The Holly Candle is the fourth installment of my Christmas Postcard tutorial series. The CP series is fun as the projects can generally be done in 1-2 days and the designs are suitable for almost all skill levels. Plus the wood I’m using is die-cut or laser-cut wood from the craft store, so it’s inexpensive and easy to obtain. This tutorial blog will explain how to create the Holly Candy CP4 pyrography.
Reader submitted art at the bottom of the blog.
Let’s get to work.
SKILL LEVEL: 1
- Writing tip
- Shading tip
- 4 x 6 (10.2 x 15.2 cm) piece of craft plywood
- Pattern (enlarge or shrink as needed) Holly Candle pattern
Because this is a beginner project I will explain the basics of the pen strokes I use, but if you need more information please refer to my tutorial on using the shader pen tip: USING THE SHADER.
STEP 1 – PREP THE WOOD
Prepping the wood is one step I keep forgetting to mention even though I dedicated a whole blog to it. Even though I used a store bought die-cut plywood I still prepped the surface by sanding with 220 grit sanding paper. You want the surface to be a smooth as possible as this will allow you to get better detail and reduce drag on the pen tip.
Also, since I put a message on the back of the postcard, I sand the back of it. Heck I even sanded the sides of the wood to make sure everything was smooth.
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 complete control on what is traced onto the wood. Print off your pattern on light weight paper (standard copier paper is perfect), coat the back of the pattern with a graphite pencil (I use one in the B ranges), place pattern on wood, tape in place, trace over pattern with a sharp pencil, remove pattern, and you’re ready to burn.
STEP 3 – BURN THE OUTLINE
For reasons I can’t explain, I didn’t take a picture or turn on the video camera until after I had finished the upper part of one leaf. Burning the outline is very basic though. Simply use a writing pen tip on medium low, and lightly burn in the trace lines. After you have burned in the trace lines, rub over the surface with a pencil eraser to remove any residual graphite.
STEP 4 – HOLLY LEAVES
The first thing we will work on are the holly leaves and berries.
Starting with the upper left leaf, burn dark lines along the vein lines on the holly leaf.
Using pull-away strokes to fill in the left along the center. Start the stroke on the center of the leaf and pull the pen tip away from the center towards the outer edge of the leaf. Pull the pen tip up and away from the wood a short distance after starting the stroke.
Rotate the wood and repeat the pull-away strokes along the outer edge of the wood. This time start the stroke on the outer edge and pull the pen tip towards the center of the leaf.
Here’s a progress photo. I’ll discuss the top portion of the leaf after I’m done with the lower part.
Lastly burn over the area between the pull-away strokes making it tan to dark tan in color.
Here’s how the leaf looked after completion.
Top Half = the top portion of the leaf had the same pull-away stroke process done along the center. The difference was that the pull-away strokes along the center filled about 1/2 of the upper leaf before the pen tip was pulled up and away from the wood. Then the remaining leaf was colored to a medium brown and the vein area a dark brown.
The goal is to make the lower portion of the leaf lighter than the top to give the impression that the candle light is illuminating it.
Now let’s work on the right holly leaf.
First darkly burn in the vein lines including the center vein.
Along the center vein fill in the upper portion of the leaf using pull-away strokes.
If it’s easier for you, rotate the wood while doing the pull-away strokes.
Then color the rest of the upper leaf so it is brown in color.
Finishing up the top half of the leaf.
Next do pull-away strokes along the center and outer edge of the lower half of the leaf. As this photo shows, you can work one section at a time versus doing all of the center before burning along the outer edge.
Burn over the illuminated area of the leaf so it is a tan to dark tan color.
The lower left leaf is our last leaf to burn.
Again burn in the vein lines and do pull-away strokes along the center of the upper half of the leaf.
Do pull-away strokes along the both edges of the lower half of the leaf.
Lastly color the rest of the leaf. The upper half is burned a brown color whereas the lower half is a tan to dark tan color.
The last thing to work on in this step are the holly berries. Simply color the berries a dark brown with a medium brown top.
Burn the left berry a medium brown and continue to darken the berry so only the top remains a medium brown color.
Do the same with the top berry.
Repeat for the last berry.
Burn the center dot a very dark brown / black color with the writing pen tip on each berry.
If needed, darkly burn along the edges of the berries to define them and make the edges clean or sharp.
Here’s how the Christmas Postcard looks so far.
STEP 5 –THE CANDLE
Now we’ll burn in the candle.
Burn the side of the candle below the drip line a light to medium brown color using long uniform strokes. Start the stroke under the drip line and pull the stroke straight down till you touch the holly leaves. Keep the color uniform by going slow enough that the pen tip maintains constant heat; thus uniform color.
If it helps, edge along the drip line. For me I find edging helpful as it makes it easier to avoid burning on the drip line.
Continue to color the side of the candle.
Burn a dark line under the base of the candle to indicate a slight shadow.
I decided to re-burn the side of the candle so that the center was slightly darker than the edges to help give the impression of a curved surface.
Here’s a progress photo.
Burn a dark thick line under the drip line to indicate a shadow.
Use very short pull-away strokes to slightly extend the shadow.
The shadows are done and take a moment to analyze the shadows. Notice that the drips to the left of the flame have shadows on their left side. Drips on the right side of the flame have shadows on their right side.
Burn the drip line so the top, area closest to the flame, is the palest spot. The further from the flame the darker the drip line.
Finishing the drip line.
Add a slight cast shadow from the holly leaves onto the lower part of the candle.
Here’s another progress photo.
Burn darkly along the right edge of the candle wick.
Rotate the wood and darkly burn along the left edge of the candle wick.
Burn in the rounded end of the candle wick, but keep the color a shade or two lighter than the wick as it’s engulfed in flames.
Lightly burn in the lower portion of the flame using a few pull-away strokes that start at the bottom of the flame and head towards the top.
Burn the rest of the flame a light tan color.
Burn the tip of the flame a shade darker than the center to define it.
STEP 6 – THE BACKGROUND
Lastly we’ll burn the background.
Using uniform strokes burn the background a medium tan color, but don’t burn the oval around the top of the candle.
Here’s how the candle looked after I was done with the background.
I decided I wanted the edges of the wood to be dark, so I burned along them. It is your choice if you want to do the same.
If needed, use an X-acto knife to gently scrape any blotches. Don’t scrape hard when doing this. The goal is just to remove a little color.
Here’s the before and after of the background after I lightened up a couple of blotchy spots.
STEP 7 – THE MESSAGE
Flip the postcard over, draw a couple of lines, and write your message.
Keep in mind I’m just putting the name of the artwork here, but you can write anything. Dedicate it to a loved one, burn the words of a poem, prayer, etc. Make it your own.
STEP 8 – OPTIONAL ENHANCEMENTS
I believe in giving you the instructions on how I create my artwork, but I strongly encourage you to let your creative side out. With that in mind, I’m going to mention some ideas that you can use, or not, to customize your postcard.
- Paint the flame yellow and add a soft yellow glow around the candle.
- Add glitter. Christmas is always better with some sparkle. Carefully paint a thin coat of glue (like Elmer’s) over the background and add some glitter. You can also add some glitter the edges of the post card.
- Use colored pencils to give the postcard some color. Color the candle red, the holly green, etc. Little things to make the art pop. Just don’t burn over the colored pencil as the heat will melt it and cause it to spread.
- Drill a couple of tiny holes at the top (one each side) and hang your postcard like an ornament.
- Make a keepsake by putting the year on the front of the postcard.
- Create a garland my making several postcards and stringing them together.
This concludes the Holly Candle tutorial. What did you think of it? I’m trying to provide a wide range of subject matters as everyone has different likes and dislikes. My other goal with this series is to keep the time needed to complete fairly short as I want these to be fun 1-2 day projects.
If you have an idea for a future postcard please let me know. I love hearing from you, so don’t be shy; leave a comment.
Now to answer a couple of questions I get asked frequently. This artwork was burned on a piece of die-cut plywood I bought from a local craft store. The piece of plywood measures 4 x 6 inches (10.2 x 15.2 cm) and it took me 3 3/4 hours to complete the artwork. I hope I inspire you to create art because it is fun, soothing, great hobby, and a bit like magic. I say that because it seems almost magical to transform a plain piece of wood into beautiful art.
Until the next blog,
Nov 17, 2017
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