Pika Pyrography Artwork wood burning

During a trip to Spokane, Washington we spotted this Pika while hiking around Mt. Spokane.  I think Pikas are really cute, so I was thrilled to get a few photos.  Once we got back home it didn’t take me long to create a pyrography project of the little guy.  This blog is going to discuss the creation of the Pika pyrography artwork. 

To view a timelapse video on YouTube of this being created, click on the image to the left. 



This photo shows the Pika trace lines burned onto the wood and the blemish in the wood.  I do want to point out that the traces lines on the Pika were burned as little dashes instead of a solid continuous line.  Solid continuous lines take a bit more work to make them blend them in with fur especially along the outer edges.




Like usual, I burned the eye first.







Facial features are very important to me to get accurate, so I often get the basic features burned in before moving on.







If you look at the fur texture I’ve burned onto the face, it looks like lots of individual lines.  In actuality it was created by burning zigzag bursts using the razor edge of the shading pen tip.  A zigzag burst is composed of 3-7 connected zigzag lines.  Or put another way, I don’t lift the pen tip up until after a group of zigzag lines are done.




The entire body of the Pika, eye and ears excepted, was covered with lots and lots of zigzag bursts to create the base layer of fur.








For me the zigzag bursts are very easy and quick to do.  Plus I like to think that the results look just like the hairs were burned as individual lines.






Continued work.






With the ears I used a lot of pull-away strokes and some small circular motions.






I use a method I call ‘reverse coloring’ when working on ear hair.  This means I’m burning the area around the hair and not the hair itself.






Drawing in the hair with white charcoal can make this process easier to do.  Just draw the hairs in and then carefully burn around the charcoal.  White charcoal resists the heat of the pen tip and with the white color it is easier to see the pale pencil marks.   Just make sure to use charcoal and not colored pencil.




One ear is mostly done and now I’m working on the other ear.





As I mentioned before, the body gets covered in a base layer of zigzag bursts (fur) and then I add more zigzag bursts to darken and contour the body.  In this photo the top of the back by the neck is darker in color.  That is because I’ve added another layer of zigzag bursts.





In this photo I’m darkening along the back of the Pika.  I was trying to darken the fur enough to hide the blemishes in the wood and the lighter ones are mostly hidden.





Here’s a picture of the blemishes on the wood and the two streaks that run down the length of it. 






If you’ve ready many of my blogs, you know that I tend to re-work areas.  Sometimes if I’m having problems getting the darkness level right or contouring issues, I have reworked an area 4-5 times.   Look just at the face and try to ignore the background.  Notice how the streak is pretty difficult to see? 





Working on the darkness level and the contouring of the hind leg area.  








Continued work on the hind leg.







Since I made the hind leg so dark, I had to darken up the rest of the Pika’s fur which is what I’m working on in this photo.  An added benefit is that the blemishes are getting harder to see.






Continued work.







Here I’ve started to work on the rocks.  I want to point out that the fur line along the rocks is not smooth and straight.  Fur isn’t smooth and straight, so I reverse color into the fur to give it a slight jagged look.  I like to think that it’s little touches like this that contribute to the realistic look of my artwork.





Working on the rock in front of the Pika.





Continued work.




Continued work.





My reference photo has rocks that are paler than the Pika and have a few areas with a slight sparkle to them. 







My rocks do not even remotely look like the reference photo.   I decided before I even attempted the rocks that they would be too difficult to replicate.  Being perfectly honest, I’m not sure that’s really true or if I was just being lazy.  The style of rock I was creating is a texture I had already done, so it was easy to create them.

Below are progress photos of the rocks being created. 





















During the rock creation process I lost my whiskers, so had to burn them back in.







Now I’m back to work on the face.  I have to admit that I really struggled with the face and the Pika in general.  I can’t explain why I had such a problem with it as I’ve burned / drawn lots of animals.





Continued work on the face.








  In this photo I’m back to working on the body.   All of the background is done, so it’s just a matter of trying to get the Pika to the point I’m happy with it.






I’m adding a few dark patches randomly on the fur as I liked the one I did on the shoulder.







Adding random dark patches on the body was an idea that turned out terribly!  When I stepped back from the artwork I decided the little guy looked like he had some sort of weird disease.  It didn’t look good and was definitely a pyrography fail!





Here I’m in the process of trying to fix that mistake.  I did this through a combination of carefully scraping the dark patches with the tip of my X-acto knife and darkening up the fur as the scraping wasn’t enough to remove evidence of my mistake.





Continued work.







At this point the dark patches are mostly hidden now and I’m finally finishing up the Pika.







Below is the final artwork next to the reference photo.  What do you think? 







Pikas are related to rabbits and are sometimes referred to as rock rabbits because they are often found in rocky mountainous areas.  Because of their small size and ears, they look more like a hamster to me.  An average Pika is around 6 inches long (15.2 cm).  They do not hibernate, so gather plants into piles to dry in the sun.  Once a pile is dry they bring it into their den.  According to the National Park Service website, listed below, one Pika gathers enough food to fill a bathtub!  The link below has some cute pictures and more information if you’re interested.



You know, I’m still undecided on what I think of this artwork, but I’m leaning towards disappointed.  I’ve often wondered why one project can turn out fantastically and the next be just ok.  Is it the subject matter?  I’ve done furry animals before, so, in theory, that shouldn’t be the issue.  Is it the background?  Could very well be, but I’m more disappointed with the Pika than the rocks.  Should I have made the subject matter (the Pika) smaller in relationship to the wood size?  I don’t know.  I just can’t figure out what is bothering me with this artwork. Regardless, it’s another project done and more experienced gained. 

I would really like to know what you think about the artwork.  What should I have done differently?   Leave a comment as your insight and constructive criticism can help me provide some insight that I need.

Lastly to answer a few commonly asked questions.   The artwork measures 11 x 8 1/4 inches (27.9 x 20.9 cm), was burned on poplar, and it took me 14 1/2 hours to complete it.

Until the next blog,


Dec 15, 2017

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