision a cluster of them on the wall or filling a picture frame. I really liked how I was able to use a piece of lumber and cutting it into smaller chunks to burn on. What’s great is the same principal can be used with larger boards. The home improvement store I was at sold boards that were twelve inches (30.5 cm) wide!
I hope that you will try this artwork and that my explanations were clear and easy to follow. Also I hope you like flowers because, as I warned you earlier, I have more boards to use up. If you have a favorite type of flower let me know and I’ll try to include it in the series.
Now to answer a couple of questions I get asked frequently. This artwork was burned on maple that measures 4 x 6 inches (10.2 x 15.2 cm) and it took me 5 hours to complete the artwork. That said this is not a race or contest. I only put how long a project takes me as I get asked that question a lot.
Until the next blog,
June 17, 2017
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