In this tutorial I’m going to explain how to create the Purple Iris flower, the 5th in my wallflower series. I love the ruffled petals and the texture the iris has. Plus the flower makes a striking image against the dark background. For this project I used two different images to create the layout, so I will share that with you in this blog. Let’s get to work.
SKILL LEVEL: 3
- Writing tip
- Shading tip
- 4 x 6 inch (10.2 x 15.2 cm) piece of wood
- Pattern (enlarge or shrink as needed) Purple Iris pattern
THE REFERENCE PHOTOS
This is the main reference photo I used for this artwork. I liked the open flower, but I didn’t like shape of the iris buds behind it.
The right upper petal curved around one of the buds (marked by the yellow arrow), so I couldn’t just leave the bud out as the petal would look wrong. At least I thought it would, so instead I decided I needed to replace the bud with one I did like.
This is a photo I took of a nearby bud that I liked the look of, so I decided I could just put it in place of the one I pointed out with the yellow arrow.
STEP 1 – PREP THE WOOD
Smooth the wood surface by sanding it with 220 grit sand paper. The smoother the surface is the better the burn results will be. For more details about prepping wood and the different types of wood I’ve burned on refer to this blog: Wood Prepping.
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.
STEP 3 – 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 the edges of shadows in the artwork. I burned them as tiny dots to help differentiate between them and the edges of the petals.
After you have burned in the trace lines, rub over the surface with a pencil eraser to remove any residual graphite. It is easy to get into the habit of burning your outline or trace lines darkly, but if you want to create realistic art don’t get into that habit. Darkly burned trace lines tends to look more like a color book style of artwork.
STEP 4 – BUD
The first thing we will do is to burn in the stem and bud just behind the open iris.
Let’s analyze the reference photo for the bud. Critically look at it and make note of the things you see. I think the first thing I noticed was how the bud base is green and the tips or ends are purple.
The next thing I noticed was how the sides of the bud were darker than the center or curved front. Also, the top purple petal end has a slight ruffle starting on it.
A lot of times when I’m analyzing a photo, I will also think about the type of burn method that would replicate what I’m seeing. Anytime I see edges that start out dark and fade in color, I think of pull-away strokes.
SIDE NOTE: For those of you who have read some of my tutorials, you are probably aware of the terminology that I use and what I mean by it. If you’re not familiar or you need a refresher, then I suggest reading my blog on how I use the shader pen tip. The blog explains how to create the different burn methods, like pull-away strokes, circular motion, etc., that I use.
Back to the reference photo analysis. Another feature of the bud I noticed was the thin dark lines that run up the length of it. I marked a couple of the lines with red arrows.
I also noticed the crease lines where the petals fold around each other near the base of the bud.
The first thing we will do is burn pull-away strokes along the edges of the upper petal. To give the petals a slight ruffle look, leave little gaps between the strokes. Then lightly burn over the gaps, but make sure to keep them lighter than the other strokes.
Do the same along the right edge of the next petal. Make sure to pull the stroke in the petal growth direction. If you look at the stroke I’m currently burning, the stroke arcs downward towards the petal base. Consult the reference photo and look at the growth pattern to familiarize yourself with the direction your burn strokes should follow.
In this photo you can see the continued work of burning strokes that follow the petal growth direction.
With the green base, burn it to a light tan color and add a few thin dark lines.
Burn the crease area just a touch darker than the light tan color used on the green base.
Rotate the wood, if needed, and burn short pull-away strokes along the left (in this photo it’s the now the right) edge of the upper petal. I want to point out that the reason I rotated the wood was to keep the pen tip in optimal position.
OPTIMAL PEN TIP POSITION: means that the end of the pen tip is on the edge of the object and the rest of the pen is angled over the object. In this case, the object is the upper petal on the bud, and the end of my pen tip is right on the outer edge of the bud. The rest of the pen is angled over the bud and not over the background. This ensures that the edges of my bud are crisp and clean.
Since I’m left handed, I could not comfortably burn along this edge while keeping the pen tip in optimal position, so I rotated the wood.
Burn in the other crease area on the bud base. Again, for me I needed the wood to be rotated so I could keep the pen tip in optimal position while burning this area. You may have the same issue, but since only 10% of the population is left-handed, probably not. I got the percentage amount from this 2012 article: https://www.livescience.com/19968-study-reveals-lefties-rare.html
Burn some pull-away strokes along the green portion of the bud. Start the stroke at the base of the bud and pull it towards the top of the bud. Follow the curve of the base while doing this. Also, burn in a few thin dark lines that also follow the curve or the growth direction of the bud.
Burn a thin dark line along the edge of the middle petal. The line starts just before the purple color ends and continues to the bottom of the bud base. I marked the line start with a red arrow.
Burn in the stem. Make sure to keep the pen in optimal position when burning along the edges. Also, if you are planning to burn the background dark as I did, then keep the stem in the light brown range so it shows up. If you do not plan to burn the background dark, then I would suggest burning the stem to a medium or even dark brown color.
STEP 5 – OPEN FLOWER
Now we’ll burn the main iris flower and we’ll start with the upper right petal. Before we get going I want to mention that I do a lot of re-burning in my work. I will burn in an area and then re-burn over it later to fine-tune it. It’s not uncommon that I re-burn over it several times to slowly build up the color and add a lot of tonal depth.
When you re-burn over an area, it is very unlikely that you will re-burn exactly over the previous burn strokes. That’s ok. In fact, this is what helps create tonal depth. I honestly believe this process of multiple re-burning is what gives my artwork the level of realism that I achieve.
We will start with the upper right petal. Here’s the reference photo zoomed in on the upper right petal. Looking at it, what do you see? I see several depressions on the petal that are in shadows. The top portion of the petal curves around the bud. The outer ends of the petal curve downward a little.
Begin by burning short pull-away strokes along the upper edge of the petal. Burn the strokes like we did on the bud. By that I mean keep some color variation to them so the petal will have a slight ruffled look.
Next burn in the shadow under the fold at the bottom of the petal.
Then start to block in the shadows on this petal. I don’t think I’ve used the phrase “block in” before, so let me explain what I mean by that. Block in means to give an area a light application of color.
I like to block in shadows and then compare the results with the reference photo. Because I deliberately keep the blocked in shadows pale, it is a lot easier to fix if there is a mistake.
Burn along the seam (where the two petals touch) and make sure to keep the pen tip in optimal position while you do this.
All of the shadows should be blocked in at this point, so it’s time to start re-burning over them to build up the color and tonal depth. Start with the depression area above the petal fold and re-burn over the shadow to increase its darkness level.
Make sure to consult with the reference photo as you work to keep the shadows similar. Remember that our artwork doesn’t need to look exactly like the reference photo. No one is going to see the two side-by-side looking for discrepancies.
I do want to mention that I often use circular motion when burning in flower petals. The reason is that circular motion tends to produce a burn that has variations in it. Iris petals are not made of glass, so those little variations add to the overall look and texture that the petals have.
If needed, burn another layer of pull-away strokes along the upper edge of the petal. I chose to do this to increase the contrast between the petal and the bud behind it. Since I will be burning the background a dark brown/black color, I didn’t extend the pull-away strokes along the entire edge of the petal.
If you are not planning on burning in the background, then you might want to darken up the entire outer edge to help the petal stand out from the pale background.
Here’s how the artwork looks so far.
The next petal we will burn is the upper left petal in the background. Here’s our reference photo, so look closely at it and determine what sort of characteristics is has. One of the first things I noticed was the cast shadow along the bottom left side of this petal. I also noticed that this petal is concave shaped, but the petals curl outward at the end. This petal has a larger ruffle at the top and I marked its location with a red arrow.
Begin by blocking in the cast shadow along the lower edge of the petal.
Continue with the pull-away strokes along the outer edge and burn in the larger ruffle.
Burn in the top portion of the petal so it is medium tan in color, but don’t make the color uniform.
Burn along the seam and then color the rest of the petal by burning strokes that follow the petal growth direction.
Continued work. Remember to keep a variety of tonal hues in the strokes. I accomplish this by re-burning over them. Some strokes I’ll only re-burn over 1 or 2 times, and others I’ll re-burn over 3 or 4 times. Also vary how wide the strokes are.
If needed, rotate the wood to burn along the lower left edge of the petal.
In this photo you can see the variety of tonal hues on the petal. Also if you look you’ll see that some of the strokes are very thin and others are wider.
Now it’s time to do the final fine-tuning of the petal. Start by re-burning over the larger ruffle area to make it a touch darker.
Next re-burn a few areas here and there to give some slightly darker streaks on the petal.
Here’s how the Purple Iris looks so far.
The next petal we’ll burn in is the front upper petal. Here’s the reference photo for this petal. Again, examine it and concentrate on its defining features. I noticed the folds along the bottom on both sides of the petal. I also noticed that there is a dark line or crease that runs up the center of the petal. And lastly the ends of the petal are slightly ruffled.
Begin by burning in some of ruffles along the upper right of the petal. Also block in some of the shadows along the folds at the bottom of the petal, and block in the vertical crease/dark line.
Re-burn over the shadows to darken up the deeply folded areas.
Re-burn again to really darken up the deeply folded areas. Notice that I didn’t get the entire fold really dark. That’s because the color needs to gradually fade out in a few areas. At this time I’m not 100% sure how much it needs to fade out. It needs to match it to the rest of the flower petal color/tone, so that needs to get burned in first.
Re-burn short pull-away strokes along the upper right outer edge of the petal. Remember to leave tiny gaps between the strokes and then lightly burn over the gaps. The gaps should be several shades lighter than the regular strokes. The contrast between the two will provide the slightly ruffled look.
I want to say a few words about the contrast that creates the ruffled look. The more extreme the contrast, the more ruffled a look you will get; to a degree. If you burn black pull-away strokes and leave the gaps unburned it might end up looking more like white streaks on a dark petal instead of ruffles. Since the iris petal is slightly ruffled, the contrast between the pull-away strokes and the gaps should be within a few shades of each other.
I want to point out that I’m using a combination of uniform and pull-away strokes to do this. The only difference between the two is the uniform strokes stay the same color throughout the entire stroke and pull-away strokes fade away at the end.
Rotate the wood to keep the pen tip in optimal position as you burn along the base of the petal.
Use pull-away strokes that begin at the base of the petal center and pull them towards the outer edges of the petal, but follow the growth direction. Make a couple of the strokes thin and darker to replicate the dark lines found in this area.
Continue to build up the color or tone on the rest of the petal by burning a combination of uniform and pull-away strokes. Remember to follow the petal growth direction as this will increase the realism of the artwork.
Consult with the reference photo as you build up the color on the petal. You don’t need to replicate every little ruffle, crease, etc., but instead make an effort to keep the light and dark areas in the same general area.
For example, the upper right side of the petal is a touch darker than the left since it has the adjacent right petal shading it a bit. In this photo I’m burning a few more pull-away strokes to slightly darken this area, but I’m not trying to copy the photo exactly.
Use the razor edge of the shader to burn in the thin dark lines found along the lower center portion of the petal. If it’s easier, switch to a writer pen tip for this step.
Remember to keep the pen tip in optimal position when burning along seams (areas where two petals touch). If needed, rotate the wood to make this easier.
Lastly, do a final re-burn to darken up the folds or creases, if needed.
In this composite comparison photo I want to point out how I have purposely kept my flower petals considerably lighter than the reference photo. Since I will be burning the background to a dark brown/black color, I wanted the flower to show up well against that. Keeping the flower mostly in the tan ranges will do that. There are a few areas (folds) where I burned the petal to a dark brown tone, but since those areas do not touch or connect to the background they won’t seem to be a part of the background.
The next petal we will burn is the lower back petal that just peaks out behind the stem. We will also burn in the underside of the two lower petals in the front. There is not a lot going on here as everything is in shadows. The lower back petal has a couple of ruffles on it and there are some yellow streaks visible at the base of the front petals. I am going to ignore the yellow streaks as I don’t think they will translate well. By that I mean I think that leaving pale streaks in this dark area will look off or odd.
Begin by burning in the underside of the right lower petal.
Leave a thin sliver of unburned wood as you burn along the left edge of the lower petal.
Lightly burn over the thin sliver of unburned wood so it is pale tan in color.
Repeat this process on the other petal’s underside. Rotate the wood, if needed, to keep the pen tip in optimal position while burning along the outer edge.
Leave a thin sliver of pale tan along the right edge of the petal.
Start burning in the ruffle on the back petal.
There isn’t a lot of visible detail on this petal, so burn it to a dark tan color with a few slightly darker ruffles.
The petal needs to be darker that the front lower petal will be, but not so dark that it blends or disappears into the background.
Again, if you do not plan to burn in the background, then make the back petal much darker than I did.
Here’s another progress photo.
Here’s the reference photo for the lower right petal that we will burn next. The most distinguishing feature to me is the fuzzy yellow stamen, or whatever they are called. The white streaks along the top caught my eye after the yellow fuzz did. Further observation revealed that the lower left side of the petal is curling forward. I think it looks like the lower right side is also curling forward a bit. Lastly I noticed how the center of the petal is the palest area on the petal and it has a pale streak running down it.
Begin by burning short pull-away strokes along the upper right edge of the petal.
Extend the color along the right edge until it meets with the pale streak in the center.
Burn pull-away strokes along the rest of the right edge and make sure to burn the strokes along the petal growth direction.
Burn uniform strokes along the center of the petal. Burn the center so it is a couple of shades paler than the sides.
Use the razor edge of the shader to burn a few thin very pale lines in the fuzzy stamen area.
Finish burning in the top and center of the petal.
Burn pull-away strokes along the left edge of the petal.
Burn a dark tan line along the lower left edge of the petal that is curling forward. To increase the contrast between the center and the right edge of the petal, burn pull-away strokes along the pale center. Start the stroke on the center and pull it towards the outer edge of the petal.
Burn some darker streaks along the center of the petal to give it some visual interest.
Burn pull-away strokes along the right edge of the curled up left petal end.
Rotate the wood and burn pull-away strokes along the left edge of the curled up petal.
Here’s how the artwork looks at this point.
The last petal we need to burn is the lower left petal and here is the reference photo for the petal. This petal has the fuzzy yellow stamen and the white streaks along the top. The left side of the petal is curling forward and there is a depression or crevasse along the center of the petal. From the crevasse, the petal curves up and outward towards the right. Lastly there is a shadow near the top right where the petal folds as it starts to bend or fold at the top.
Start by blocking in the shadows along the right edge of the petal.
Burn some pull-away strokes along the top edge of the petal.
Rotate the wood and burn pull-away strokes along the lower edge of the petal.
Burn the rest of the petal so it is light tan in color.
Next begin to build-up the color and shadows by re-burning over the petal.
Burn the wood to a dark tan color around the yellow fuzzy stamen area to help them really pop or stand out on the flower.
As you burn in the top area of the petal, make sure to follow the petal growth direction and to add a few darker streaks here and there.
Extend a couple of the streaks down most of the petal’s length.
Burn pull-away strokes along the lower right petal to give it texture and a slight ruffled look.
Build up the shadows, streaks, and ruffles on the left side of the petal.
Lastly, use the razor edge of the shader to burn a few pale tan lines on the fuzzy stamen.
Here’s how the Iris looks so far. Now it is time to critically look at your artwork and determine if you think it needs any fine-tuning. I very seldom create art that I don’t fine-tune, so I’ll share what I did.
First I decided that the fuzzy stamen area didn’t pop enough, so I burned the area around it a little darker.
Next I increased the contrast between the center and the curled edges on the lower right petal.
Then I darkened the shadow along the curve on the lower left petal.
I also darkened some of the ruffles on the lower left petal.
Next I used an X-acto knife to scrape a few highlights on the stamen.
Lastly I increased the contrast between the back and front lower petals.
Here’s how the iris looks after I was done fine-tuning it.
STEP 6 – STEM
Now we’ll burn the flower stem and the papery wrapping on it.
Here’s a close-up of the stem. Critically looking at it I see how much paler the papery wrapping is compared to the green of the stem. Also I noticed how wrinkled the wrapping is. Plus there are tiny thin lines running vertically along the wrapping and those lines extend a short ways into the green area. Lastly I see this flower stem branches off from the main stem.
Begin by burning tan lines along the wrinkles or creases on the papery wrapping.
Burn the rest of the papery covering so it is light tan in color.
As you burn the papery covering to a light tan color, re-burn any wrinkles or creases that disappear.
Use the razor edge of the shader to burn in thin vertical lines on the wrapper.
Burn the rest of the stem so it is dark tan in color. The color should match the color of the other stem.
If needed, re-burn over the wrinkles and creases to slightly darken them so they stand out.
STEP 7 – NAME
With all of my wallflowers, I’ve engraved the name into the wood. If you do not plan to burn the background dark, you can just burn the name on the wood and leave it be. Or you can leave the name off completely. Remember, this is your artwork, so alter it to your liking.
Here’s how the trace results looked.
Now I want to point out that, depending on the wood you are burning on, you might be able to use an embosser of some sort to emboss/engrave the letters into the wood. I’m burning on maple, and using embossers of this sort isn’t easy, so instead I darkly burned in the letters and then scraped out the charring.
Use a writer pen tip to darkly burn in the plant name.
Next use the tip of an X-acto knife to scrape away the charring.
STEP 8 – BACKGROUND
The last thing we need to do is burn in the background.
Use a shader of your choice to burn along the edges of the flower. Make sure to keep the pen tip in optimal position, so you only burn the background.
Continue to burn in the background so it is a dark brown to black in color. When burning over the flower name, make sure to use the flat of the shader. This will ensure the shader glides over the embossed name.
Continue to burn in the background.
Finish up the background.
If needed, use an X-acto knife to further lighten the name. I often have a small spot here and there that looks darker than the rest of the letter, so I fix that by scraping at it until it matches.
Below is a composite photo showing my final artwork and the reference photos side-by-side.
Looking at the photo, you can see that I altered my artwork from the reference photo. Mostly I lightened up the lower petals so they would show up better against the dark background. I also eliminated the white streaks on the lower petals. Since I wasn’t burning the petals that dark, I wasn’t sure the white streaks would show up well, so I left them out.
As I said in the beginning, this is the 5th installment of my wallflowers series. Below is a photo showing all of the wallflower grouped together.
We’re done. Hopefully I was able to explain things well enough so you could follow along. Remember to let your creativity out when you are creating art. For example, add some color. That I didn’t, doesn’t mean you can’t. A light or thin application of color pencil would look great and really make the flower stand out. It can be colored to match your décor or to your favorite color.
One of my goals with the tutorials is to give you projects to follow along with as you gain skills and confidence with pyrography. Having said that please note that I welcome feedback as that is the only way I will discover how I’m doing and what improvements I can/should make. Also, if you have ideas for future tutorials leave a comment and let me know. I love to hear your ideas.
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). It took me 5 3/4 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. You may get this done faster or slower, but that doesn’t matter. What’s important is you’re learning to create pyrography artwork, and hopefully having fun while doing so.
Until the next blog,
July 6th, 2018